Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Service Animal Access: The Good The Bad & The Fake

“Hey Goodee, I got you the I-Pad2 you wanted.” “Cool mom Goodee the Service Dog loves Apple stuff.”

“How do you know it’s a real I-Pad2, Goodee?” “Mom we probably don’t want to talk about specific products in our blog.”
“I just know because it looks like one. I trust you too mom.” “You wouldn’t lie. It looks like an I-Pad2 and you say it is so I believe you.”

“You are right Goodee, there are things that make a product look right on the outside but you sometimes just have to trust the inside.”
It’s like that for Service Dogs too. “What?” ---AUGH!

“Don’t look so stunned Goodee you Google more than I do” “You know there are people who fake service dogs..”

“NO WAY!” People try to fake us?”

"Yes Way Goodee.”

"People who have no need of a Service Dog, even people with star status brag about having Faux Service Dogs."
“Faux, that’s the fancy word for fake” Right Goodee that means something that looks like a genuine product but it’s not. Sometimes the copy can be real convincing.”


Like my Service Dog Goodee I am appalled to find that people fake disability and a Service Dog for the sake of bringing the dog along with them. Some seem to get an amount of excitement from being an impostor.
We don’t see many other Service Dogs in our travels so I can’t say we have seen the problem. However, I read that the fake service dog is a fashion statement in certain parts of the country.

The word about the fake is… Yes. --- Appalling, Yes... Predictable. Unlawful…Yes
It boggles the mind to think someone would claim they have need of a Service Dog when they don’t. I say, “Why can’t they just be happy that they are without impairment?” Well, I ask the same thing about people who use Handicap Parking without a permit, or Handicap Accessible items without a need. I think some people just like to push limits.


Since 1980 The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been defined and redefined by all branches of government to provide protection against discrimination. The focus is on inclusion in major life activities without undue financial strain to the disabled individual.
In the context of the Service Dog this means there is not a list of tasks , breed listing, , or certification requirement for the Service Dog or handler. There’s no license fee or ID Card.

I know some business owners would like a standard ID. However, I wonder how many people would like to show an ID every time they shop, park, or use the restroom? Would we consider charging a license fee for the individual needing a motorized chair or diabetic test strip? – These items allow a person to come and go freely without worry of their limitations. It’s hard to tell if someone needs these items. It’s easier to take someone at his or her word. –It’s also a much more customer friendly policy to allow the items for everyone who says they need them. Fees and regulation are unwelcome.

The person who needs a Service Dog often has financial barriers so it would be wrong to charge a fee. Some Service Dogs come from organizations while some private owners are able to train their dog in Service Dog tasks. –By either method the Service Dog should be clean and well behaved.


A quick search revealed some suggestions for spotting a real Service Dog. “GOOGLE!” “You mean, Google”
“Yes, Goodee we use Google but there are other search methods.” "OK Goodee in the interest of the real article, accept no substitutes we use ---Google."

There are several lists that state the real Service dog: is not restless, doesn’t jump or bark, will obey handlers’ commands, will perform tasks, and will lay passively when instructed. This describes the good Service Dog. What if your dog is having a bad day? What if the Service Dog and human are being bombarded by strangers and the dog is over-stimulated Well, then the good Service Dog might just be having a bad day.

What should you do if you can’t tell the real from the fake?

It’s best to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. The business owner can make limited inquiries but will have legal concerns if they incorrectly discriminate against a Service Dog handler.


“That’s not one of them dogs.” “That dog is helping the blind lady.”

These are two common situations for team Goodee. People see Goodee’s vest marked “SERVICE DOG” and immediately make assumptions about my abilities and me. They see Goodee, a friendly looking Aussie who is fairly small compared to other breeds used for Service Dogs. They make assumptions about her.

“Boy they should see our friend the toy poodle.” “OK Goodee you are right she helps her mom with anxiety disorder but she doesn’t look like any of the breeds people usually see doing other tasks.” --That doesn’t make her less of a Service Dog.

My limitations will not allow me to use gear that some people normally associate with the Service Dog. I'm not blind so devices that assist the blind are of no use – This means Goodee’s outfit doesn’t match up with what people are expecting. I have polite responses for inquiries. “Yes, she is my Service Dog,” I say. “I’m not blind’

some guide material notes that fake handler will often become upset and threaten to sue. Well, I am a “for real” Service Dog handler and on my best day I’m polite but if I have had a full day of challenges I can become quiet upset.

However, I don’t threaten lawsuits. What I really want is to go about my business like everyone else.

Most of the time I will stop and educate.

I will admit twice I have been pushed by people who were so sure they were right. We were just trying to meet friends for a business meeting. “NO DOGS,” we were advised by the clerk behind the counter. Goodee let out a sigh, and looked at me knowing my panic and adjutation was about to increase.

I did not threaten a suit or raise my voice. "I don't have time for this today."-- I thought. "Can't people just learn the law?" I quickly drew my cell phone from my hip pocket and called the non-emergency number for the local police. I followed this call with an additional call to the U.S. Department of Justice ADA Line.

Just like the Service Dog, the handler may be having a bad day.


Education is the key. Just take time to recognize that people, disabilities, and dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Also, please... If you don't need it. Don't fake it.

Fake Service Dogs make it difficult for the real ones out there. –Not only are they less than behaved the handlers set false expectations.

The pet handler who allows people to touch and play with their dog becomes my worse enemy. They have done me as much of a disservice as if they took the handicap access ramp out from under my feet. ---
How could that be?

Well, consider this situation--- I need my service dog to walk ahead of me and balance me when I stand. She supports me just as if she was a cane or walker. --- Not that much of a trick right?

But... in the grocery while scanning shelves along comes on-lookers. Despite our uniform patches “SERVICE DOG WORKING DO NOT TOUCH. --- Here comes the questions… 1, 2, 3… 12(usually every person in the cluster will ask a question)…

“May we ___ Pet/ feed/ look/ touch/ call your dog?” – Then when I say a polite: “Not now she is working.” I get “the look” from 1.2. 3… 12 people. Why? Well sometimes it’s because at some point a faker has allowed them to play with the dog like a toy.


I was born into a world where individuals with disabilities were put aside. My parents were advised by experts to institutionalize me. -- After all Cerebral Palsy at it’s worst was assumed to put a person in the “unable to educate” category. My father often said he wanted to send my college tuition bills to every expert who said that
I saw my family struggle to get access on my behalf. I was glad to see the ADA provide Federal guidelines.

Let’s not create barriers in the form of fees and regulation.

Fakers will always be out there.
Don’t just get angry… Educate.

OK “ HOMEWORK!” “Mom, no yelling. That’s not nice. It’s additional reading or references.”

“You are right Goodee the Service Dog.”


ADA Regulation & Technical Assistance Materials

(Publications are available in standard print as well as large print, audiotape, Braille, and computer disk)

Teaching your kids about when it's okay to approach service dogs By Christy Howard

We love to communicate with friends. However, when we are out and about we need lots of space. If your question is about touching, or talking remember we must say:
“Not Now We Are Working”

GoodeeWorks Productions

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