America loves trends, and the latest one that is sweeping the nation involves dogs. In particular, it is an issue that pits service dogs against dogs who haven’t had such professional training and are claiming to be one. Fake service dogs are a trend that many businesses are finding has become increasingly popular. It’s also a trend that is causing undue stress to the many veterans who really do need service dogs to help them deal with such issues as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Many veterans benefit from having a trained service dog with them, if they suffer from issues such as PTSD,” explains Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue. “Yet they are now being faced with additional stress because of people who are creating a rash of fake service dogs, leaving businesses unsure which are really true service dogs.”
People around the country are engaging in the fake service-dog trend. Some want to be able to take their dog anywhere they like, including into restaurants, on public transportation, or to nightclubs.
“The companies that are more discerning are the ones that position themselves as a reliable source for certified service dogs and convince people they are legit, when in fact they are giving you false credentials,” explains Jack Garcia, a volunteer investigator for Guardians of Rescue and retired FBI undercover agent.
Here are 5 things to know about fake service dogs:
• Simplicity. Part of the problem is that there is no standard certification that dogs must go through to become a service pet. Because there is no official certification or process, people are able to obtain fake documents easily. One quick search online provides thousands of fake service-pet vests, leashes, patches, and 'certification.' For approximately $250, people can buy an entire kit that turns their dog into a fake service dog. For just a couple of dollars, people can buy individual pieces, such as fake documentation to carry with them.
• Behavior. There is a big difference between the behavior a real service dog will display and that of a fake one. Real service dogs are trained to assist the person, not protect them. They are trained to be quiet, not bark or growl, and they are never disruptive. On the other hand, the fake service dogs have a hard time holding back. They can be disruptive or even pose a threat to those around them. Also, service dogs will never get on the person’s lap or on a chair; they are trained to stay on the floor by the person. They also will not go after other dogs to fight, as some fake service pets will.
• Training. The training difference between a real and fake service dog is what truly sets them apart. Real service dogs undergo a great deal of training, and that is a costly procedure. Service dogs are considered a medical cost that has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service. They are trained to help with various disabilities, including diabetes, seizures, autism, and epilepsy, among others. It is estimated that the cost to train a service dog can total as much as $50,000.
• Limitations. Part of the issue at hand, and why so many people are getting away with taking their fake service dog everywhere with them, is that businesses are limited on what they can ask the person. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the only question someone can ask is whether the dog is a service dog. Questions regarding proof of certification or proof of a disability are not allowed, under current disability laws.
• Exclusions. As mentioned, real service dogs have been trained not to be aggressive. The DOJ reports that a business owner can exclude a service dog that is displaying aggressive behavior toward other people, including growling, acting vicious, or posing any threat to others.
“It’s a shame that some people feel it’s necessary to have fake service dogs,” adds Misseri. “All they are doing is making it harder on those who really do need them and who have professionally trained ones. It costs us $5,000 to train these dogs for veterans, but people are paying $39 online for a certification card and no training. We are severely underfunded in trying to help these vets and things like this are just making it more difficult for the vets who need these dogs.”
“I am outraged once again how veterans have to suffer, shared Jarrett Gimble, a former U.S. Marine who suffers from PTSD and has a service dog. “I recently attempted to go into a dept store and wasn't granted permission because they believed my ID tags were fake, which caused me stress and was embarrassing.”
Guardians of Rescue has a program called “Paws of War,” where they pair shelter dogs up with veterans suffering from PTSD or other psychological conditions.
PTSD is common among veterans, so much so that it is estimated that around 400,000 of them currently experience it. Animal therapy is an effective treatment method which involves getting veterans around animals, such as getting them a dog. Many veterans have service dogs that help them to cope and be able to function better in public situations.
Guardians of Rescue provides assistance to animals out on the streets, helping to rescue them, provide medical care, food and shelter, and find foster home placement. Many families are still struggling to recover from the storm, making it difficult to care for their pet, either financially or while living in temporary housing. To learn more, or to make a donation to support the Guardians of Rescue, log onto www.guardiansofrescue.org.