First, we have to make clear, what the term “service dog” means. In many of our articles, we have described the term but if you have not read them yet, and you are not familiar with it, you can just keep reading.
Service Dogs are specially trained to perform specific tasks in order to help people with disabilities to enhance their lives and to deal easily with challenges on a daily basis. Disability types may vary- physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The task that a service dog performs, is directly related to the individual’s disability.
Considering this, we need to mention, that emotional support animals are no longer deemed service animals, as they are not trained to perform specific tasks.
As service dogs accompanying people with disabilities are allowed to go everywhere their owner/handler goes, the trend of people to pretend that their pets are service dogs is getting more and more popular. The number of reported “fake” service dogs has increased drastically for the last few years, which has let to more restrictive regulations provided by some states. Many states require in their laws penalties or even criminal charges for persons who falsely claim to have a service dog.
Many of you will ask- are there certificates and licenses, issued by professional trainers or organizations that can be used as proof for the legitimacy of a service dog?
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) whose regulations’ subject are service dogs, does not require a dog to goes through a professional organization or registry to become a service dog.
According to their policy:
“Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry”.
However, if your city requires all dogs to be vaccinated, registered or licensed, this applies also to your service animal.
Prices for a professional training may cost thousands of dollars and many people who really need a service dog might be unable to afford one. In order to ensure that people will be able to obtain a service dog, despite the high training prices, ADA allows people with disabilities to train their own service by themselves, using the comfort of their own home.
Whether trained professionally or individually at home all service dogs must possess particular basic skills and meet a minimum standard in order to be accepted as animals on duty.
A real service dog should have good socializing skills. He/she must know how to behave around people, especially in public spaces. He/she should not get easily distracted, should not bark at strangers, sniff around or running towards them. His/her attention needs to be oriented to their handler’s needs.
A service dog should have very good obedient skills. When accompanying their handler, they need to walk calm next to him/her, to not pull on the leash and should be able to fulfill commands given by him/her like: “sit”, “wait”, as well as to know how to retrieve or drop an object if necessary.
A service dog must by no means pose a treat to the safety and health of other people.
You have already learned some of the most important basic skills a service dog must poses and the kind of behavior he/she must have. At this point it is easy to make a difference between a real service dog and a fake one.
You can expect a fake service dog to misbehave, to be disrupting, to sniff around, to pull on a leash, to get distracted easily because of other people or objects. He/she will have difficulties to stay focused and calm when walked on a leash. Some dogs, especially particular breeds, may become even aggressive to people and other animals. A fake service dog could try to steal food, when in a food store.
If a dog is freely walking next to his/her owner, without any restraint tools, like leash or harness, and he/she does not pay any attention to his/her owner’s behavior, body language and commands, it is very likely for him/her to not be a real service dog.
An individual with a disability who has a service dog will be familiar with all dangerous situations that may occur if the dog has not been supervised. If you spot persons who claim to be accompanied by a service dog, but do not pay attention to his/her behavior at all, it could be a clear sign that they are lying.
Due to an expanding demand for service dogs many scam companies for professional training have been established. You need to be extremely careful if you are wondering where you can get a trained puppy from. This kind of companies usually sell dogs without any appropriate testing in regard to their behavior, temperament, obedience. Getting a dog from such a company may cause many troubles like: damaging your furniture, relieving itself at home, behaving aggressively towards family members or any other pets at home. We seriously doubt that a dog provided by a scam company could be able to perform any of the necessary tasks for the benefit of their handler.
If you are a business owner, and you doubt that a dog is a service dog you may ask his/her handler two questions:
A business owner can legally ask only two questions of a person with a service dog:
-Is the dog a service animal due to a disability?
- What tasks is the dog trained to perform?
If someone tries entering a building claiming that he/she is accompanied by an emotional support animal or comfort animal, you need to know that these animals are not considered service animals, and they are not granted access rights.
It is more complicated to fake a service dog when traveling with airlines. If you would like to travel with your service animal, you must complete properly and hand a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation Form over to a Special Assistance Desk in regard to the animal’s health, behavior and training. This form must be provided not later than 48 hours prior to travel.