The Chronic Epidemic of Fake Service Dogs

My brother recently posted the following article: Important Rant About Why Fake Service Dogs Are So Problematic, which contained the following anecdote:

You're sitting at a café with your friend when suddenly a woman walks in with a toy poodle in her purse. The manager at the counter informs her "I'm sorry, but we do not allow dogs." She replies with a heavy sigh and a "She's a service dog. She can come with me." Not knowing much about service dog law, and worrying about getting sued for asking further questions, he sits this woman down at a booth. There, she promptly unzips her purse and places the dog on the booth seat next to her. When the woman's dog comes out, the little dog begs and she feeds her bits off her plate. This dog is not public access trained, and proceeds to bark at those who walk by. This dog is a nuisance and causes many in the restaurant to complain. The manager cannot do anything but information the unhappy customers that this is a service dog, so he can't ask her to leave. In the end, it's the customers who end up leaving.

Now I walk in with my highly trained service dog pressed against my leg in a perfect heel position, and I'm quickly bombarded by the manager telling me "No dogs! No dogs! We ALL know what happened last time." Confused, I tell him "This is my medical alert and medical response service dog. Her right to accompany me is protected under federal law." With a sigh, he seats me at a table far away from others where my dog promptly tucks under my feet, out of sight. When my food arrives my dog is still tucked tightly under the table because she knows she's not supposed to eat when she's on duty. She stays there ignoring those who walk past for the remainder of my meal. When we leave, a woman by the door exclaims "Woah, I didn't know there was a dog here!"

See the difference?

There's more to the story at the link I shared, but here's the gist of the article: the problem of "fake service animals" has become a chronic epidemic in our country. Far too many people are pretending their dogs are "service animals" when they're not, and they are causing a plethora of problems for actual service dogs.

Look, I get it; dogs are great. I grew up with dogs. I love my dogs. Other people love their dogs. Heck, we all love our dogs. However, some places are acceptable for dogs, and some places are not acceptable. Not every public setting is appropriate for them.

That being said, as evidenced by the anecdote I shared, the way that some people have been abusing "service animals" is eroding public trust, and that's dangerous to society. I have heard people complain that they "need" to have their dog with them, which they don't. Their argument is typically that their dog is really their "emotional support animal." But you know what, EVERY dog is an "emotional support animal." That's pretty much the definition of any pet.

I had a coworker at work who was blind, and he had a real service animal. There is a world of difference between his dog and the dogs that I see running around stores and behaving badly while wearing a "service animal" vest that their immature owner purchased at a local pet store.

Let me explain what a dog has to go through to become a service animal: my Goldendoodle is a certified service dog, who has been trained to visit patients in hospitals. To become certified, she went through two years of training where she learned how to behave in dozens of disparate public situations, followed by several batteries of testing in front of a panel of judges, where something as minor as a single growl would have disqualified her permanently. There are no second chances during the testing; a real service animal must behave perfectly in public from the outset. That is why when someone brings their house pet out in public and lies to everyone by claiming that their dog is a "service animal," and their pet cannot behave in a way that is commendable, they permanently hurt public opinion of service animals.

To put it bluntly for those who are too immature to understand the basics of public behavior: if you do not have an actual medical need for a service animal, and yet you are too emotionally unstable to go to the store for a few minutes without leaving Fido or Fifi at home - then you need therapy. In the meantime, however, you need to leave your dog at home!

All dogs should be on leashes in public places

My older brother posted the following news article from The Guardian in the UK: Freddie the Thames seal put down by vets after dog attack. The article describes the tragic death of a young seal pup that was living along the Thames river in London, and the story was was quickly accompanied by the following update from the Evening Standard: Barrister whose dog mauled Freddie Mercury the seal says she is ‘heartbroken’ over animal’s death.

My brother had accompanied the original article with the statement that the dog should be destroyed and its owner held accountable, and I agree. Dog owners are ultimately responsible for their dog's actions, but I would suggest that there's a bit more to consider here other than mere responsibility. The article in The Guardian only mentions that the dog involved was a "brown cross-breed" mix, and the photos from the article in the Evening Standard clearly show that we're not talking about a Yorkie/Chihuahua mix.

My wife and I were recently involved in helping to end a mauling that was happening in front of our house, where an off-leash Pit Bull attacked an on-leash Goldendoodle. The attack resulted in the Goldendoodle needing 80 stitches to repair the damage, although the Pit Bull would have killed the Goldendoodle if someone else hadn't happened to have a taser that my wife was able to use to get the Pit Bull to release it's grip. However, when the incident was reported to our Homeowners Association (HOA) group, the various owners of Pit Bulls in our neighborhood accused those who reported the attack of "breed shaming," despite the fact that the attack was simply being reported factually; regardless of anyone's personal emotions on the subject, what actually happened was that a Pit Bull attacked Goldendoodle. Breed shaming has nothing to do with it; facts are facts.

I mean no disrespect to people who love certain breeds, but it is a statistical fact that certain breeds are responsible for the majority of attacks and fatalities. The website at https://www.dogsbite.org/ states: "In the 15-year period of 2005 through 2019, canines killed 521 Americans. Pit bulls contributed to 66% (346) of these deaths. Combined, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers contributed to 76% of the total recorded deaths." Despite these numbers, within our neighborhood - where leashes are 100% mandatory - we have a large number of tenants who own "dangerous breeds" that insist on walking their dogs off-leash. Whenever this comes up for discussion within our HOA, these owners' consistent assertions are that their dogs are 'sweethearts' and 'wouldn't hurt a fly.' I am sure that the owner of the Pit Bull that I personally witnessed mauling the Goldendoodle thought the same thing, too. In the end, their protestations sound more and more like the interviews you hear with family members and neighbors of serial killers; e.g. "He was always such a nice, quiet boy."

The point that I would like to make from all of this information is: all dogs should ALWAYS be kept on leashes in public, unless they are within a fenced-in, off-leash dog park. Leashes on private property are up to the owner's discretion, but once any dog leaves private property, they need to be on a leash 100% of the time, and thereby under the control of their owner. My wife and I own a Goldendoodle who is a trained and certified therapy dog that is allowed in hospitals to work with patients, and while I know that she is the calmest dog you could ever meet, I still have her on a leash EVERY TIME we walk in public.

At the end of the day, I do not care how 'sweet' or 'harmless' someone thinks their dog is, or how well they think they have trained their dog; once they enter any public setting, their dog needs to be on a leash. Bringing this full circle, I am certain that if the dog involved in the attack on the Thames seal had been on a leash, the fatal mauling would never have occurred.

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Dogs Versus Cats

I freely admit that I am a "Dog Person." What's more, I am blessed to have married another dog person - we both love dogs, and this is generally a good thing. My wife grew up surrounded by dogs, as did I.

My wife and I spent the first ten years of our marriage in poverty or in the military, and unfortunately being in the military is a lot like being in poverty. Sad smile Just the same, we had been married ten years before the two of us were finally able to get a dog. Our first dog was a yellow Labrador Retriever named "Barney." Unfortunately, Barney had been mistreated by a previous owner and we were not able to keep him.

Our next dog was wonderful - we got a Bouvier des Flandres, who became a part of our family for the next eleven years. We named him "Ruff Waldo Emerson," which we shortened to Emerson. I had never owned a herding dog before, and it was a lot of fun to watch the way that he took care of our family: he would patiently wait by the door for the kids to arrive home safely from school, and he would try to push me out of my desk chair when he decided that it was time for me to go to bed.

Our most recent dog was a red-haired Golden Retriever, who our son named "Rook." (Our son, Peter, was heavily into chess at the time.) Rook was a great dog, and I now see why so many people love Golden Retrievers. Sadly, Rook died of a fast-acting bone cancer when he was just eight years old. Crying face

All of this is simply an introduction in order to offer proof that I am a dog lover. But that being said, I am decidedly not a "Cat Person." I am allergic to cats, which I think is God's way of saying that man isn't meant to coexist with cats. My daughter has a cat, and her cat seems to like me more than anyone else that comes to visit - which seems to be due to the fact that I ignore it.

Here are several of my thoughts on dogs versus cats:

  • Dogs have masters, cats have servants.
  • When stranded in an avalanche, no one looks for a cat to rescue them.
  • Who cares if cats kill mice? Why not just raise mice and skip a step? My friend has cats which drag live mice into the house - ostensibly to kill them - but eventually the cats lose the mice somewhere inside the house.
  • Dogs are faithful and loyal; cats are selfish and fickle.
  • If you pet a dog, the dog thinks, "Wow - he likes me; he's so wonderful." If you pet a cat, the cat thinks, "Wow - he likes me; I'm so wonderful."
  • No one takes a cat hiking.
  • Dogs can be trained to search for explosives, provide eyesight for the blind, haul loaded sleds across hundreds of miles of hostile terrain, sense a variety of medical conditions, guide herds of animals without supervision, and a host of other important tasks. Cats can be trained to poop in a box.

The debate over which is better – dogs or cats - is ages old, and not likely to ever be resolved. But in my estimation, dogs will always be man's best friend, while cats will remain - at best - frenemies.