From the Herald's Dr. Dolittler column (with which I heartily agree. Faking a dog's status imperils the certifications of genuine service dogs).
Service dog trick’s a fraud
Q. My well-behaved shih-tzu goes almost everywhere with me. Unfortunately there are some places where he’s not allowed — the supermarket, the mall and now a cruise I want to take. I’ve heard about the possibility of having him certified as a service dog so he can come with me everywhere. His emotional support is very important to me, and I can’t believe he’d ever be a health risk to anyone.
Though they may be well-loved as members of the family, service dogs are not just pets, and they are there for much more than emotional support. These dogs serve a vital function that goes well beyond companionship. People with a range of conditions, from blindness and autism to seizure disorders and PTSD, rely on them to make their way in the world.
Yet dog trainers, veterinarians, physicians and psychologists are often approached by dog owners with requests like yours. And unfortunately, some agree. But there’s an obvious problem with this scenario: It’s fraud.
Why do people get away with it? Probably because asking to see proof of service-pet status is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And now that the Internet abounds with sites that will send you fake certification documents, all that the less-than-scrupulous have to do is whip out a badge and an orange vest.
Clearly we need to promote greater access, safer travel and fairer laws for all pets, not just for service dogs. But that shouldn’t give ignorant or ethically challenged dog owners the right to exploit laws intended to aid the disabled.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.