Faking Service Animals Proves to be Harmful

Pets are wonderful animals and bring joy to many of us, but for some they are necessary…providing a service to the disabled; so why is it that so many people feel the right to order fake service coats for their furry friends, disguising them as ‘real service animals?’ This trend has been rising year after year as people take their pets everywhere. You see them in the grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants, airplanes and other public places…but most of us know they are NOT all service animals. Unfortunately those who are breaking the laws are harming the real disabled folks who need service animals; as they are used to perform actual tasks for disabled people. It takes thousands of hours and specific courses for them to be properly trained. Service animals are trained ‘Not’ to bark, ride in shopping carts or other cradle carriers, sit on laps or have disruptive behaviors. A matter of fact, real ‘legal’ service animals are still dogs and miniature horses.

I recently read an article that discussed an actual situation that happened among two people in an elevator this past year (I believe it was in Massachusetts, but not positive). Both parties claimed to have had ‘service animals’ with them, though only one of them actually did. It was a blind gentleman with his animal on a leash (all fours on the floor), while the lady approaching the elevator and entering had hers in a purse. Her dog started barking, jumped out from her purse…then proceeded to bite the other dog’s nose. As sad as it was, the ‘real’ service animal did nothing to retaliate, nor did it bark back…it lied on the floor bleeding. That is what a service animal is trained to do; to be still, because its sole purpose is to help the disabled person.  Later, in the story this lady recanted, saying it was an emotional support animal, but in the end it was neither. This should have never happened, but as long as people continue to lie and are never truly challenged when bringing their pet into a public place it doesn’t belong, things will not improve. As for emotional support dogs, they are trained differently than a real service animal (which requires more thorough and rigorous training). Emotional support animals can be refused access where real service animals are able to have access. This may sound simple, but it’s clearly anything but. Businesses everywhere are starting to ban ‘All’ dogs from entering the premises, as they are having trouble distinguishing the difference from real or fake service animals, and by law can only ask a couple of specific questions. This behavior by pet owners (lying about its title) is harming real disabled people that need their animals; and it is a crime.

States are now taking on new laws, hoping to bring pet owners who ‘misrepresent’ their animals as service ones, with a particular punishment, which aims at teaching these violators all there is to know about service animals, and posting a fine (not to succeed $500.00).

Cracking down on fraudulent service dogs, as well as those who continue to misrepresent them are now at the forefront of lawmakers. It’s apparent that this is necessary today, as we live in a society which many feel entitled, no matter what. This harmful behavior discredits the real people who need real service animals every day, bringing about change in certain public places. Businesses which may have let them in before no longer continue to… specifically based on those who continue to misrepresent their animals; it’s sad. So by chance if you know someone who takes their pet to places you know they shouldn’t, help educate them and encourage them to do right by those who have special needs. Speak up and help put a stop to this type of abuse….and please support our disabled.

Make your week count.


  1. Harold White says:

    Saw one brought into an elevator at the VA Hospital yesterday. There was an obvious Service dog already inside, laying at the owners feet. The entering dog immediately pulled against his owners lease and stuck his nose new the others, until pulled back by its owner.
    I am confident the entering dog was NOT a Service dog. I failed to say anything, but I certainly should have.
    Thank you for your letter and hopefully the public will familiar themselves enough they can spot the fakes and SPEAK UP.

  2. Kim Gilbert says:

    It’s incredibly demeaning to call only service animals, like dogs that assist the blind, “real service animals.” Working in the mental health field, I can assure you that emotional support animals are “real service animals.” The fact is that not every human has the same disability or limitation and therefore not every service animal should look or perform like every other animal. Yes, the caregiver/owner and the dog who bit another animal clearly needed training…better or different training for both, but training. Yes, there are some people who perhaps shouldn’t be allowed to have care and control of an animal. I would venture to say there are some people who hurt others just because they can, and no one “cracks down” on their bad behavior. Let’s focus first on changing the behaviors of the PEOPLE around us before we worry so much about taking away the service animals who do their jobs, i.e. animals that reduce anxiety, animals that can detect seizures or low blood sugar levels, etc. You can’t tell by looking which animals are trained to perform specific functions and which are there to facilitate a reduction in symptoms of a person with a brain disorder. Develop some compassion or mind your own business.

  3. Richard Young says:


    I am sick and tired of the abuse and fraud surrounding service animals. Given the restrictions imposed by the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act), it has been become impossible to determine exactly who the abusers are.

    It is my belief that legitimate service animals should, after their training is complete, be licensed, with both the owner’s and animal’s photo on the license. The fee could be nominal, enough to cover costs.

    Enforcement would be much easier as all that would be necessary would be for businesses to ask to see the license. No license, no admittance, simple as that. Licenses would have to be renewed, just like driver’s must do, every two to four years or when an animal ages out or is replaced.

    • Lisa Krysiak says:

      Thank you Richard, I totally agree with you. I know some states are in discussions about licensing animals for service, but I believe the backlash is what everyone is concerned about. I hope they figure this out and do what ‘you’ mention here. Thank you for your comment.


  4. Ron Kiima says:

    As an extensive business and pleasure traveler who has witnessed countless “service” dogs in airports and on flights (including, most recently, an absolutely huge sheepdog on a Southwest LAS to GEG flight), can someone enlighten me as to why the overwhelming majority of the owners have been young millennial females with small furry lapdogs? Is it merely an extension of the emotionally therapeutic play-do, coloring books and safe spaces prevalent on college campuses these days for the benefit of the tender “snowflakes” among us or just another pervasive scam on society? Isn’t the answer fairly obvious.

  5. Burton Weast says:

    The problem is that anyone can get a service dog “license” by sending in $ 50 to a variety of web sites. I personally know of people who have done so to avoid paying airline fees for their animals. Yes, disabilities are not always obvious, but being able to get a dog, pig, parrot etc. certified without anything other than some money is not appropriate and is very very harmful to those that need the animal.

  6. Shane Butehorn says:

    I agree with Richard up above. The issue is with how restrictive the ADA laws are. Businesses cannot lawfully ask for proof an animal is a real service animal. Businesses will also face extreme fines once disabled people begin suing for not being allowed to bring their lawful service animal with them. That is on par with denying a wheelchair into a business.

    The ADA laws need to be changed. Those with real service animals should not be punished because of those who abuse a system that is so easy to manipulate.

  7. Teri Nehrenz says:

    A Reader shared this but didn’t leave his last name so his comment couldn’t be approved, but I’m passing it on because it’s useful information on the subject:

    The ADA only recognizes task trained dogs (and in some cases miniature horses) as service animals. While emotional support animals are beneficial to their disabled owners, they are not covered under the ADA and therefore are not permitted public access beyond pet friendly establishments. The ADA specifically states that online certifications and licenses will not hold up as proof an animal is a service animal in court. The problem is that landlords and business owners accept them as proof. Businesses need to be told and encouraged to enforce their rights.
    Per the ADA:
    Businesses CAN ask questions to verify legitimacy. 1) Is that a service animal? 2) What tasks is it trained to perform?
    If the answer to 2 is comfort, therapy, emotional support, the handler can be asked to remove the dog and return without it.
    The same goes with animals misbehaving- whether it’s barking, growling, or making a mess– the business can ask the animal to be removed and the handler can return to finish shopping without.
    Print out a copy of the ADA and the FAQ. Highlight the parts that emphasize this. Keep it at the counter or customer service. The handler threatens to call police? If you followed the rules stood your ground on your rights, you should offer to do it for them.

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