Service Dog Fraud

Service Dog Book

Service dog fraud and other bad behavior are on the rise and I’ve been meaning to write about the service dog issue for a while.

The original thought was triggered by a phony “service dog trainer” here in my area and the many “service dogs” that she was churning out.

Dogs that growled and lunged aggressively at other animals and at people.

In case you don’t know, service dogs don’t usually misbehave because they are highly trained and socialized working animals–but nobody around these parts seems to care.

The final straw on this camel’s back was the “service dog” I encountered at my favorite coffee house.

It was a chow fully outfitted in a mail order jacket and patch–wearing a muzzle because it was unsafe in public.

It also wasn’t doing its owner any type of service at all–the paraphernalia the dog wore was fraudulent.

Now I am not the only one whose hackles were raised by this topic.

Earlier in the summer (2010) the bloggers at Pet Connection (now defunct) tackled the subject of service dogs and also fake service dogs.

Then I stumbled upon two posts having to do with service animals on Dog Spelled Forward (also now defunct)  that opened up a discussion on this topic as did The Horseand so I took it as a sign that it was time to do a short rant on this topic.

Today it is February 6, 2018 and this topic has hit the news triggered by some beastly behavior of pet owners who don’t get why their pets are not really service animals.

A few snippets in the new included:

Because there are a lot of people who claim to have service dogs that don’t. They feel like they can be the exception to the rule.

Fake documentation exists and so people try and get away with claiming this all the time.

In fact, someone I know just complained to me that when she tried to get her doctor to give her a note so she could get her dog into public places without an issue, he refused.

Thank goodness for integrity from someone!

Now, if you don’t know much about this topic, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 with the goal of alleviating discrimination against individuals with physical or mental disabilities and part of that act included allowances for specially trained dogs and other service animals–but lots of things were not super clear.

In fact, there were some things in the ADA that needed change, and over time, a few edits have happened.

The most recent occurred in July of 2010 when a series of changes were made to existing regulations that will take effect in 2011.

Among the changes is a more restrictive definition of “service animal.”

The new regulation states, in part, that:

“service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.”

So crime fighting animals or those mistakenly listed under the “provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship” are not acceptable or qualifying tasks for a service animal.

That helps and was discussed further here–but not being able to ask for proof that an animal is a service dog will still remain a problem.

The upside at least is that some of those people can be asked to leave:

Places of public accommodation may ask individuals seeking to be accompanied by an animal: (i) if the animal is required because of a disability; and (ii) what task or work the animal has been trained to do. Places of public accommodation are prohibited from requiring proof of service animal certification or licensing. Places of public accommodation may remove a service animal if it is “out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it” or the animal is not housebroken.

For those who have asked, here are some of the groups that do supply support, guidance and referrals to trainers and evaluators for specific service dogs.

So, now it is time for you to chime in–what do you think about all this?

This article first appeared September 7, 2010. Latest update February 6, 2018. Please leave your comments over on the ARKlady page.

About Ark Lady

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  1. I agree that it is terrible that lots of people want to call their animals service or therapy dogs but not a lot of people are willing to put in the time and effort training their dogs that those titles require. As you mentioned, growling, lunging and other unbecoming behaviors are not displayed by true service dogs. We train therapy dogs and they must go through advanced obedience and behavior training before we even consider putting them into therapy training.

  2. First I would like to say thanks for the correct info about service dogs. Would there be anyway a person can tell from a fake certificate and the real one. Where I work at several people comes to were I work (hotel). And they always say they have a service dog with them. That way they can have a reduced price, on their room. The people I work for are foreigners, and sometimes they think that the little business card with info on it is a fake one. How can we tell and what should we be looking for on them. To know they are the real thing, please help. I was in a bad jam once, and all I could do was go by want the card said. Couldn’t refuse them service they would have then started complaining, and then the BBB would have got involved can you please help. It made me feel to sad because, I was hoping I was doing the right thing.

  3. Hey Tori, thanks so much for chiming in here. I know you are also over on and wanted to let you know I posted some additional links and commentary over there.

  4. Thanks for the note Bea. Actually there is not any official certification outfits as they are not required but a few reputatible organizations do provide vests, documentation and referrals to trainers and evaluators: