'Fake' Service Dog Certificates Being Used So Owners Can Take Pets To Restaurants, Clubs

service dog aiding a...
service dog aiding a...

Instead of tying up their pooches to a lamppost, a growing number of New Yorkers are obtaining fake service dogs certificates so that they can take their pets with them wherever they go, the New York Post reports.

In an exclusive story, the Post shared a number of accounts of candid dog owners in New York City who have simply bought bogus patches, vests and certificates that look like the real thing, slapped them on their dogs and now head off together pretty much anywhere they want to go without any trouble. Some say they do it for the convenience of it, others say it helps them with their dating prospects.

“He’s been to most movie theaters in the city, more nightclubs than most of my friends,” Brett David, 33, a restaurateur told the Post of his Maltese Yorkie.“I don’t care who you are, a teacup Yorkie will trump a black [American Express] card when you’re trying to pick up a girl.”

Legally, in order for a dog to qualify as a service animal, the owner must have a documented disability defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the dog must be trained to help its handler with the disability and the service animal can’t disrupt its environment, according to Petpartners.org. However, the ADA doesn’t require service animals to be officially certified, which is likely part of why there isn’t enough oversight.

“Currently, these companies aren’t breaking any laws,” Becky Barnes, former president of Guide Dogs Users, Inc. told Cesar’s Way, a website run by the famed “Dog Whisperer.” “With service dogs there doesn’t seem to be a white and black area but a huge gray area. Discussions have begun to make it a misdemeanor to misrepresent your dog as a service dog. Unfortunately, it is being taken as seriously as pirating music.”

Another issue that’s beginning to now cause problems for people who actually need service dogs is that establishments are not permitted to ask people to show proof of a disability, or that their animal is certified, according to Service Dogs America.

But now that more people are claiming to need service dogs, people with actual disabilities are being questioned more by frustrated store owners, according to Cesar’s Way.

The other concerning problem is that dogs that are not trained to sit patiently indoors may disturb the service dogs and affect the way they help their owners.

“People don’t realize that if the dog misbehaves in any way,” Toni Eames, blind president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, told the Post, “if it isn’t clean, barks or is overly friendly and jumps on people -- that it aggravates other dogs and disrupts the way they do service.”

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