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Fake Service Dogs: My Pet Peeve!

Dear Robin,

A good friend of mine “Pam” recently bought a small dog “Kiki” and started taking her everywhere. She bought a “service dog” vest for the dog but Kiki isn’t a service dog. Now every time we have lunch, go shopping etc. she brings this dog with her.

Pam also spends more time playing with the dog and taking its picture than she does talking to me. I’m starting to get really annoyed and when I suggested she leave the dog at home the next time we got together she was offended.

I’ve known her for 15 years and really enjoy her company but the past 6 months have been about nothing but this stupid dog. How can I wake her up to the fact she doesn’t need to bring her pet with her everywhere?

PDX Sadie

Dear PDX Sadie:

Everyone who knows me knows I am a big dog lover, but this type of behavior is not OK.

I emailed you to get some detail and you told me not only was Pam divorced a year ago, but she doesn’t work (never has; never will, poor thing) and her youngest child left for college in September. Pam’s nest is empty and I suspect she is very lonely and bored.

My advice to you comes in three parts that can be administered simultaneously. I’m all about the one-stop shopping!  Please stay tuned after the advice portion of our program for a good-old-fashioned rant.

Advice for Sadie

  1. Ask Pam to join you for lunch and tell her you’d like it to be just the two of you, no doggies. If she shows up with Kiki, the conversation will have a very natural beginning. If she doesn’t, I’m betting she will ask you why you requested she leave the dog at home and thus the gate for this tricky talk will be opened.
  2. Express your concerns as you did to me that her dog has become the unwanted third wheel at what used to be fun girlfriend time. Explain that her constant playing with and photographing of Kiki is distracting and annoying and takes away from your full enjoyment of her company. Ask if she has considered the implications behind pretending to be handicapped.
  3. Now for the tough part: ask her if she is OK and if she is not, how you can help. Tell her you have considered the recent dramatic changes in her life and you wonder if she is lonely and floundering. Be empathetic and relate to what must be a tough period for her by sharing something difficult and similar situations you have gone through.

Ask questions. Listen to her responses with an open mind and open heart. Offer help.

Tell Pam that if Kiki has the right temperament, she can be trained as a therapy dog and once that training is complete Pam and Kiki can volunteer at local hospitals, hospices, etc. For example, Dove Lewis in Portland has a program you can check out here.

The volunteer work will help fight Pam’s loneliness and boredom, includes her beloved Kiki, and has the added bonus of doing something kind and selfless for others.  There’s nothing quite like volunteer work to improve perspective and help you get out of your own head for a few hours at a time.

Pam needs a friend to help her get out of a rut, and that friend can be you. However, it is possible that I am off-base and that she’s just one of those people.

You know the ones.

And thus, the promised rant:

Fake Service Dog Owners are Entitled Assholes

While I love dogs, there are certain places I just don’t want to see them. Such places include: my bedroom during SexyTime (it’s just weird), in a restaurant, and in a grocery store.

The paragraph above comes with the HUGE CAVEAT that I have absolutely no problem with bona fide service dogs. They provide critical assistance to those who need them. My pet peeve concerns people like Pam who claim Kiki is a service animal and take her everywhere, when really she is not.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is very broad and there are no requirements that a dog be trained, certified or that the handler carry any type of identification proving their dog is a valid service dog.

In addition, business owners are very limited in what types of questions they can ask and when they can bar entry to a patron with a pet claimed to be a “service animal.” If one of these folks flounce into their favorite lunch spot with a Cockapoopalotopus there are only two questions she can be asked:

  1. “Is that a service dog?” and
  2. “What is it trained to do for you?”

Of course if our pet owner answers “no” to the first question, she’s relegated to outdoor seating or putting precious Kiki in the Mercedes, but there is no incorrect answer to the second inquiry and therefore business owners have no control over pets coming into their place of business.

Since the law is so vague, one can claim the dog is trained to do anything, including “constipation relief,” “distraction from menopause,” or “someone to love me unconditionally because my husband left me for his secretary.”

Using a fake service dog is a federal crime, and that sounds pretty serious, right?

Wrong.

The privacy protections built into the ADA to benefit those who actually need them also enable service dog fakers to get away with continued violations and avoid prosecution.

There will always be people who think the rules don’t apply to them. The arrogant fools who bring their pet dogs everywhere, usually with a bogus “service animal” coat strapped around them, are prime examples of these folks.

Valid service dogs are at risk of being attacked by untrained aggressive pets posing as service dogs – I witnessed this in a restaurant once and the blind handler of the real service dog was at a loss for what to do when her animal was growled, barked and lunged at by an especially nasty Shitzerfuffle.

A couple of years ago, a Pomeranian was viciously ripped into pieces on the Portland Street Car by a Pit bull (not the lawyer type, although the behavior was identical in the figurative sense). Neither dog was a service animal so TriMet rules dictate that both should have been in a carrier.  If just one owner had followed the rules, that little guy wouldn’t have ended up in the jaws of an aggressive, uncontrollable, apparently hungry, and definitely moody Pit Bull.

In addition, phony service dogs make it much harder for people who have real service dogs to go about their daily lives.  

The enormous number of bogus service pets subject service dog owners to increased scrutiny.  While this can be troublesome for the handicapped at restaurants, shops and malls, this has also become a very real problem for the TSA, as true service dogs can fly with you in the aircraft but pets cannot.

 

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 16: Passengers at O'Hare International Airport wait in line to be screened at a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint on May 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Waiting times at the checkpoints today have been reported to be as long 2 hours. The long lines have been blamed for flight delays and a large number of passengers missing flights completely. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In other words, these jerks make your trip through security longer than it needs to be, and given how hellish traveling is these days I reserve a special place on my Shit List for people who increase my time in the security line and thus reduce my time in the bar.

Don’t judge me; I’m a nervous flyer.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Kimberly

    This has come up at a couple of different sites in different ways. I have 2 questions

    1.When my Mom needed handicapped parking, we had to go through her doctor and the DMV to get a permit. Why are service dogs not treated more like handicapped parking permits with a require prescription and documentation?

    2. How do we balance the ADA requirements/protections between service animals and severe allergies to animals? Please don’t tell me that service animals are hypoallergenic that is beyond stupid. I have severe contact allergies to animals. This isn’t take an antihistamine and suffer through cousins’ cats during Thanksgiving. This is my skin blisters, breathing compromised allergy to some animals. I have NO problem taking a later flight if someone needs their support animal. (Does the Airline have to accomendate me by putting me on a later flight with no charge?) I have a real problem if the person is an entitled jerk Paris Hilton wanna be. Fortunately the one time it came up on a flight, the animal was a breed with longer hair that didn’t trigger a reaction with me.

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