COLUMN: Stop getting fake service dogs


It is easy for anyone who wants to pretend they have a service dog to do so. There are vests and certificates you can find online, even from such a mainstream site such as Amazon. When it comes to emotional support animals, it is equally easy to find a place to get a phony certification.

Support dogs such as emotional support dogs and service dogs are extremely important in making the day-to-day lives of their owners easier. 

People often think service dogs and emotional support dogs are the same, but there are important differences between the two. 

An emotional support dog is a dog that has been recommended by a licensed professional to help a person with a mental illness. Animals work wonders when it comes to relieving the effects of mental illness, so emotional support dogs are valuable to their owners to help them through hard times. 

A service dog, on the other hand, is a dog that has been specifically trained to complete tasks that help its owner overcome a disability — whether physical or mental. This can include opening doors, bringing water bottles or providing a stable body to lean on.

Even though these two types of support dogs are quite different in how they are trained and the legal rights they maintain, both are important in improving the lives of their owners. 

When it comes to emotional support animals, people often think they are allowed the same privileges as a service dog. This is not the case. According to an Indiana Canine Assistance Network at IU new members' slideshow, while service dogs can follow their owners just about anywhere, the rights of an emotional support animal are much more limited.

Emotional support dogs can live with their owner in housing even if there’s a “no pet” rule, and they can accompany their owner on flights. They do not have the right, however, to come into businesses with “no pet” policies set by the owner.

When someone decides they want to be able to take their dog into the grocery store with them and buys them an official-looking vest on Amazon, they are ruining things for people with legitimate service dogs. 

Even if their pet is an amazingly well-trained dog, that still is not the same as the rigorous training a service dog goes through. 

Picture this: someone puts a fake vest on their dog and goes to the grocery store. The dog, while maybe well-trained by pet standards, is not trained in how to behave itself in a crowd. It starts to bark or it ruins merchandise. 

If this happens enough times, the manager of the store will equate service dogs with bad business. When someone who has a legitimate service dog tries to shop there, the manager would be more likely to tell them that there are no dogs allowed — no exceptions.

Yes, that is illegal. By law, service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners into public establishments. But, the person with the service dog may not sue the owner of a grocery store. Even if they do, it hurts the public opinion of service dogs in general and sets a bad example. Fake service dogs give real service dogs a bad name.

Both emotional support dogs and service dogs provide invaluable support to their owners, so don’t try to pass off your dog as one of these two just so you can keep it in your apartment that doesn’t allow pets.