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JoAnna Lou
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Unethical or Responsible Pet Care?
Playing service dog to travel first class.

The legitimacy and training of service dogs has come up a lot recently, and many of the cases do not have clear solutions. But what about when someone is consciously taking advantage of the privileges granted to service dogs?

With the USDAA Cynosport World Games coming up in Scottsdale, Ariz., I’ve been talking to many of the local competitors about how they’re traveling with their dogs. Some are caravanning in their RVs and others are reluctantly putting their pups in cargo. 

One of the more seasoned competitors mentioned that while she dutifully puts her dogs in cargo, she always sees fellow competitors passing their pups off as service dogs on the plane.

I understand the appeal of having your dog fly with you, safe and sound. It’s certainly a tempting option, and probably in your pet's best interest, but it seems to me like an abuse of the system.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with service dogs, which the federal government defines as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. They don’t need to be licensed or certified by the government, nor are they required to show any identification to prove a medical condition or the dog’s capabilities (although many companies sell authentic looking certificates for a hefty fee).

The flexibility designed to help the disabled also allows the law to be easily abused. These well-meaning people have their pup's best interest in mind, but are also unknowingly undermining legitimate service dogs.

What’s your take?  Is playing service dog unethical or responsible pet care?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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Submitted by Anonymous | October 29 2009 |

Faking a service dog hurts REAL service dog users. More likely then not untrained animals are the ones to cause trouble and do bad things... Your dog didn't go threw the average 2 years of training and socialization most all service dogs go threw. Nearly 50% of all dogs considered to be a service dog by legitimate schools do not even make it to secondary training... there is a reason for that. Service dogs mean the world to the people they serve, sight and safety for the blind person, hearing for the deaf, companionship and friendship to a disabled child, life or death for a person with seizures. A means to be independent!

Faking service dogs should be a FEDERAL CRIME...

Submitted by Melissa Mitchelll | October 30 2009 |

Calling your dog a service dog when it is not is a federal crime... it's Federal fraud. Flying in an airplane is not like riding in a car. A dog who is unprepared for it could become a danger to itself as well as others on the plane. Please remember as well is is not a privilege to need the services of a service dog. Living with disabilities and endeavoring to find ways to live as independent as possible, which may sometimes include four paws is not a privilege. If I put my service dog in cargo they would not be able to bring him to me at the end of each leg so that he may assist me in being able to reach dropped items, assisting me in getting to restroom, or help me to remove my coat. It's damn had enough getting them to give me my own wheelchair during layovers (which may or may not be damaged) that myself and my service dog can operate with ease. Before I had a service dog, I was at the mercy of airport staff who regularly go off and leave me in a chair five to large for me for hours. I couldn't move that thing if the airport was burning down. I had ask perfect strangers to help me get money, get to the bathroom, get bags off the floor, pick up money I dropped and I never knew if the person I asked was simply going to do as I needed or take advantage of me in some way. These being able to accomplish these things with out fear of being left or taken advantage of are not a privilege. My service dogs have allowed me to continue my love of travel for that last 10 years and have accompanied me to over half the states and four countries.
I do agree that flying a dog in cargo is dangerous; however, impersonating a person with a disability using a service dog just adds another wrong to the situation. http://servicedogsawayoflife.blogspot.com/2008/09/people-claiming-their-...

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

The article does not acknowledge that legitimate service dogs for people with mental illness are actually discriminated against as they DO have to provide a doctor's letter and 48 hours notice prior to flight.

Also, as someone with a service dog, I am furious that anyone would "wink" at the prospect of faking their dog as a service dog. This is why my rights as a person with a disability that uses a service dog to mitigate the symptoms of the disability stands in danger of losing some rights on airlines. Fakers hurt people with disabilities. Fakers perpetuate discriminatory behavior. Fakers hurt me.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 2 2009 |

Come on! Just because someone is not deaf, blind, or epileptic does not mean that their dog does not provide them with some service. My dog means the world to me and I'd do anything to keep him safe. He services me mentally. He makes me smile, he makes me get out of bed on very rough mornings. If it were not for him, I'd be home under the covers right now probably sobbing about the screwed up society we live in.

Submitted by Dawn | October 30 2009 |

I think the law that requires pets to be placed in the cargo hold is unethical. I would have no qualms about passing my pup off as a service dog to keep him or her out of an unhealthy and dangerous environment, and I would tip my hat and give a wink to anyone else I saw doing it. If airlines would allow pets to ride with their owners for a fee, then I would gladly pay the fee, but that is not usually an option. God bless service dogs and the aid they render. I don't believe it harms them or their reputation when people do what they have to do to make sure their pets travel safely.

Submitted by Anonymousy | October 31 2009 |

That is really sad that you would not have an issue not only lying about your health and your dog's training but doing something that could harm other people, mostly disabled people who have an actual need for their trained service dogs to be with them. People who fake their pets as service dogs really do harm the reputation of real service dogs and real disabled people.

Disabled people do not have their dog with them because it is nice, comforting, or they just want to; they have their dog with them because they need to or else they would not be able to do the things that you take for granted every day, such as walk, buy groceries, etc. If a disabled person has a pet they want to travel with, they have to follow all the same rules as everybody else (such as putting the dog in cargo if it is too large for the cabin or choosing not to fly).

It is hard enough for disabled people, especially those who have to deal with access issues because people like you try to pass their pets off as highly-trained assistance dogs, so please don't make life even harder for us just because you feel a little inconvenienced to drive to your destination, use a dog airline, leave your dog at home, put your dog safely in cargo, etc. (A relatively small number of incidents does not make cargo too dangerous any more than car/train/plane crashes make car/train/plane trips too dangerous.)

You have plenty of options on what to do with your pet. Disabled people with service dogs do not. Every time a pet owner tries to fake their dog as a service dog, it makes it all the harder for real service dog handlers. It truly in all reality most certainly does effect disabled service dog handlers.

Please, stop being so selfish and think of others!

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

Certain Service Dogs do have to pocess paperwork for they can fly. It's only certain types that do not. A Service Dog team knows that the ADA doesn't cover them when they're flying, but another orgainization which a pet owner wouldn't know. Those teams know the new laws. I have a Service Dog and he has over 2 1/2 yrs of highly specialized training. Their trained to be quiet on a plane and go for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours without a potty break. Pets can fly in the cabin if they're a certain size and the owners pay the fees. Also, Service Dog teams know what's required by some airlines to fly and if any paperwork has to be done. I have flown my team several times and know which airlines require paperwork.... PLUS a Service Dog team knows what an airline can ask when flying. I hope someday that the airlines fine fakes with fines that would take an owner a lifetime to pay off.

Submitted by Lisa Dean and S... | October 31 2009 |

and what if your pet dog BITES someone. my dogs are specically trained dogs. If they were just some ordinary dog i would except them to fly in the cargo hold.

Show dog or not. i have seen dog show dogs BITE judges! I grew up in that world. JUST ordary dogs should NOT be allowed in the cabin with SDs.. for that matter what if your PET bites my animal? or distupts it and I have a HUGE issue??

Also anyone found fakeing an SD is against the law (federal), with a HUGE fine.
did u know that?

faking service dogs really hurts us that actully NEED them.

Submitted by Martha | October 31 2009 |

Dawn,

That is greatly offensive to those of us with legitimate service dogs. It may not be a federal offense to pass your dog off as a SD, but it is a state offense in most states with punishment ranging from a fine to jail time and confiscation of your dog. Your pet dog is not trained to the level that a service dog is and you have no idea how they will react to many situations, especially stressful ones such as flying. It is because of fakers that like may get very difficult for those of us with legit service dogs and why we now have so many public access problems. I have one service dog, one service dog in training and one pet dog. I would NEVER try to pass off a non-SD as a SD. We do travel with all 3 and stay in pet friendly places and drive. It is unethical, and in most states, illegal to pass off a non SD as a SD. It should be federal with stiff penalties!

Submitted by Smithcat | October 31 2009 |

So.....you believe that having to place your dog in cargo is unethical...............but lying about your dog being a legitimate service dog is "ethical", and allowing others to lie in order to do what they wanted, regardless of who it harms or of any protective laws that are being broken is also "ethical". Where are the "ethics" in lying? Wow....you do have some screwed-up values. You are totally lacking of any semblance in the tenents of Honor, Courage and Integrity. You disgust me.
Every time some selfish, thoughtless scumbag like yourself drags their ill-behaved, untrained and unvaccinated mongrel into public in the manner which you propose, it causes untold problems for legitimate service dog users. How? Simple. When the mutts who dont belong in the public venue, but are there because some idiot lied about them being a "service dog" start acting up (and it is not a matter of "if" they act up, but a matter of "when") THAT is the image that the public is left with in regards to ALL service dogs, legitimate or not. Access issues, denial of services and violations of the disabled persons civil rights always follow incidents where someone lied about their precious little "Fluffums" being a "service dog", just because they wanted to take the dog places it did not legally (or morally) belong. The actions taken by the self-serving lawbreakers have far-reaching consequences for those who they have no idea their actions are affecting. Therein lies the harm you cant seem to fathom.

Submitted by Barb | June 2 2014 |

I agree with you completely about lying about pets versus SD. I do disagree with your take as some dogs being mutts and not purebred dogs. I have seen many wonderful SD that are mutts as you have stated they can make great SD as well. I have also seen pure breeds that might not make that great a SD, due to anxieties . All I ask is that people that have SD please don not look down on the mutts that could be made into a SD. God bless you and your SD.

Submitted by Lacy | November 1 2009 |

Dawn, you are the reason the courts should make it illegal to fake having a service dog. I am disabled and have a service dog, and like you I'd have no qualms about turning you in to authorities just because you want your dog to fly on a plane with you. If you aren't comfortable putting it crated in the cargo hold, then don't fly and drive somewhere instead. It DOES harm us when people like you lie about having a service dog, if you honestly think it doesn't then you need your head checked.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 28 2010 |

Well said!

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

Good for you Dawn. Many within the disabled community use the ADA to run legalized extortion rackets, so I'm not getting all teary eyed when I hear others might game the system for no other reason but to protect their animals.

Submitted by Carolyn | October 30 2009 |

You know, I think "celebrity" dogs are exempted from flying in cargo too. I vaguely recall something about a highly-trained stunt dog flying in the cabin with its handler.

My small dog flies as in in-cabin pet under my seat, thankfully. We've done so for 8 yrs. and it's (mostly) gone very well. I'd never fly my dog if she had to go in cargo -- there have been too many horror stories to say nothing of the stress it must put on the animal to be in the hold.

I think it is great that service dogs are allowed with their person on flights. I think that others wishing to pay for a seat for their dog should be able to. People traveling with cellos or other large, fragile and valuable instruments can buy a seat for it. "Large, fragile and valuable" can pertain to dogs too (and I mean valuable in the sense of having worth beyond monetary). I sympathize with people who need to travel and would like to bring their dog but understandably balk at relegating it to freight.

Submitted by Julia Kamysz Lane | October 30 2009 |

I think it's unethical to lie - and risk the privileges of real service dogs and the people who truly need them - so as to allow your dog to travel in the cabin with you. That said, I understand the temptation to do so because of the fear of what happens to dogs who travel in cargo.

A former agility instructor of mine told me a horror story about traveling with her dog in cargo. The plane was preparing to take off and she had not received the ticket torn off of her dog's crate showing that her dog had been loaded. She refused to sit down until someone brought her that ticket. Flight attendants tried to persuade her that surely, her dog was on board and there was nothing to worry about, but she would not budge. Fifteen minutes and many dirty looks from fellow passengers later, she received the ticket and sat down. Thank goodness she insisted on getting proof otherwise who knows if her dog would've even been on board.

Submitted by Kasia | October 30 2009 |

It's a lie and it's unethical. But then there are also people abusing handicap card placards...
I don't think a cargo hold is a dangerous place - the problem is people don't care to crate-train their dogs before they fly.
And if you are really curious how "dangerous" flying pets in cargo really is - it's not a secret. The airlines are required to report all incidents since many years.

Submitted by Dee Amschler | October 30 2009 |

Faking a service dog hurts real service dog users. It's not just a matter of the dog's safety that needs to be kept in mind either when making the decision about who flies where - it's an issue of passenger safety and of the safety of any real service dogs. If show dogs and other competitor dogs do it who else is going to? Where does it stop? Will all these be dogs with proper training and socialization? Will they all have good health and proper immunizations? Every time a business - including an airport or airline - encounters a badly behaving, badly groomed, unhealthy or misbehaving dog being passed off as a service dog it makes life and access that much harder for the next person who comes through with a real service dog.

BTW, it's not the ADA that applies to air travel. Once you get past security at the airport, you're subject to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

Submitted by Service Dog Owner | October 31 2009 |

Fortunately Airlines are becoming wise to the fakers. Faking a disability for personal gain can be a felony in some cases and a misdemeanor in others. It's pretty obvious when a pet is being passed off for a dog with two years of advanced training.

So the choice is to go to your doctor and have him declare you seriously mentally ill (something that will follow you just like a criminal record) so you can have an emotional support animal, or risk confiscation of the fake service animal, fines, and or jail time for the offender.

Service dog owners are angry about the destruction of the reputation legitimate teams have spent 80 years building with pets that toilet indoors and otherwise behave unprofessionally. We're cracking down too, reporting fakers when we catch them. We, the disabled, aren't talking about the convenience of flying with a pet, but simply being able to fly at all. Don't take your petty issues with airlines out on the disabled.

Ten years ago functioning with my service animal was so much easier than it is now with so many fakers giving businesses bad experiences so they now look suspiciously upon even legitimate teams.

Shame on anyone so selfish as to steal from those who can least afford to be taken advantage of.

Submitted by Service Dog handler | October 31 2009 |

This is what people who fake their pets as Service Dogs are doing to real Service Dog handlers

http://www.psychdog.org/comm_talkback.html

Airlines are now requiring 48 hours advance notice and personal medical records/documentation from some Service Dog handlers because of the people who fake.

If anyone thinks that faking their pet as a Service Dog doesn't hurt real Service Dog handlers, you are mistaken.

In saying that, I do sympathise with pet owners who want to do the right thing for their pets and it's a shame airlines can't provide better options for pet owners, however they have safety regulations they need to follow.

Submitted by Dave | September 19 2013 |

No, airlines are not requiring 48 hour advance notice, they can request documentation 48 hours in advance but they rarely do as it would be more paperwork and time (money).

Submitted by CancerGirl | October 31 2009 |

As a Service Dog user for the last number of years (almost 10 now) I would like to say that those who fake their dogs being a SD to allow them to fly in the cabin with them DOES hurt people with legitimate service dogs. In fact, there are only a specific number of SD allowed on a plane, which is a first come first served basis. I have had it happen 2 different times that because of a large dog show happening in the area I was flyiing to, that I had to change the flight I was trying to book because the number of "service animals" had reached maximum capacity. My service dog was the last allowable on my flight as it was because of the national show that was apparently in the town I was flying to.

While I was boarding, I had 2 of the "service dogs" lunge at my dog, and both times that it happened I asked for the other dogs to be removed (oh and yes that can happen, in fact any dog who acts in a manner not resembling that of a SD can be asked to be removed from the flight and if the airline decides to criminal charges can be filed, as it is illegal in most states to misrepresent a SD).

Because of the large number of fakers out there the ACAA (airline carrier aseesability act) has recently made it a requirement to have a drs note written within the last 6 months if you are flying with a SD for an invisible disability (such as epilepsy, diabetes or any other disability not visibly seen). This has caused many people who should not have to revel their medical conditions (would you want to have to telleveryone your medical history?) and go through the extra trouble of making a extra dr visit to have their dr write a letter because others who are ignorant, rude and just plain idiots who decide that their fluffy is more important then a actually disabled persons MEDICAL EQUIPTMENT, which is what a SD is to a handicapped person. It would be the same as saying "because I want to not have to be inconveninced to walk the extra 50 yards or so, I will just park in a handicapped spot".

People witrh service animals spend a lot more fo their time they they should have to telling people who are too stupid to read the signs on their dogs not to pet them, telling parents of chilren who feel that my dog is there for their kids enjoyment to get their kids hands off my dog before I remove their hands from the dog for them, telling people not to call to my dog, not to try and distract my dog, then deling with the people who get mad because you tell them not to pet your dog. Service dogs are not therapy dogs who are being brought to the local wal mart to be pet by every other person who has their own dog and likes dogs to love on.

Anyone who fakes their dog as a SD to get on a plane should be regarded the same as someone who would ask a person in a wheelchair to just stand because well my rights and wants and needs are more important then yours and is just reprehensible and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Submitted by PWDwSD | October 31 2009 |

I am a person with disabilities who has been partnered with service dogs for about ten years now. We have flown a good bit in that time and are well versed in both the ADA and the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act which applies to air travel).

Certainly people love their dogs and don't want harm to come to them when they travel, however this is not justification to portray their pet dogs as service animals just to fly them in the cabin any more than it would be to put lights and sirens on their personal car just because they like to drive fast and make a lot of noise. The latter is actually a crime; the former ought to be since it involves circumventing a federal law.

A person's perception that their dog might be harmed if it travels in cargo is not a disability and that dog should not be traveling in the cabin unless the owner has made appropriate arrangements with the airline. There is nothing to prevent an airline from making special arrangements with pet dog owners.

In recent years the airlines requested changes to the ACAA because of the proliferation of "service dogs" that people were requesting access for on their flights. They wanted to be able to put service animals in cargo and/or charge a fee for transporting service animals to discourage nondisabled individuals from claiming their dogs were service animals. This would have posed significant hardships on persons with disabilities because they require the assistance of their service animals to safely reach the plane and to assist the, while they are in the terminals. Many PWDs are unemployed due to their disabilities and so adding additional fees would make air travel cost prohibitive.

A dog owner on the way to a dog show or performance event is pursuing a hobby and should be prepared to cover the costs of that hobby, including transporting their dog. I would personally like to see these people prosecuted for theft of services and/or fraud if they and/or their dog do not meet the ADA definitions.

If you feel the need to claim your pet is a service animal, please take a minute to poke out an eye or amputate a leg first, and then spend a year or more training the dog in service dog and public access skills before making your next plane reservation. If you're going to claim a right that the ADA has defined for persons with disabilities, then you ought to be willing to accept the responsibilities and limitations that PWDs live with too.

There is no justification for lying to get a pet dog on a plane. Drive to your destination, hire a dog transporter who drives the dog, or fly with one of the "Pet Air" carriers that are available. Don't add to the hassles that people with disabilities already experience by lying to get your pet dog into the cabin.

Submitted by Linden | October 31 2009 |

It is unethical. This sort of behavior has led to an ACAA regulation REQUIRING handlers flying with Psychiatric Service Dogs to submit a doctor's note and give the airlines 48 hours notice before flying.

Though this is clearly discriminatory, the ACAA feels justified because handlers of psychiatric service dogs often do not appear to be disabled, making it easy for fakers to circumvent the system for their own convenience by pretending to be disabled.

Each time someone does this causes damage with the public that will complicate the lives of the next legitimate service dog team.

Please, don't pretend you are disabled and pass your pet off as a service dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

As a person living with a disability that is not visually apparent, I am receiving the scorn of people who complain they want to bring their "PETS" everywhere too. I get so angry and intolerant of these people who are ignorant of the law and describe "service dogs" as being the same as household "pets."

Service dogs are NOT pets. They have special training and purposes to assist a person with a DOCUMENTED DISABILITY. A disability is not some half-ass thought by someone who wants to abuse the law. A disability MUST be documented and it must cause an impairment in some area of the persons life, whether chronically or episodically.

That said, I wish people who have to be so nosy and make frivolous complaints at stores would mind their own business. I have been to places where people hide in corners complaining. At this point, I would like those who complain about service dogs as being "pets" to come up and complain in MY FACE, so that I can give them the literature about the laws and reality check about people who live with disabilities.

For all I care, those people who have nothing better to do but to compare and complain service dogs as being the same as pets should grateful they don't live with disability. And should mind their own business.

Submitted by Linden | October 31 2009 |

People passing off their pets as service dogs do injure legitimate service dog teams.

Because of this behavior, the ACAA has a new regulation that requires a handler of a psychiatric service dog to submit a doctor's letter and to notify the airlines 48 hours in advance of the flight.

The ACAA discrimination has been made to seem justified precisely because people are pretending they are disabled in order to fly with their pet in cabin.

Passing your pet off as a service animal is unethical. Period.

Submitted by Catherine | June 15 2010 |

I myself have been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder (I always thought my symptoms were from menopause!) and have been having really severe panic attacks. A friend of mine had trained her Pomeranian to be a service dog and upon hearing of my diagnosis, offered Koda to me. I was not thrilled with the idea as I have a chihuahua puppy already (my greyhound passed from lymphoma last October - talk about going to extremes - from a 100 lb dog to a 7 lb dog lol). After having Koda for a three month trial period, I have found that when she is with me in public, I am somewhat more at ease around people/crowds. I still get panic attacks, finding a corner to cower in, but she snuggles in my lap, watching me intently all the while, making soft noises while I try to get past the attack and calm down. It really works! I brought her to my doctor and he was quite impressed with the results. I am appalled by those who think that a mental "illness" does not require a service dog. (I used to be one of them and it now disgusts me how narrow minded I was about this issue). I am even more appalled by those in authority who see a small dog such as a Pomeranian and do not allow me access to their properties even though she is properly tagged with identification, wears a service vest and is very well trained. I now carry a doctor's note for proof and it's somewhat embarrassing to hear the whispering and snickering about my illness and get angry when I hear "crazy" ... that is so disgusting and disrespectful but it happens all the time. Bipolar Disorder is genetic, with psychological symptoms that are treated quite well with medication and therapy. Really - do you think it is their business as to what my illness is? Do they walk up to someone in a wheelchair and ask why they are in it? They argue that she most certainly cannot be a service dog due to her size - Goodgrief! That is discrimination of the smaller breeds, in my opinion. However - I can now feel safe to walk through a very crowded Harvard Square or the North End or Chinatown (in Boston for those who are not familiar) with BOTH dogs and not have a problem! I am now in the process of training my chihuahua to also be a service dog (this breed is much harder to train as they have such a Napoleon Complex but wish me luck!!) We with mentally associated problems really need this help - at least, I do. People should really change their opinions. Just my two cents.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 10 2010 |

Catherine you do realize that you could be one very rich woman.... not saying that I condone suing for the smallest infraction but by law the establishment has no right to ask you what your disablity is only if you have one and if your dog is a service dog. If they are forcing you to show documentation that is against the law and you could fankly either have their job or their store... then let them see how "crazy" your lawyer will get with all the legal mumbo jumbo of discriminate this!

Submitted by Julie | October 31 2009 |

As a person who requires a service dog, I get to see first hand the effect that taking advantage of these laws has had on those who require the aid of these admirable animals. To be honest, airlines are not fond of allowing service dogs on their flights either, and the abuses of this allowance are only causing it to be more and more difficult for people who have to have their service dogs to fly at all. That said, I find the current system of packing dogs and other animals into the cargo hold like so much luggage to be deplorable, and I do completely understand the concern on the part of pet owners. I wish there was an easy answer.

Submitted by Jeanne Hampl | October 31 2009 |

First to clear up an error in the article. It is the Air Carrier Access Act(ACAA) not the ADA that allow service dogs to accompany their disabled handlers on flights. The service dog must occupy the foot space below the handler. People with disabilities do not buy an extra seat or actually foot space as the service dog is not allowed by the ACAA for a service dog to ride on a seat.

The law only allows for fully trained service animals.

It is fraudulent for a person to portray themselves as disabled to avail themselves of the rights granted to a person with a disability.

Jeanne Hampl

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

It's definitely unethical to 'play service dog'. Remember, every time someone does this, it makes it more difficult for true SD users to fly with their dogs. It's very unfortunate that the Air Carrier Access Act now allows airlines to ask questions, because it becomes more of an interrogation than a simple inquiry (as reported by SD users). Some even 'require proof', such as a doctors note. Is it fair that a person with a disability must 'prove' that he or she is disabled? That they must subject themselves to the humiliation of having to share private, medical details with someone they do not know at all? I think not.

The people trying to pass their pets off as Service Dogs need to be more considerate of the bigger picture.

I do agree, however, that the conditions our wonderful pet dogs are subjected to when flying in cargo are unacceptable as well. I personally opt not to fly... I drive with my dog. But there should be a better alternative offered by the airlines.

Submitted by Lou | October 31 2009 |

Anyone who fakes that there dog is a service dog should be ashamed. It makes discrimination toward people with disabilities that use service dogs far more likely. It's barbaric and sick.

Submitted by thetroubleis | October 31 2009 |

If you fake having a service dog, you are scum. I have a service dog in training, which means I don't have the legal right to airline flights with him and that's okay. When he's fully trained I will.

I do not have a service dog as some type of special perk, but instead because I need him to be able to live my life. When you fake having a service dog, you hurt real teams, who are already harassed by the public.

If I could get rid of my disabilities, I'd leave Figaro home in a red hot minute.

Depending on where you decide to fake, fines and jail time are possible. Is it really worth hurting people with disabilities just so Fluffy can ride in the cabin?

Responsible pet care would be getting airlines to allow you to buy a seat for your non medically necessary dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

I'm a guide dog handler and trainer and I know that those of us who use service dogs often get the blame for the untrained poor behavior of fake service dogs. It is unethical to try and pass a pet off as a service dog because it jeopardizes our rights and makes us look bad.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

Do everyone a favor, rather than tarnish the reputation of service dogs with your untrained dogs, fly them safely via Pet Airways http://petairways.com/

There is NO excuse for lying and passing your PET off as a service animal. There have been stricter regulations imposed as a result of people faking which discriminates against one type of service dog. Today it might be a psychiatric service dogs but next will be the medical, and others as people "adjust" their "disability" so fluffy can fly without charge or restriction.

If the pet airline isn't going to the same destination as you are planning and you don't want you pet in cargo, LEAVE YOUR PET HOME! If you are going to a show with your dog, drive instead. It doesn't matter how far it is. I've driven cross country so don't start whining it is too far. If you want to go to a show then do it morally. I wouldn't want to have to be on a flight near you with your fake service dog growling at my trained service dog the whole entire flight. Though I may be inclined to offer a muzzle and report you to the airlines to be sure you will not be welcome on the return flight.

Submitted by Alma Febus | November 9 2009 |

you guys r all right. I have seen this happen and it kills me. They should also ask to see if they have an ID that states that the person is dissable.. I have one and I show it when they asked me about my SD.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

Well this is exactly why the ACAA has recently changed their guidelines requiring letters from doctors attesting to disability and need for service dog. This is a recent change and I do wonder how it will rock the show dog world.

Even if you are willing to commit fraud and pass your pet off as a service dog, are you going to go so low as to ask your doctor to diagnose you with some fake disability (a disability being something that severely limits an activitiy for daily living: breathing, walking, eating, tolieting, hearing, seeing, thinking) and ask your doc to commit fraud for your own travel ease?

Those fake certifications wont work either, by the way. It is very common knowledge to the airlines that they are fake.

I also want to correct the assumption that service dogs don't have to be trained and nobody can question that, even by the ADA. Any buisness can ask if you are disabled and what tasks your dog does to mitigate your disability (and this has to be more than comfort, companionship, or emotional support). If you are asked these questions and lie, you are impersonating a person with a disability and can be heald accountable for your crime.

In my opinion it is unethical and it does create issues for true service dog handlers wishing to access services.

Submitted by Syrensilly | October 31 2009 |

And then we wonder why the DOT does things like this:
http://www.psychdog.org/comm_talkback.html
At the rate we're going, it could come down to ALL SD users having to have a doctors note and advance notice.
Hello people wake up! Fakers DO hurt people with legitimate disabilities. If your dog is a pet, don't call it a service dog. it's illegal and unethical. Seriously, have people's morals slid so terribly?

Submitted by Anonymous | November 13 2009 |

Yes people's morals have slid that terribly. I live in a condo and it has a no pet policy. Recently, a few owners have obtained fraudulent service dog certification from a service dog scam site in Hawaii. It is infuriating because it is fraud. Government agencies designed to protect the disabled dismiss the fact it is such a site. What can one expect when a Gov't agency fails to act? It will result in ugly retribution to everyone with SDs based on the assumption that theirs must be bogus too since so many are. These sites must be shut down. it is the epitome of arrogance and selfishness to claim your "pet" is a SD.

Submitted by Carol F. King | November 2 2009 |

It is my opinion that the airlines have placed THEIR problem on the public, convinced DOT and FAA that it is the public's fault.

If transporting live animals in cargo were SAFE, then no one would feel a need to "fake a SD." So many animals have been mistreated, allowed to escape, and died traveling in cargo that the public KNOWS their animal has a good chance of dying traveling in cargo.

If an airline employee had to travel in cargo with each live animal shipped, things would change. After a few employees died, the airlines were sued "wrongful death", the airlines would get the temperature control and air pressure control in cargo as dependable as it is inside the cabin of the plane.

We would then see the "fake SD" on plane diminish. Airlines by making this a public problem have US fighting each other instead of dealing with the real issues. POOR QUALITY CONTROL BY THE AIRLINES IN CARGO.

I use an Assistance Dog, and I see what people are saying, I just see a different "root" of the problem.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

Well put! I travel with a Service Dog and have commented more than once to my partner that I am so glad Buddy gets to fly with me because I would hate to have to put a dog in cargo. Buddy is getting older and I know it is not safe down there. I am sure there are lots of people who love their dogs and who are scared and worried about putting them in cargo and searching for an answer . . . another way . . . to make the trip safe for their beloved pet. If the AIRLINES changed how animals were transported this, too ,would change.

Submitted by Stephanie | November 18 2010 |

I'm in full agreement with you Carol!!! The Airlines need to take a little more responsibility when they carry living, breathing creatures.

As for 'fake ID'...tell me...what 'training' does my companion dog need and how much should I have to pay to whomever for a piece of paper??? My doctor prescribed him for me and my children obliged.

Someone...tell me again who I'm supposed to PAY for the privilege...

Submitted by ServiceDogTags.com | November 3 2009 |

While we understand the temptation of pet owners to do this, it is illegal to do so. We've been selling service dog IDs since 2006 and we suspect that it happens quite often. The airlines have become very strict about service dogs and they will ask for some form of documentation. Unfortunately there are companies charging over $350 to "Certify" your dog. If they have never seen and tested your dog then their ink-jet printer "Certification" isn't worth anything and these companies are just trying to take advantage of people for hundreds of dollars.

Submitted by ebdarby1957 | November 4 2009 |

I just recently took my first and last flight with my SD. Thank heaven she is a small 13 lb Schipperke. I was forced to move away from my family and hold the dog in my lap for the entire flight because there was no room at my feet for her to lay down. It happened on the flight going and coming home. I will never travel Delta Airlines again. She was wearing her vest. I had all her documentation and all of her vet records. It was a nightmare! And it is probably because people do try to pass their pets as service animals. Please people, think about the consequences we have to pay for your selfishness!!!!

Submitted by mandahg | November 5 2009 |

as someone who has been sorely tempted to label his dog a service animal in order that he might fly with me, i feel compelled to weigh in on this matter.

placing this question in a framework of ethics is a fundamentally flawed premise. it is never ethical ("responsible") to promote false assertions in pursuit of personal (yours or your dog's) transportation convenience or comfort, insofar as other remedies exist to achieve the transport goal. NO respectable ethicist worth her salt would tell you otherwise.

despite the clear ethical line, several times i have been to the verge of ethics-be-damned on this one; but the fact remains: options to the perceived dangers of cargo transport exist, however inconvenient or unpalatable we may find them. not a conundrum here, just a choice whether to ignore ethical boundaries.

some of the options i consider: a trusted and familiar secondary care-provider for our pet when we are out of town, driving (not always viable for cross-country hops) - and now, in direct response to the need for safe pet travel by air: the humble beginnings of airlines dedicated to pets (limited routes, unfortunately).

nevertheless, decrying "false service dog" people as "barbaric and sick" is just melodramatic overkill, preposterous, and above all, downright silly. people grow attached to their pets, and would no sooner put them in cargo than they would their baby. this sentiment does nothing to decrease the legitimacy of true service pets, nor does it "increase discrimination" against service dogs.

the solution is simple: require credentials for any animal to fly in the airplane cabin. in a manner similar to the placards that guarantee those who need special parking, those who need service dogs can be amply served by a level of documentation sufficient to discourage those who would otherwise unethically take advantage of the situation.

on the other hand, those of us who feel the airlines provide grossly inadequate transport options for our pets would be best served by a) lobbying the airlines and other relevant resources to improve the situation b) supporting (most effectively, as paying customers) pet-friendly transport companies/airlines or better yet c) investing our resources in the development of a broad, competitive swath of pet-friendly transport options.

from a pet safety perspective: my dog will never fly in cargo: the little one flies in-cabin in a carrier with me; we make other arrangements for the big dog. from an ethical perspective: despite my sadness at not having the big dog with me, i won't ever falsify his credentials for the sake of my convenience.

Submitted by sabrina | November 10 2009 |

Thank you for the most coherent and reasonable comment on here.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

It is interesting that those of us who need psychiatric service dogs are discriminated against, both by the Americans with Disabilities Act and by the Air Carrier Access Act. It is absolutely unfair that I have to produce documentation to fly stating that I am mentally ill. I already have papers from a doctor stating that I have a chronic medical disability, but it is not enough for some airlines. I, too, deplore transporting show dogs or pets by passing them off as service dogs, but I believe I should be treated equally with someone with a physical disability. I am absolutely unable to leave the house without my dog. He is trained to come and provide tactile stimulation to ward off panic attacks and - here is where I truly qualify under the ADA - I need him to provide balance and mobility because of the medications I am on.

It is time for the mentally ill to be treated equally. My dog, besides being trained, is very well behaved. We have traveled before on Southwest - they are great - but other airlines are not so good.

So I ask that all of you respect me need for a service dog; my illness is horrible and my dog is a wonderful ally for me.

Submitted by Catherine | June 15 2010 |

I totally agree with you !!!! I myself have a debilitating mental illness and because my service/therapy dog is a Pomeranian I get so much flack because she is small and "cannot possibly be a service dog". Ridiculous!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 21 2011 |

You may want to consider a vest the states that your dog is a mobility dog. A balance harness would help, as well. Psychiatric disorders cannot usually be helped by training a dog to perform a specific task which is required of a service dog. Otherwise, everyone would just bring their dogs everywhere and say they help them feel better.

Submitted by doc | November 8 2009 |

There seems to be a trend here and on other blogs. Those with the most disability are not out there writing letters and blaming others. I have not seen any responses from the blind, those with SD for Medical Alert (DM, Siezures, etc) I am an MD so I am well aware of dogs servicing mental health issues. I love both my dogs, they go everywhere with me I would be devistatewd if something should happen to the older Golden, but he is not a SD. What I see and hear are people complaining that they are against certification..why...they then go on to talk about the need to take psyhiatric dogs with them.
Why would anyone be afriad to carry a cocument with them indication thier need for a SD...a diagnosis? It is not plastered on you shirt, just for the authorities to see. Handicap parking permits are just as abused. Every see the guy get of his motorcycle after parking in one ? Or the guy wearing the dirty baseball uniform after a game get out of his car? And we need certification for that. Nothing is perfect. I have a disease that is not readily noticable to others , until I fall to the floor. I carry a medical tag so that I can obtain quick help when needed. I have a SD (a 45# PWD) trained to alert. She is not all "Tricked out" in vests,specisl handles and backpacks to look obvious and official. She has an IdD card and a small pouch that has a Medical Alert badge on it That's it. She only flies when I am alone....todate....not yet...has a flight in Jan. Never goes into Restaurants, etc, and she is none allergic.
That cartoon with the 3 doors is crazy....if you are disabled, you are, if not so be it. If you have a dog that you take on a plane because you are afraid to fly, pay thr fee and take it in a handbag or carrier, but don't trick it out...a mini dog in a vest, come'on! And I realize that many dogs serve no purpose while actually on the plane, they have to be with the owner. Look, I am a physician, and I am well aware of the human psychi .... but when it come to disability there are many who take advantage and who blow thing out of proportion...if you do not want to have your diagnosis out there than why woulkd you make your dog look like it was at a perpetual Holoween party ? Think about others, allow laws to be made, and don't get angry at people who question the use of a minidog, that can go in a carrier, yet, it's owner takes it on as a SD and takes the place of a dog that does have to be on the plane. It is the more obvious SD owners that seem to make the most noise and it is those who don't want the world to know the diagnosis that put blinking lights on thier animals.

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