Unscrupulous, able-bodied pet owners are finding yet another way to scam the system. In an effort to take their dogs with them everywhere, they are pretending their dogs are certified service dogs. Unfortunately, the rise of fake service/assistance dogs is causing harassment for true dogs of service and their disabled companions.
According to the ADA Requirements, service animals are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties”.
For your dog to be a true ADA service dog, you and the dog must meet three requirements as per federal service dog laws:
1. You must have a legally recognized disability.
2. The dog must be trained to perform a task specifically related to that disability that you can not do for yourself.
3. The dog must have public access training and be well-behaved to a degree above and beyond most dogs.
Putting a “working” vest on your untrained pooch and calling him an emotional service dog is unethical. Under the ADA, pets whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals. While making you feel less depressed or emotionally supported is a wonderful benefit, it is not a trained task; therefore, your dog would not be a service dog. However, if your dog is trained to alert you to an anxiety attack from PTSD, then he could meet the requirements of an ADA service dog.