As a service dog organization, we are in the business of providing highly-trained dogs to disabled veterans who absolutely need them. As hard as it may be to imagine, there are individuals out there who try to pass their pets off as service dogs. This is shameful and is very degrading to those who actually need a service dog to live their daily lives. The topic of fake service dogs is controversial. Although, legally, service dogs are not required to wear vests, at K9s For Warriors, we always tell our warriors to have their dogs “vested” while in public. Having a service dog in a vest helps decrease any question on whether the service dog is legitimate. It is also worthwhile to mention that service dog vests are easily available for purchase online. So, someone wanting to pass their family dog off as a service dog can purchase a vest to make the scam seem more convincing. Ridiculous, right?
Although a public entity may ask if the animal present is required because of a disability, the public entity cannot require proof such as paper work or licenses. K9s For Warriors provides each warrior-dog team with I.D. cards that contain ADA and certification information. Our warriors, however, do not have to show these I.D.s to prove their certification. With “fake” service dog products so widely available and the etiquette/laws that do not require vests/proof, how can one distinguish a real service dog from a fake one? The answer is the dog’s behavior. Authentic service dogs receive an abundant amount of training. It will be very obvious when a dog has a lack of training. They may be unruly or unresponsive to commands. Other signs of a lack in training include jumping, barking, and disrupting activities. Authentic service dogs are calm and focused on their handlers; it is clear that these dogs are trained and performing a job.