Open Letter To Business Owners About Fake Service Dogs

posted in: Dogs | 1

Dear Business Owner,

As a service dog handler and trainer, I want to help you avoid problems with fake service dogs in your place of business. As you know, the Americans With Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that guarantees people with disabilities the right to be assisted by service dogs. Wherever a neck brace can go, a service dog team can go.

Unfortunately, people without disabilities are buying vests and patches on the internet and passing off their pets as service dogs. Fake service dogs put my diabetes alert dog at risk from a dog attack. So, I need your help to stop fake service dogs. Here’s how.

According to the ADA business brief, you are allowed to ask two questions.

1.) Is your dog a service animal?

2.)  What tasks or work has the dog been trained to perform?

It’s the second question that is critically important. Only service dogs are trained to perform specific work or tasks to help people with disabilities. And it’s the second question that I want you to ask. In fact, I want you to memorize this phrase and use it.

“What work or tasks is your service dog trained to do?”

There are a lot of legitimate answers to this question, such as,

  • Alert me to sounds I can’t hear.
  • Help me keep my balance.
  • Pick up things I drop.
  • Alert to changes in my medical condition.
  • Respond to changes in my medical condition.

Now, I realize those last two answers sound vague, but they are meant to preserve privacy. People may not want to announce to the world that they have seizures, autism, or diabetes. Or they may struggle with a psychiatric disorder and don’t want to invite stigma and judgement. Think about it, you wouldn’t want to tell strangers about your colonoscopy, would you? After you get a legitimate answer, smile and send them on their way. Be sure to treat the team like any other customer.

However, if you ask, “What work or tasks is your service dog trained to perform?” and you get an answer like:

  • Oh, he just makes me feel better when I’m with him.
  • He’s an emotional comfort dog.
  • She’s an emotional support dog.
  • She’s a therapy dog.

This is not a service dog. Those are not trained tasks. The Americans with Disabilities Act is specific. “Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.” https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm  Emotional support animals are not working service dogs. You can ask people to leave their emotional support dogs outside of your business.

Service dog fraud is a serious problem. Together we can help stamp it out.


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  1. Emily

    Lovely post!! Do you plan to print off and hand this letter out to businesses that you frequent? Thanks for sharing this!