Fake service dog usage is far too often viewed as a victimless crime. It keeps the owner happy and doesn't affect anyone else right? Wrong. Far from victimless, the decision to utilize a fake service dog has definite impacts on people as well as businesses. The most impacted are legitimate service dog owners.
Too many individuals who use fake service dogs believe at most if caught they will be turned away. Not so. Actually the penalties can be quite stiff, including thousands in fines and months of jail time. Service dog fraud is neither victimless nor punishment free.
One of the more frustrating aspects of owning a service animal is when uncontrolled pets interfere with his or her ability to do his job. Service dogs have countless hours of training that drives them to remain calm and focus on the task and handler while ignoring all distractions. Fake service dogs however, do not. Instead their overly playful or dog aggressive nature can impact others, particularly if the dog gets loose and jumps on or attacks a service animal.
Business owners often become annoyed at the all too frequent encounters with fake service animals showing aggression, using the bathroom indoors and otherwise being a huge nuisance. This can cause those with real service dogs to be loathed on sight and generally treated unfairly as yet another abuser of service dog public access rights.
People with real disabilities obtain a service dog. When others play pretend with their family pet or companion it is an insult to those who really need 24/7 assistance. Just as you wouldn't pretend to be a veteran for a free meal, please do not fake service dogs.
Eventually, the constant bombardment of fake service dogs could start a push for federal law changes that make it more difficult for those who truly need service animals. There may come a time where they are asked to carry documentation or allow more interrogation and otherwise negatively impact legitimate service dogs.
For frequently asked questions about service dogs, including questions that businesses may and may not ask, please visit this ADA page.
Individuals with a disability are forced to put up with all manner of disdain based on the presence of a service animal when public perception has been fouled by fakers. In some cases leaving their service dog at home or in the car when handling business may seem worth it just to avoid the negativity and conflict. What happens when the task the dog is trained for arises? In the case of blood sugar detection, seizure or cardiac alert dogs this could potentially result in death. Be mindful of the passive impacts and understand it is never "worth it" to fake a service dog.
Not everyone in the general public is aware of the distinct public access rights service dogs receive and may perceive allowing these animals inside as a choice. When fake service dogs act out, bite, beg, or jump onto tables and counters at businesses, customers may take their business elsewhere. True service dogs would never do these behaviors, but an uncontrolled fake service animal can drive business away.
Pets and companion animals are priceless to their owners, but simply are not service dogs. It is imperative to avoid abusing a system designed for individuals with an actual disability. Those who suffer from disabilities already have it difficult, and the conflict and poor attitudes born of illegitimate service animals acting out previously is undeserved.