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!

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