Pet Peeve: Fake Service Dogs

Dear Readers:

I hosted a blind woman at my home on Sunday for a cocktail party welcoming author Tony Ortega to Portland.  More on that in tomorrow’s blog.

A former Scientologist, Sherrie was a charming addition to the party, as was her service dog Blake.  I told her I had written an essay about fake service dogs once and she was thrilled.  If you think these dog fakers annoy me, try speaking with a bona-fide handicapped person who suffers because some people have separation anxiety from their pets and think they are above the law.

Today’s 100% organic and improved recycled words deserve your attention.  Be sure to tune in tomorrow when I discuss the party, cults, and terrible people.

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 and spends more time playing with the dog and taking its picture than she does talking to me. I’m annoyed and suggested she leave the dog at home the next time we got together which offended her.

I’ve known Pam for 15 years and 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?

Sadie

Dear 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 four 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.The Dog-less Invite:

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. The Pitch:

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.

3. The Love and The Offer:

Ask Pam 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 hurting. Be empathetic and encourage her to download with you details on this tough transition.

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

4. The Alternative/Constructive Advice you Pretend Comes from You rather than Me:

Tell Pam that if Kiki has the right temperament she can be trained as a therapy dog.  Once that training is complete Pam and Kiki can volunteer at local hospitals, hospices, etc. You can find training programs in your area with a simple Google search so look some up and bring them to the lunch.

This volunteer work should 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.

I think Pam needs a friend to elevate her from her rut, and that friend is you!  Take your role seriously because the affection and assistance offered by friends in our times of need are life preservers made from kind words, hugs, and brainstorming.

However, it is possible that I am completely off-base and that she’s just one of “those people.”

You know the ones.

Rules are Great! Just Not for Me…

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.  In addition, I’m not too fond of them at the movies and in beauty salons.

The paragraph above comes with the obvious caveat I welcome seeing bona fide service animals anywhere, anytime. They provide critical assistance to those who need them.

My pet peeve (har-dee-har-har) concerns people like Pam who routinely lie and claim their pet is a service animal; bringing the pet everywhere under that false banner.

There is a certain type of person who thinks the rules don’t apply to them. Interestingly, this type is usually also quite a rule-lover, so long as the rule prohibiting or requiring some sort of action benefits them directly.

The idiots who bring their snickerdoodles everywhere, usually with a bogus “service animal” tag or coat strapped around them, are prime examples of this type of person.

I feel comfortable labeling them idiots for buying those tags and coats because they clearly haven’t read the The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) which specifies no identification or even training is required to call your pet a “service animal,” so long as it is a dog or a miniature horse.

Here is a website that flagrantly encourages people to break the law and get away with it using their (totally unnecessary, even according to their website) products: Fake Service Dog Accessories.

So, Robin, What Does the ADA Say, Anyway?

Unfortunately, the ADA is very broad and sets 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. For details, click here: The ADA and service animals.

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 a bored housewife flounces into her favorite Ladies Who Lunch Spot with her Cockapoopalotopus there are only two questions she can be asked:

“Is that a service dog?” 

and

“What is it trained to do for you?”

Of course if she 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, our housewife can say 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.

What Difference Does it Make?  Who cares?

As my blind friend Sherrie can attest, phony service dogs make it harder for people who have real service dogs to go about their daily lives.

For exampl
e, 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.

In other words, these jerks make your trip through security longer than it needs to be.  I bet you care now!

tsa

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.

In addition, valid service dogs are at risk of being attacked by untrained aggressive pets posing as service dogs. I have personally witnessed the blind handler of a real service dog struggle when her animal was growled, barked and lunged at by an especially nasty Shitzufuffle.

Wow – this rant went on too long.  

Readers: please share, please care, and please don’t put a vest on your pet and pretend it’s a service animal.  You wouldn’t pretend to be disabled to nab a handicapped parking pass, would you?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tara

    An applicable extension of this topic is people with emotional companion animals that aren’t legit in rental properties. My personal favorite is the people who discover that if they get a “prescription” they can get their pet deposit refunded, which then starts an emotional epidemic within a building. It seems the best you can do is try to catch an invalid prescription, but valid ones seem to be a phone call away. I am wholeheartedly supportive of folks who need this type of assistance, but the people who are abusing the system (some admit it) are making it harder on everyone as landlords decide to charge higher security deposits across the board just in case.

  2. Laury Hohner

    I have two service dogs, Princess is getting ready to retire, at 14 years old, and Pandora, at 2 1/2 years old, is ready to take over and take her place. Because of continued rape and sodomy, and constant emotional abuse while I was married I suffer from a severe case of PTSD. Princess and Pandora are both Maltese and they are wonderful at their jobs. They can both bring me medicine, take me home if I become lost or confused, stop a panic attack, and many other tasks. They can both keep others away from me, if need be, and they can both bring others to me. I have just been using Pandora but because she is so incredibly cute it is a big disadvantage. Everyone wants to play with her or pet her. She looks like a little puppy and people don’t want to believe she is a service dog. I usually have to explane that even small dogs can be service dogs. I also fine a lot of fake service dogs trying to interact with her. People bring their pets to the grocery with fake vests on and get mad at me because I won’t let my dog “play” with their “service dog” in the grocery store. Service dogs don’t play with each other! These people are idiots!

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