Fake service dogs a real problems

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cmwade77

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Jul 1, 2005
As for scams -

My sister moved to FL last year and the place she wanted to rent, and ultimately did rent, only allows 1 pet and she has 2. The real estate agent that helped her find the place told her that if she "registered them as service animals" (their words, not mine) then the apartment manager couldn't decline to rent to her.

I don't know the name of the business but all she had to do was pay $40 per dog and she received papers and a vest for each dog. She calls them her Service Dogs and truly believes that she can take them wherever she chooses.

I have 5 dogs and asked, if I paid $200 ($40/per dog) could I rent next to her, take my dogs to Disney, to Publix, basically wherever I wanted? She said that the business she registered hers through told her no one can stop her from taking the registered dogs anywhere she chooses to take them.

If I understand correctly, renting is a separate issue than taking your dogs to Disney or wherever, but it's a shame that businesses make those sorts of claims. I think the real estate agent is in the wrong too for telling her they would be Service Dogs.

Maybe it's an even bigger shame that people fall for the scams.
Actually, she can be questioned on this, she was a victim of a scam. If they ask her what tasks they are trained to do and if she is disabled, she would not be able to answer and could be kicked out of the apartment.

This is another point where certification does not work, we would simply see more of these scammers out there and it wouldn't accomplish anything. Bottom line is the only way to get a handle on this is to ask the legally defined questions and kick any misbehaving dogs out.
 

MakiraMarlena

It's a big black fish to you
Joined
Mar 28, 2005
The only thing he is actually trained to do is be one of the dogs that goes into hospitals and nursing homes and things (emotional support animal?), but since he is a service dog, she can bring him anywhere as such
This dog is not a service dog, it is a therapy or emotional support animal. To be covered under ADA the dog must be trained to perform a task or task that assists a person with a disability. A dog whose function is to merely be present to provide comfort doesn't fit that description.

Yep, it's a scam. There is no such thing as an official service dog registration. The law does not require service animals to be registered or even wear vests - all that matters is that IF the business owner asks the questions, the dog owner must be able to state that the dog performs a task to assist them. If the owner is asked and she describes a therapy dog, the business is not obligated by the ADA to allow access to the dog.

Having the papers and the vest tend to work because if you wave them at the business owner/landlord, they tend not to ask any further questions although they still have the right to do so. The previous poster, however, would probably have some difficulty explaining why five service dogs were required to perform tasks to assist with a disability, if asked.

Right in this thread there are examples of dog owners using this "scam" to bring a therapy dog to work (which it appears the employer allows anyway, so no big deal) and to get a second pet into an apartment where only one pet is permitted. In a number of states it's permissible to have a therapy or emotional support animal in housing that ordinarily wouldn't admit pets, but in at least one case (not sure which state) the landlord was legally given some control over the type of emotional support animal (only small animals permitted, etc.)

Airlines are the other thing - there is apparently an FAA regulation that requires passenger air carriers in the US to permit "emotional support animals" in the cabins of airliners. The airline may require documentation like a doctor's note or prescription as it's an agency regulation and not the ADA. There was a story awhile back about a woman who was permitted to board an airplane carrying a 70-80 pound pig that she was claiming as an emotional support animal. When she proved unable to control the pig prior to takeoff, they were removed from the plane. So apparently with the FAA there is no regulation as to the size or species of animal one may claim for emotional support.
 
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Belle0101

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Feb 11, 2002
This dog is not a service dog, it is a therapy or emotional support animal. To be covered under ADA the dog must be trained to perform a task or task that assists a person with a disability. A dog whose function is to merely be present to provide comfort doesn't fit that description.

Yep, it's a scam. There is no such thing as an official service dog registration. The law does not require service animals to be registered or even wear vests - all that matters is that IF the business owner asks the questions, the dog owner must be able to state that the dog performs a task to assist them. If the owner is asked and she describes a therapy dog, the business is not obligated by the ADA to allow access to the dog.

Having the papers and the vest tend to work because if you wave them at the business owner/landlord, they tend not to ask any further questions although they still have the right to do so. The previous poster, however, would probably have some difficulty explaining why five service dogs were required to perform tasks to assist with a disability, if asked.

Right in this thread there are examples of dog owners using this "scam" to bring a therapy dog to work (which it appears the employer allows anyway, so no big deal) and to get a second pet into an apartment where only one pet is permitted. In a number of states it's permissible to have a therapy or emotional support animal in housing that ordinarily wouldn't admit pets, but in at least one case (not sure which state) the landlord was legally given some control over the type of emotional support animal (only small animals permitted, etc.)

Airlines are the other thing - there is apparently an FAA regulation that requires passenger air carriers in the US to permit "emotional support animals" in the cabins of airliners. The airline may require documentation like a doctor's note or prescription as it's an agency regulation and not the ADA. There was a story awhile back about a woman who was permitted to board an airplane carrying a 70-80 pound pig that she was claiming as an emotional support animal. When she proved unable to control the pig prior to takeoff, they were removed from the plane. So apparently with the FAA there is no regulation as to the size or species of animal one may claim for emotional support.

I just wanted to clarify, I don't really plan on paying to get what I believe are fake papers for my 5 dogs (4 labs and 1 greyhound). I had put the question to my sister as a hypothetical because she really believes what she was told. I wanted her to think about how ridiculous it was.

I do worry about her getting evicted though. She recently vented to me that a few neighbors, one in particular, has been complaining that her dogs bark a lot and are very unfriendly. If that neighbor complained to the building manager her "service dog" papers would be worth no more than the paper they're printed on.
 
  • MakiraMarlena

    It's a big black fish to you
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2005
    They probably won't evict her before telling her to get rid of the dog. If she refuses she may have to move. In some states a person who gets caught passing off their pet as a service dog can be charged with a crime, she ought to know that as well.
     

    lilmissdisney216

    <font color=royalblue>Pawsitively Lovin a Labrador
    Joined
    Dec 15, 2007
    As a owner/trainer I agree with what has already been said. I am now being helped by my second dog, who is a med sized dog. The first one I trained alerted to my medical problems, and saved my life twice. The one I have now does tasks to help me during my daily life. Neither one of them would have never even thought about jumping up on a table. No TRUE Service Dog would ever be caught sitting on a table and eating from the persons plate. My dog is trained so that if she is under a table and food falls on the floor she is to ignore it. All these fake dogs are doing is making it bad for the real ones that come behind them. I never mind being asked if Annie is a Service Dog, she wears her vest with pride, and I am happy to answer most questions asked. But then again I have nothing to hide.
    I completely agree with this! I am also an owner/trainer (I have a PSD) and I can't tell you how many times I see "service dogs" out and about where I live. I was at the mall the other day with Disney my SD and my friend Rachel and her SD Tyra and we were getting off of the elevator and we hear this high pitch bark. Disney and Tyra didn't flinch but this woman had a small dog in a stroller. She apologized and said " she's still learning she's my service dog". I just, I didn't even know what to say. The dog kept barking its head off at our girls but they did awesome with ignoring the other dog and that's the way it should be.

    I wish there was a way to better regulate the difference between the fake and the real. Its a shame these days....
     

    MakiraMarlena

    It's a big black fish to you
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2005
    Made me think of this old thread - as of July 1 2015 Florida now has a law making it a misdemeanor to pass off an unqualified pet as a service animal. Punishable by up to 60 days in jail. The law also makes it illegal under Florida law for any public accommodation to deny service to a disabled person with a service animal (defined, as in the ADA, as a dog or miniature horse).
     
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    srferson

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 15, 2009
    I know very little about service dogs. Mostly that they are working and are not to be petted or distracted in any way (even if some of them are freaking adorable).

    I'm curious though. Is there a standard set of behaviors a properly trained service dog must exhibit? For instance, if a dog gets up on a table, sticks its nose in someone's lap, barks (if not alerting someone to a medical situation), or for crying out loud, relieves itself, can a business owner respond? Say something like "According to law, a properly trained service dog would not act in this manner. I'm afraid I have to ask you to leave. We'd be happy to have you back when your animal is farther along in its training."

    My guess by the way people have been talking, is that there are no such guidelines. It seems like there should be as a way to protect business owners...
     
  • cmwade77

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2005
    I know very little about service dogs. Mostly that they are working and are not to be petted or distracted in any way (even if some of them are freaking adorable).

    I'm curious though. Is there a standard set of behaviors a properly trained service dog must exhibit? For instance, if a dog gets up on a table, sticks its nose in someone's lap, barks (if not alerting someone to a medical situation), or for crying out loud, relieves itself, can a business owner respond? Say something like "According to law, a properly trained service dog would not act in this manner. I'm afraid I have to ask you to leave. We'd be happy to have you back when your animal is farther along in its training."

    My guess by the way people have been talking, is that there are no such guidelines. It seems like there should be as a way to protect business owners...
    This is an excellent question and the answer is yes there are protections for business owners.

    For example, if the dog is misbehaving (i.e. pulling on the leash (aside from when there are legitimate issues, such as they need to relieve themselves urgently or the pavement may be too hot for them and their owner hasn't realized it yet), barking, etc. AND the owner doesn't take immediate corrective action, the business can ask them to leave.

    As for relieving themselves in a non designated area, that get tricky. Are there enough designated areas? Are they close enough? Would one have to go through a smoking area to get to the designated area? Do you have to wait for an employee (or at Disney a Cast Member) at access the closest designated area?

    Even if all of those are ok, it's still possible that the service animal will have an accident and in that case, the question becomes what the owner does about it. If they make every effort to clean it up and let the nearest worker know so they can disinfect the area, then really there's not much the business can do, as they did everything they reasonably could do to take care of the issue. But if the owner just ignores it and walks away, the business would have a case to ask them to leave.
     

    MakiraMarlena

    It's a big black fish to you
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2005
    This is what the ADA says (per the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division website):

    • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.

    There is also an exception regarding hospitals where the presence of an animal might compromise a sterile environment (like an operating room).
     

    cmwade77

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 1, 2005
    This is what the ADA says (per the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division website):

    • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.

    There is also an exception regarding hospitals where the presence of an animal might compromise a sterile environment (like an operating room).
    Pretty much what I said above, although I didn't mention the hospitals or that they have to offer the opportunity for goods or services without the animal's presence. As for hospitals, I believe that the exception would only apply to sterile areas and does not include say a patient's room (unless it's a clean room or in ICU or the like), the cafeteria, lobby, etc.
     

    MakiraMarlena

    It's a big black fish to you
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2005
    DOJ doesnt' go into the "service dog has an accident" thing. From what DOJ says, if the dog relieves itself in an inappropriate area the owner can be asked to remove it. Any decision on doing otherwise would be up to the business I'd think.
     
  • srferson

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 15, 2009
    This is an excellent question and the answer is yes there are protections for business owners.

    For example, if the dog is misbehaving (i.e. pulling on the leash (aside from when there are legitimate issues, such as they need to relieve themselves urgently or the pavement may be too hot for them and their owner hasn't realized it yet), barking, etc. AND the owner doesn't take immediate corrective action, the business can ask them to leave.

    As for relieving themselves in a non designated area, that get tricky. Are there enough designated areas? Are they close enough? Would one have to go through a smoking area to get to the designated area? Do you have to wait for an employee (or at Disney a Cast Member) at access the closest designated area?

    Even if all of those are ok, it's still possible that the service animal will have an accident and in that case, the question becomes what the owner does about it. If they make every effort to clean it up and let the nearest worker know so they can disinfect the area, then really there's not much the business can do, as they did everything they reasonably could do to take care of the issue. But if the owner just ignores it and walks away, the business would have a case to ask them to leave.
    Not only would I want to see protection from problems with actual service dogs, I'd like to see some legitimate way to stand up for your business if you have good reason to think the "handler" is full of it.

    A couple posters mentioned being sure they saw a fake because the animal did things a properly trained service animal would never do. It just seems like it would be nice if a business owner could have a list of acceptable reasons to suspect, and request removal of, an imposter. Even if they couldn't say 'Hey, I think you're lying.' They could at least say 'That behavior indicates that your animal is not fully trained. I'll be happy to have him back when he is.'

    I don't know. I'm probably overthinking it. I just get so frustrated when people are willing to lie and take advantage of others. I'd just like people to have legal means to stand up for themselves without worrying about being sued.

    That said, I would say that if there is a disagreement about how an animal has been acting ('no, my animal certainly did not jump on those shelves'), the business owner would be the one who would need to either be able to provide proof or back off.
     

    SueM in MN

    combining the teacups with a roller coaster
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    Pretty much what I said above, although I didn't mention the hospitals or that they have to offer the opportunity for goods or services without the animal's presence. As for hospitals, I believe that the exception would only apply to sterile areas and does not include say a patient's room (unless it's a clean room or in ICU or the like), the cafeteria, lobby, etc.
    Service Dogs in hospital are mentioned in the ADA guidelines - this is a summary document.
    http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm (The bold copied from the article.

    "Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment."

    There is no requirement that the hospital staff do any care of the dog, so if a patient wants their Service Dog to stay with them, they will need to arrange for someone to feed it, take it out, etc.
    If the owner is not able to be in control of the dog and doesn't have anyone else who can control and care for it, the hospital is not required to allow it to stay.
    The dog can be excluded from the room during sterile procedures or care where visitors would be asked to leave a room for a procedure.

    I wrote the Service Animal policy for the hospital system where I work. These are kind of the main points, which were also run by legal.
     

    KPeveler

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 17, 2006
    I absolutely hate when people bend or break these laws, as it makes it harder for everyone else. My kitty is an emotional support animal. Earlier today when I felt myself tending toward a panic attack, I curled up with her on my chest for an hour and we watched tv. She is well behaved, housebroken, healthy, vaccinated, and at times has been critical to me not totally losing it in the past couple years.

    That being said, she is NOT a service animal and I would NEVER take her in public! It would not be fair to others, or to her! She is in no way trained to handle that. I *may* get a letter from my doctors detailing my need (my doctors have already told me they classify her as an emotional support animal) if I ever move to a place that ordinarily would not allow me to keep her.

    My friend even saw a man at a convention last week claiming his bearded dragon (lizard) was a service animal! He was apparently very rude and even refused to remove the animal from the convention. Aside from the breaking the law, rudeness, and lack of courtesy to people who actually need service animals, it is cruel to keep a lizard in an over-cooled convention center with no heat lamp or appropriate habitat!

    That is what gets me - so many of these people are not just breaking the law and making it harder for people with legitimate, trained service dogs, but too often it is cruel to the animals as well.
     

    MakiraMarlena

    It's a big black fish to you
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2005
    that guy apparently has not looked at the ADA lately, as it does not apply to bearded dragon lizards - only to dogs and miniature horses. It'd also be interesting to hear what task the lizard was trained to perform.

    Before the ADA definition was narrowed to only two types of animal, there were instances of persons demanding to be admitted to public accommodation with service cats, rats, ferrets, monkeys, snakes and lizards.
     

    DisneyOma

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 27, 2015
    I wonder what the full scope of "service dog" is. My sister just finished getting her dog trained and registered pretty much so he could go with her to work.

    The only thing he is actually trained to do is be one of the dogs that goes into hospitals and nursing homes and things (emotional support animal?), but since he is a service dog, she can bring him anywhere as such, BUT she doesn't.

    He will approach kids and people because he is very friendly so I think people would be taken aback that he is not just a sit and stay, command type of dog.
    I would assume that would allow him to be in the parks (or Walmart).

    But hey- he passed LOL. My dogs would NEVER pass, they don't even listen to me!
    Sorry to rain on your parade, but your sister wasted her money on a scam. There is no registry for a service dog. Her dog may be trained as a "therapy dog" to visit patients. But without specific training to perform a specific task for your sister related to daily living, it is not a service animal under the law. The paper certificate and/or vest your sister obtained means nothing, and does not even give her the right to take the dog to work except that her employer apparently allows it. But if there is an issue, her right to have the dog at work would not be protected under the ADA.
    It may just be that, her employer would allow him to be there since he is a therapy dog- she specifically said Therapy Dog, not a Service Dog.
    Knowing that then, I wonder how many people get theirs trained as a therapy dog and then bend the rules to try to make them like a service dog.

    I know the training is very different for sure, when I was a tech there was a dog that failed the final tests and she was the smartest dog ever- she just would not sit still because she was such a happy dog.
    It is sad when people fake it when so many people can really benefit by service animals.
    This dog is not a service dog, it is a therapy or emotional support animal. To be covered under ADA the dog must be trained to perform a task or task that assists a person with a disability. A dog whose function is to merely be present to provide comfort doesn't fit that description.

    Yep, it's a scam. There is no such thing as an official service dog registration. The law does not require service animals to be registered or even wear vests - all that matters is that IF the business owner asks the questions, the dog owner must be able to state that the dog performs a task to assist them. If the owner is asked and she describes a therapy dog, the business is not obligated by the ADA to allow access to the dog.

    Having the papers and the vest tend to work because if you wave them at the business owner/landlord, they tend not to ask any further questions although they still have the right to do so. The previous poster, however, would probably have some difficulty explaining why five service dogs were required to perform tasks to assist with a disability, if asked.

    Right in this thread there are examples of dog owners using this "scam" to bring a therapy dog to work (which it appears the employer allows anyway, so no big deal) and to get a second pet into an apartment where only one pet is permitted. In a number of states it's permissible to have a therapy or emotional support animal in housing that ordinarily wouldn't admit pets, but in at least one case (not sure which state) the landlord was legally given some control over the type of emotional support animal (only small animals permitted, etc.)

    Airlines are the other thing - there is apparently an FAA regulation that requires passenger air carriers in the US to permit "emotional support animals" in the cabins of airliners. The airline may require documentation like a doctor's note or prescription as it's an agency regulation and not the ADA. There was a story awhile back about a woman who was permitted to board an airplane carrying a 70-80 pound pig that she was claiming as an emotional support animal. When she proved unable to control the pig prior to takeoff, they were removed from the plane. So apparently with the FAA there is no regulation as to the size or species of animal one may claim for emotional support.
    I quoted all of these as they relate to a question I put on the Community Board:

    A friend has stated her dog 'passed the test' and has 'documentation' that he is allowed to go anywhere she goes. She's planning on flying down to Florida with him. She is not disabled, she is a home health care provider, and she takes the dog with her to visit patients. Sounds like a therapy dog to me, and I think she's full of it to think he can go on the plane. I really want to confront her about this, because it is so obnoxious of her to abuse the rules. She really believes he should be allowed to go with her wherever she wants to take him. She is not disabled, and he is no service dog!
     

    MakiraMarlena

    It's a big black fish to you
    Joined
    Mar 28, 2005
    Airlines are subject to regulations that states emotional support animals are to be allowed under certain circumstances. ADA doesn't apply to airlines because the Air Carrier Access Act is the federal law applying to airlines.

    Your friend will likely be able to take her dog onto a plane. She may be required to provide documentation such as a note from a doctor; it's going to be up to the airline as to what kind of documentation they want. I think the issue here is that the dog is not there to support her; she brings it along as part of her job to support other people (therapy or comfort dog). But it's going to depend on the airline what kind of documentation they want. Still you are correct that this is not a service dog, so she doesn't have the right to take the dog into restaurants or stores absent a state law that allows for the admittance of support or therapy animals. She fails the first part of the test because she herself is not disabled. She also fails the second part because the dog is not trained to perform a task to assist a disabled person (but she isn't disabled, so even if it did perform a task it couldn't enter with her.)

    However, nothing stops her from saying that she's disabled and the dog assists her, even if it's not true.
     
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    Boopuff

    DIS Veteran
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    Feb 27, 2015
    I was interested in a case I read about awhile back regarding a school child with a disability who brought a service dog to school. The child had the right to bring the dog to classes, but under the law the owner has the responsibility of caring for the animal, and as the child was incapable of doing it himself the mother was having to come to the school to take the dog for potty breaks and feed it. She wanted the school district to provide a school employee who would take care of the dog while her child was in school. That was in a court somewhere.
    Funny, we had a young kid in junior high whose family had gone through years of waiting for him to get a service dog. (he's a mentally challenged boy) He got the dog, and he never "remembered" to take the dog out. The dog left "gifts" all over the halls in the school, and in the elevator (the boy always used the elevator even with the dog!). Even though it was a true service animal, the school was in a tough spot. The boy had an aid with him but the aid was opposed to "walking a dog" as part of the job description and using her lunch time to do so. The end result... he had the dog through junior high but once high school started, he didn't have an aid assigned to him and the dog was messing everywhere and the family stopped sending the dog to school (I heard that the boy was taking it on the bus and it left a pile on the bus one day!)
     

    ThePhantomsGirl

    I was born to cruise!
    Joined
    Apr 30, 2005
    Fake service dogs are indeed a problem. Had a server at a restaurant tell me last night she was going to send away for the papers for her dog so he could be a service dog. I politely told her what a scam those places are. Whether program or owner trained, a real service dog goes through years of training. My own service dog is now at "college" learning the more advanced tasks I need him to do. Because a large part of the tasks I need require him to be a mobility dog, he had to be near two years old before even thinking of trying a harness/brace on him.

    But even well before that he had to be able to behave appropriately in public. For example in a restaurant he goes under the table and lies quietly. Never, ever should a service dog sit in a chair and eat from a plate or things from the table. In fact, a well trained service dog can totally ignore food being dropped near them.

    When out and about I see so many fake service dogs, or at the very least very poorly trained ones. I try not to judge, but when someone's dog charges my dog, I consider that a real problem! I could also go on and on about people. "I know I shouldn't pet him, but he's just so darned adorable..." Little kids charging him like little ninjas and grabbing him. People think it's fun to have a service dog, but it's a LOT of work! If it didn't help me keep my independence, I'd wonder if it were worth it. (it is).

    All service dogs, no matter how well trained, are still dogs. They might occasionally have an accident. However, as the handler it's my responsibility to take care of that and not leave it for someone else. Even more so, it's my responsibility to make sure he has had plenty of opportunity to relieve himself before going into a public building.

    Many businesses are afraid to ask, probably for fear of a lawsuit. Although the general public sometimes sure have no shyness, I often get asked, "what's wrong with you, you don't look disabled..."

    I'm on the fence about national certification. A large part of me is for it, if it would help limit the fakers. My only real hesitation is that when things are regulated, it rarely goes smoothly.
     
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