There are a number of reasons pet owners are presenting their dogs in public as service animals. Of recent date, it appears that the appeal for some airline passengers to escape paying extra fees and to have their pets cage-free while in flight is too great to pass up. This is just one of the ways service dog owners appear to be bending the rules.
Faking it . . .
In other words, more and more folks are faking it. While they will tell you their accompanying pets are support animals or psychiatric service animals, they often board planes with no official documentation.
Dog owners are purchasing fake vests and service dog credentials online so their pets can enter public venues that ban their presence. Under the same pretense, they will also attempt to rent homes or office space that either doesn’t allow dogs or charges hefty security deposits.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals in public places. So there are requirements for accommodation of service animals and even pets in some public housing, but today the protection in privately owned rental property and businesses is still minimal at best.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a regulation titled ‘Pets in Elderly Housing,’ which is referred to as the ‘Pet Rule.’
This is a narrow regulation that applies only to federally assisted rental housing designed for individuals 62 years of age of or older or disabled individuals regardless of age. But what is beneficial about this ruling is it not only protects the rights of disabled individuals who need a service animal, it allows for most federally funded housing to permit pets.
Categories of Support Animals
Most animal advocates agree there are presently three categories that apply to comfort animals:
1] Emotional support animals: These animals are not always specifically trained, but serve as comfort to individuals with a documented mental health condition.
2]Therapy animals: These animals are usually evaluated and registered by an agency and provide emotional support to individuals who need them. They are often used in hospitals, nursing homes and in school reading programs such as Reading Educational Assistance Dogs.
3]Service animals: These animals have been specially trained to perform tasks their owner can’t do on his or her own. Guide dogs for the blind are perhaps the most well known in this category.
States Criminalizing Fraudulent Representation
Eighteen states, including Colorado, Virginia, and California have laws that criminalize fraudulent representation of a service animal. These violations are usually misdemeanors, but repeated violations can result in potential jail time.
Not Really Pets
Although service dogs and owners share a very deep bond, it’s important to note these dogs are not pets in the true sense of the word. Instead, like medical aids, they are professionally trained assistants who perform specific tasks their owner cannot do on his or her own.
Employers may legally ask a prospective employee if the dog is required because of a disability (not what the disability is) and, if so, what the dog is trained to do. If it is not trained to do anything to assist the person, it is not a service dog under the ADA. On the flip-side, if an employer feels that their place of business is not suitable for dogs [either because of the type of clientele they service or that people may be allergic to dog hair], they are in their rights to refuse to employ those individuals.
What you can do?
Registering a service dog on OfficialServiceDogRegistry.com is a quick and easy method of vetting your service dog. All one needs to do is complete a very simple registration. The setup fee is presently $39, dog and human ID cards are $54 each ($35 without photos), and a service dog vest costs $54-$76, depending on size.
Remember eventually each and every one of us will become disabled in some capacity or another. Faking a disability before that time comes is unconscionable. Help spread the word about this Registry and vet your comfort animal today.
How do you weigh in on this topic readers?