Would You Pretend Your Dog Was a Service Animal Just to Sneak Him Into a Restaurant?

Turns out, guide dog fraud is pretty common.

(Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters)

Feb 25, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Did you hear the one about the disabled combat vet and her dog? The animal helps with her PTSD, but they got thrown out of Safeway because the manager thought the dog was a phony.

Not very funny, is it? Yet the number of fake seeing-eye dogs is on the rise, advocates for the disabled say. The corrupted canines now frequently roam the streets (and restaurants and shopping malls and office buildings) of California. Their owners simply purchase a $30 vest reading “service dog” online and proceed to hang out in places where pets are banned. Unlike real service dogs, untrained animals are wont to behave problematically, fostering bad vibes that are later visited on the disabled.

The California State Senate held a hearing on Monday at which the disabled community and business owners voiced concerns that service dog fraud is creating boy-who-cried-wolf scenarios of disabled people with legitimate service dogs getting tossed out of stores and restaurants because of the epidemic of fakery. The hearing was also held to determine whether policy changes are in order.

Witnesses allowed that the legislature can do little because of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which limits employees from asking for an animal’s certification papers. But Anne Krieger of Disability Rights California suggested an outreach campaign and a policy requiring service animal merchandise sellers to include proper-use disclaimers.

“In the past, people who legitimately use guide dogs have faced a lot of difficulty getting into public places,” the State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Marc Mason told KPCC. “The ADA has really helped them gain access. But these fake service animals are really raising a real problem…. It’s created an environment of skepticism.”