Before I say more.. watch this! If you click that hyperlink, you will be taken to the NBC Bay Area site. After you watch the video, you can read the article if you want but the content is almost identical in both places.
Here are my thoughts:
View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.
- YAY NBC! Thank you so much for doing a story on this. The issue of fake service dogs unfortunately is becoming more and more of an issue. The blog that I referenced in my other post as well as the NBC News video above, both are evidence of this I think. Notice the date on the article/video (May 21, 2013). Just last month.
- I found “Canine Cheats,” to be a humorous but effective way of describing what is going on here. “Faking,” “cheating,” “smuggling” are three of many words that I could think of to describe the actions of these people.
- “It happens more often than you might think, often at the expense of the disabled.” Well, yes, this isn’t person-first language but the message is clear. It IS very much so at the expense of individuals with disabilities who rely on true service animals.
- I really liked the way the girl, Alex, who is in a wheelchair expressed how this affects her. Her point about our dogs being very submissive is RIGHT ON and I would have never thought to describe it like that. Our dogs WON’T fight back and as the gal said, our dogs are “at risk,” and for me personally that’s my “eyes” and therefore my independence. For her, it’s her mobility and therefore her independence. The title of this particular blog post came from a quote that this girl said in the video. She said, “You don’t see people faking a life-threatening illness to get a wish from Make-A-Wish foundation. Right? You don’t do that. You don’t take advantage of the perks of someone else’s disadvantage that way.” Oh wow she hit it right on! If that doesn’t illustrate the point, I’m not sure what will. I am really excited to read her blog.
- It really is unfortunately very easy to pass your dog off as a service dog. (See more info below)
- I absolutely LOVED the undercover conversations with members of the public in this gal’s hometown. The first man admitting that he has claimed his dog as a service dog before.. the dog that is pictured eating all that stuff off the ground (gross).. that dog’s owner who is “over it in general” referring to the fact that only service animals are allowed in some places.. the guy explaining how to “get around” the fact that they don’t have a service animal but they want to bring their dog by just claiming it’s a service dog because the staff can’t ask many questions. I found it very informative that the news reporter explained how staff can only ask two questions: 1) Is it a service animal? and 2) What is it trained to do? They can’t specifically ask about your disability, ask for the identification, asked who trained it, etc. So by law if anybody asked me the maximum I have to say is “Yes this is a service animal and she is trained to guide me.” They can’t ask if I have a visual impairment even. For me personally, I wouldn’t mind saying I am visually impaired but there are many types of service animals and some service animals are for more personal medical conditions and therefore I totally understand and respect this law. If people do give me heck, I do carry around an ID card that says we graduated from a certified guide dog school and I do have the Texas and Federal laws on guide dogs with me at all times in my wallet. However, I am not required to show these and they aren’t allowed to ask for it. I can show it at my discretion though, of course. Then the undercover conversations resume again and the lady says she doesn’t know where the bounds are, a gentleman says he flat out doesn’t listen to any rules or regulations until he “actually gets headed off for it,” and “there are too many sheep in our society,” he claims. Umm, excuse me? That SAME dude then talks about him having a few biting incidents over the years. Um, okay, NO.
- Allergies and disease are great reasons to restrict pets from food places. And remember, a service dog is not a “pet.” However, our dogs are really well taken care of. They are groomed frequently (mine is groomed daily), we brush their teeth, they are given monthly heartworm and flea medications, they are caught up on their vaccines. There of course is still room for some disease, but that eliminates a good amount and by grooming the dog daily you actually do eliminate a lot of allergy problems. There will still be people that are allergic, severely allergic to dogs, and while the person with the service dog isn’t required to leave or do anything about it, most service dog owners will find a compromise that works for both individuals. We know what it is like to have it rough and wouldn’t wish that upon anybody.
- My dog is registered under the United States Service Dog Registry because that is something someone told me about but it is not required by law or even often suggested to register your dog. The comparison of how you have to register for a blue “handicap” placard but don’t for a service dog was effective. The Americans with Disabilities Act is pretty liberal on service dog fraud. I think there is a line though because having someone judge whether you have a legitimate service dog can get tricky and cumbersome. I’m not sure what the solution is though.
- The news mentioned how it’s a misdemeanor in California to fake your dog as a service dog so I wanted to look it up for Texas. It IS a misdemeanor here too.. woo! The news reporter also mentioned how it IS a hard law for police to enforce. There are some really well trained pets and some really “good” mock service dog vests out there. From stories I’ve read and videos I’ve seen of fake service dogs, some really good hints are dogs that leap after other dogs, dogs that expect to eat off the table and jump on things, dogs that relieve at random, dogs that do not look like they are performing a certain task, etc. On www.servicedogs.org, the law is stated:
Penalties for Improper Use of Assistance Animals
- A person who uses an assistance animal with a harness or leash of the type commonly used by persons with disabilities who use trained animals, in order to represent that his or her animal is a specially trained assistance animal when training of the type described in Section 121.002(1)(B) of this chapter has not in fact been provided, is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than $200. (Faking that it’s an assistance animal is a criminal offense.)
- I like how the news reporter also brought up the point that therapy dogs, comfort dogs, and emotional distress dogs are NOT considered service dogs under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
When a non-service dog is faked as a service dog it really gives our service dogs a bad name and as I’ve said before puts a bad taste in the mouths of business owners and staff. The dogs wreck things, eat things, jump on things, bark, relieve, all things that our dogs are taught NOT to do in public and therefore make good service animals and are allowed in these places. It takes a LOT to train a service dog to be the way they are and that is why I emphasize so much about not reversing the training by petting a service dog, letting your dog confront the service dog, or faking your dog as a service dog.
So I mentioned above that it is really easy, unfortunately, to pull your dog off as a service dog. Do me a favor, Google “Fake service dog,” in the dropdown box where Google suggests searches, guess what pops up? “Fake service dog certification,” “Fake service dog vest,” and “Fake service dog tags.” Now PLEASE do not take this information and go make your dog a service dog, oh goodness please do not do that. I’m just expressing how easy nasty people have made it to get products to make your dog appear as a service dog.
To get a Service Dog ID (even though they aren’t legally allowed to ask for this so I’m not sure what the point is), one can go to: http://www.servicedogtags.com One can also get a vest there, ID, collar, patch, certificate, etc. It’s just disgusting.
I understand loving your animal and wanting him/her to come with you. But are people really THAT LOW that they have to put individuals who are already at a disadvantage EVEN MORE at a disadvantage?
Another blogger shared with me a post she wrote on the subject. It shares the same opinion with different viewpoints. “Helper Parrots and Guide Horses”
What are your thoughts on this? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.