Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?
by Joe Strechay
Imagine my surprise when I read the following in Monday’s edition of the New York Post: Liars use phony vests and ID tags to get fake service dogs into posh New York restaurants. Huh? No surprise here, but was just blown away by this. As you may know, AFB headquarters are located in New York City (although I mainly work out of the Huntington, WV, office), as are over three dozen other blindness agencies.
Over the last few years, service dogs have been introduced for a variety of different jobs, in addition to their most famous, which is of course assisting people who are visually impaired. However, make no mistake: People who are blind or visually impaired had to fight for a very long time to get that aspect to be notable and included. The fact is, many dog guide users have faced issues of discrimination at restaurants, stores, on public transportation, et cetera. I can name numerous friends who have dealt with situations where places didn’t want to allow their dog in. Now that the public and businesses have become much more aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act, such incidents are thankfully becoming less frequent.
I have met people who admitted to me that they just asked their doctor for a note stating they needed to use their dog as a service animal due to emotional stress (or whatever the issue). This aggravates me. Don’t tell me these things! I have encountered these situations many times. Dog guides are trained for months, and typically bred to have specific traits. Most dog guide schools estimate the cost of a dog guide around $30,000 by the time it is placed with the user, a person who is blind or visually impaired. A dog guide is a tool that is utilized to help a person travel independently and efficiently through their environment.
I think these new types of service animals have a long way to go, and these people using fake service animals, or portraying their pets as services animals, are creating a disservice to users of dog guides and other legitimate service animals. As Mayor Bloomberg’s girlfriend quips in the article, "It's going to ruin it for people that actually need service dogs." To that I would add: It's just wrong.
I think this mess of phony service animals is a disgrace. If you know someone doing this, please let them know it's immoral, unethical, and just plain wrong!
Black lab service dog photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?Posted by LSantamarina on 8/14/2013 at 5:58 PM
I could not agree with you more. I once met a woman in an airport who told me that she really didn't need a service animal but it was the only way that she could bring two dogs in the cabin with her.
I explained what goes into training a dog guide, how special the dogs are and how they provide independence to blind and visually impaired individuals. I told her to Google The Seeing Eye because that might educate her on the topic.
I am not sure if she took anything away from my conversation with her but I was glad that I let her know what she is doing is wrong.
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?Posted by Cheryl Lawyer on 8/14/2013 at 9:34 PM
Gosh this makes me angry that people could be so selfish and irresponsible. I raise guide dog pups. I've seen 'fake' service dogs but no one actually admitted it to me. I can't believe someone would. I so wish there was a registration organization for service dogs. I think this would help solve the problem. In the meantime, as always, it's all about education. And yes...it is just plain wrong. As a child, I learned that lying was wrong and a sin. Guess those folks missed that lesson somehow.
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?Posted by Joe S on 8/16/2013 at 11:47 AM
Thank you for the comments, I wasn't sure about my little rant. I get frustrated at the whole issue. I think you are right about a registration, and dog guide organizations would obviously have that covered. Dogs that assist, hearing dogs, and specific services animals from reputable organizations would be too. I like your thinking. I have heard numerous stories about people getting their dog approved through a doctor, not kidding about this. I have even heard a couple of persons with vision loss do this.
Thank you for posting and sharing your feelings!
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on 9/4/2013 at 12:56 PM
I volunteer with a lot of organizations that deal with disaster preparedness and sheltering and this always comes up. My fear is that we will have a major disaster and they will have to take people's word that their dogs are service animals. You know that even though they are allowed to evacuate with their pets now, they will try to claim them as "service animals" so they will not have to shelter in a separate tent. Since even real service dogs will be stressed, they will probably get away with it by saying the dog is stressed. The problem for these organizations is that they have no choice but to take someones word for it unless the dog is so badly misbehaved that it is obvious they are not working dogs. I try to give them clues to look for in guides but they are only clues. Since all guide dog schools are a little different, there is no hard and fast thing to look for. Guide Dogs for the Blind tattoo both ears with an ID number but I don't know if all guide dog schools do that.
I have no problem showing my GDB ID card and wish people were not so sensitive about it, it would help eliminate some of the fakers.
If the government wasn't so afraid of offending everybody and everybody wasn't so easily offended, it would be a lot easier. I don't understand why they can't ask for ID
if you are walking into a restaurant with a medium to large dog, show the ID and make everyone happier. It's not like it's a big secret that you have a disability, most harnesses say something on them about being a guide dog, so, your'e blind. It's not a state secret, deal with it. We have become SO "PC" that everything offends everybody. These dogs and the handlers worked so hard just to be allowed where everybody else can go and it is just wrong to let that right just disappear because businesses aren't allowed to verify somehow that they are "real" working dogs.
If everyone would stop being so sensitive about it, then maybe the ADA could come up with a solution. As it stands now, most business are afraid of being sued and would rather err on the side of caution and take their chances.
Whatever the disability, you are going somewhere with a dog that usually doesn't allow dogs, so be prepared to deal with it! Answer the questions, show ID, be polite. You will always draw attention to yourself, so either be prepared to deal or don't use a dog! Maybe by being a little more up front ourselves we can help eliminate the fakers. The rules won't change until our attitude does. Stop being offended every time someone asks if it's a service dog. Stop being so sensitive about the dog in general.
Maybe some day there will be a way to prosecute the people faking it, but nothing will change until we can get the laws changed and we can't do that if we get offended every time somebody looks at us funny.
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?Posted by Joe S on 9/4/2013 at 3:28 PM
I truly enjoyed your response and agree with you. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts on the subject! I hope you have a great day!
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?Posted by michelledo on 9/9/2013 at 2:05 PM
I agree with the above comments. We need to be willing to show credentials and stand up for ourselves. I am amazed because I find that a lot of business owners are just not well educated and some that do know the law believe they are exempt from following it because they serve or sell food. I can promise you that my Seeing Eye dog is always well behaved when he enters a business and I have no problem showing my identification card if necessary.
Re: Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?Posted by Joe S on 9/10/2013 at 9:40 AM
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. We all seem to be on the same page. I have seen very similar situations with regards to restaurant owners while accompanying friends with dogs. It is rare, but that tends to be the higher instance situation.
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