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.