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PSA Mondays: Fake Service Animals

Hello, everyone, Capser’s mom here with another PSA.

We have already talked about Service Dog Etiquette, and if you haven’t read that you really should. It is probably the most important bit of information we have posted to date.  In that post there were a few things I said I would touch on later. One was about people bringing non-service dogs into stores and restaurants. I had not planned to talk about this more just yet, but then I saw a headline on Huffington Post:

‘Fake’ Service Dog Certificates Being Used So Owners Can Take Pets To Restaurants, Clubs

NOT COOL, PEOPLE! Not. Cool.  Apparently it’s becoming a trend in NYC to get a fake service dog certificate for your pet so that you can take them anywhere you. Go ahead, click that link and read the story…I’ll wait.

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Yep. I didn’t make this crap up. And sadly, this happens everywhere, just not usually so many in the same geographical area. And this CHAPS OUR HIDE!!!

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE pets. Dan and I considered ourselves to be “professional dog stalkers” before we had Casper. The kids were trained to do this right: The youngest puppy would run ahead (she is faster than us and not as shy as her sister) and ask the dog owner if we could pet the dog. Then we all caught up and got to pet it, too. It was great. I love seeing dogs out on walks with owners…as long as it is in an acceptable area. Outdoor malls, parks, beaches, farmer’s markets, etc… are full of these wonderful dog owners and it is great. It can be a little troublesome for us now since Casper is still working on his manners with other dogs, but when we are someplace where it is expected to see another dog we can be prepared. I dread the day we go into a restaurant or grocery store and there is another dog there. It will probably happen. And chances are the other dog is not actually a service animal.

The other problem I have with this is that it makes it harder for those of us who do have service animals to be respected by the public. Great Danes are not considered a ‘typical’ service dog breed so we are already confronted with some skepticism. When Dan’s legs are particularly tight there are fewer questions because his disability is more visible, but other days people often don’t notice his different gait (thanks to Casper). We know many other SDP recipients who have less visible disabilities and I imagine they are faced with doubt as well. Then there are the people who have a very small breed service animal that is used for anxiety, seizure detection, autism, and any number of other issues that do not require a larger dog. I know that those dogs are often seen as not “real” service animals anyway.

And here I have to make a confession.  Yesterday we went to the grocery store. Just before we got out of the car I noticed a woman headed to her car with a TINY dog in a bag over her shoulder. I pointed it out thinking how cute it was, but I was desperately thankful that they were already done. As we were checking out a woman who works there mentioned a woman who was just in here with her little service dog. My first thought was, “Yeah, right!” Of course, I am very aware that it could have been a service dog. But, how do I know for sure? I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, yet I am suspicious because of how many people abuse the service dog designation. And little dogs are more likely to be used in this scam since they can be carried around easily.

The biggest problem is that there is no official way to prove a dog is a service dog or not. You can order service dog vests and ID cards online and do not have to show any type of proof. And truthfully, if there was it would probably prevent a lot of people from ever getting one. Service dogs cost a LOT of money to raise and train. Most people have to raise thousands of dollars already to get their dog. If there became some official designation you could go through then it would likely just raise the cost of these dogs. (Thank you, SDP, for making dogs so much more accessible for those of us who cannot raise that kind of money. And while I am thinking about it, please go HERE to buy a “chicken brick” that helps them pay their bils!)

Then there is one more issue I have with this whole crazy thing. Service dogs need to be attentive to their handler at all times while on duty. You throw another dog in the mix and it is trouble. Casper is a puppy so this is a HUGE problem for us, one of the only big problems we have, but even older service dogs can have problems with this. What if you were working and you knew you could not get distracted, but in walks Adam Levine (or Sofia Vergara for you guys) or whoever would make your brain empty of all real thought. That is kind of what it is like for a dog to see another dog. It is EXCITING!!!! A well-trained older dog might react more like seeing David Spade, you don’t really care about them at all, but it IS a celebrity in your work place so that is pretty cool and quite distracting as well.

So here we are. I don’t even know where to go from here. I have vented, but how do we solve this? My hope is to get this information out there. I think if these people who are pretending to have service animals realized how much damage they are causing for real service animals they might think twice about doing this. Please share this post. Pass it along. Promote it. Please help us get the word out on all of our PSA Monday posts. Maybe together we can make a difference and educate some people.

Thanks for reading, guys.

written by LJS

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9 thoughts on “PSA Mondays: Fake Service Animals

  1. Debbie Randolph Hansen August 12, 2013 at 9:44 pm Reply

    NJ is cracking down on the placards. Every single one is going to have to be recertified by a physician before it is renewed. Of course, it’ going to take a while to get all of the ones being used by folks who don’t need them out of the picture, but it’s a start. Thank you for all you are doing for those of us with disabilities!

  2. Nancy August 12, 2013 at 10:16 pm Reply

    Thank you for the information. I would never have thought that people would do this but then again I guess nothing surprises me. My thought process would never think of something like this. I guess I am honest on most things. It is just like people that have handicap placards on their car and they look perfectly fine, walk well, pickup heavy things etc and they are using someone elses so that they do not have to walk far to the store. How could you in good conscience do that when someone has a disability where they cannot easily get to the store. People will always try to get away with something because they are lazy or just want to do what just what they want. It would be great to have a some organization that certifies with a stamp of some sort or ID like a drivers license. You are absolutely right if there was honesty in this area persons with a disability wouldn’t have to prove their dog was a real service dog.

    • casperthedane August 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm Reply

      We get frustrated about the handicap placard as well. There will always be open spots until it rains then everyone uses it. However, I feel compelled to point out that many people have disabilities that are unseen. They may have a brain injury, blood clot, severe heart issues, etc… There are many cases like this that are not seen. Still, though, there are tons of people who get one because they are overweight (in some instances this their weight is BECAUSE of a disability and those are not the people I am referring to) or they ‘borrow’ a relatives just to be able to get a better spot. That makes me the most upset. There WILL be a future post about this. 🙂

  3. Debra August 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm Reply

    I find it disgracreful that someone would do this. It is the same thing with handicap placards – people will find a way to get these so they can park in a handicp spot! Some people just feel entitled!! On a happier note – Casper, you and your family are awesome!!

  4. Laura F. Hron - TX August 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm Reply

    I read this in the paper this weekend and it made me absolutely sick. The nerve that some people have just is appalling. How can ANYONE justify using a service dog vest to get a better seat in a restaurant or take a dog on an airplane or do anything that is contrary to the dog’s natural training or ability, or for that matter the person’s needs. Just sickening. Casper, we are so proud of you and of all the SDP dogs and of Carlene and for everything that she does at SDP. Things like this scam just makes me madder and madder but strengthens my resolve to support SDP.

  5. Hilda August 12, 2013 at 7:14 pm Reply

    I saw this on the news as well. The “people” who sell the vests and tags online should be STOPPED!! I really don’t know how they get away with this. It should not be “standard issue” for anyone to purchase! This takes away from all the hard work and training and costs of a real service dog. Someone should put a stop to this! These sites should be taken down!! And, should be regulated…..there, I’ve had my say, too! Thank you for posting and keeping us all aware and up to date.

    • casperthedane August 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm Reply

      It is not really a problem with the companies who sell the items. This is where we buy products as well. The problem is there is no “official” form for them to even ask for. We have nothing we could show them before they sell us a vest either. The problem is that people are taking advantage of this for selfish reasons.

      • Melanie August 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm

        I am wondering if places that train and give the service dogs, could also “code” their dogs with some sort of ID. My only example would be like a check. It has the routing number which tells you which bank the account is from, and then the account number which tells you which account it is. So to use SDP as an example…..each dog comes with a routing number to state they are from SDP and then their own account number which tell them which dog it is.

      • casperthedane August 12, 2013 at 8:06 pm

        That begs the question, “Who determines what states get what numbers and which facilities get what numbers on top of that?” Without a nation-wide system there is not much of a way to do this and a nation-wide system would cost money. Who would pay that?
        If people could just be honest there would be no need.

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