Look what my FeeBee got!!! She is now “officially” a service dog with FULL ACCESS TO ALL PUBLIC PLACES! Her cute little vest spells it all out: “The ADA mandates that this dog and handler have full access to all public places. It is the LAW. FULL ACCESS”! Now my baby can accompany me anywhere I go; the grocery store, the movies, my favorite restaurant, even the doctor’s office! Isn’t it cool?
Actually…..it’s NOT! I am totally outraged and disgusted by anyone who tries to pass off a pet as a trained service animal! I had no idea what an epidemic this has become and did a little experiment so I could see just how easy it is to get a badge without any documentation.
First I must confess: the dog in the picture above is NOT Pheebie.
This is Pheebie! –>
Pheebie wants everyone to know she would rather go NAKED than wear a fake service badge!
Even I was fooled for a second – she’s a spot on match for the dog in the vest!
I started by googling “service dog vest”. It is pretty disturbing that the first thing I got back was this picture of a Pheebie look-alike in a vest. Seriously, a Yorkie as a service animal? Obviously I love my Pheebs, but let’s be real – nobody buys a Yorkie for protection!
I naively assumed that all the attention fake service dogs are getting would make these fake gear peddlers at least act like they would only sell to legit service dogs, but the only things the website wanted were my credit card and a mailing address. So, I ordered a patch and it is being shipped to me. Before I receive a bunch of nasty messages criticizing me for patronizing one of these websites, I had to go through with the transaction in order to prove if they required proof of a service animal or even a bogus doctors note. I ordered a patch for sewing onto a vest because I’m cheap and didn’t want to give these snake oil peddlers one more cent than I needed to. And the patch is the key to making the vest look so official. Now I am curious to see if the package will come with ads for more fake service animal gear. I will blog pictures of what I get in the mail. Then I will return it for a prompt refund.
Here is the badge I received :
Before I get a bunch of nasty comments about Yorkie temperaments, I am not saying Yorkies are not caring; my Pheebie is the sweetest girl and very protective over me. She has the spirit and intent of service animals-she is my loyal protector that goes off on anyone who approaches me (including my husband). But at the end of the day, she is NOT a service animal no matter how much I would be able to take her everywhere with me. But the fact is that even her most ferocious bark serves to do little more than annoy people and might even draw attention from larger dogs. She is a great WARNING system, just like any barking dog is. But she cannot guide me, defend me, nor hurt anyone wanting to do danger to me or help in a crisis. And this is why she could never be considered a service animal. I am sure there are those Yorkie defenders out there that will argue a Yorkie qualifies as an emotional support animal (ESA). And they would be right; she DOES qualify as my emotional support animal within the confines of my home; she just does not qualify to have access to public places that prohibit animals. I would love to have Pheebie with me everywhere I go. When I was driving and before I needed a white cane, I DID take her wherever she was allowed and it made me VERY happy, but no more so than anyone else having their pet with them. After all, don’t all pets contribute to our happiness? Why else would we willingly dump millions of dollars into the pet industry, tolerate their messes and leave ourselves,open to heart break when we lose them? But our love for a pet hardly makes them a service animal!
Why am I spending all this time on this? Because it hurts legit service animals and their handlers /owners. Think about it: do you really want a dog interacting with your two year old if the animal lacks the training and/or temperament to know not to bite a child ? The next time a legit service animal is not allowed to help its owner navigate a grocery store, maybe it is because the last animal allowed in the store was someone’s pet and defecated or hurt someone. I don’t care how cute fido is; if s/he is not trained to properly respond to stressful public environments, he needs to be left at home. The people passing pets off as service animals claim to be animal lovers, but how loving is to expose an unprepared/untrained animal to strangers, especially children.
The disabled community have been raising this issue for some time, but what is it going to take to get wide spread attention? You should be as outraged that I was able to get a fake badge for a dog as you would be if I had gotten a fake police badge. It’s the only way we might be able to have an impact. First, you need to have a general understanding of what a therapy service, working, therapy or emotional support animal is.
I do not have a service animal and I have ZERO training/knowledge/experience in service or emotional support animals nor am I an expert on all the titles, types, tasks and skills service animals possess nor need. For more info, visit GuideDogsOfAmerica, TheBrailleInstitute or just google it. Don’t be intimidated by all the jargon in the definition of what makes a service animal.
It is pretty basic: essentially a service / working/ therapy, animal are those that have undergone EXTENSIVE training by PROFESSIONAL trainers to do something for his/her owner. Examples are fetching help for a diabetic or epileptic, guiding the visually impaired or alerting the owner of specific dangers.
So what can be done about it? In my opinion, we could do much just by familiarizing ourselves with the spirit/intent of how a service animal is defined and ASKING questions when we sense someone is trying to get away with this. I know if I see someone sitting with their pampered pooch at a restaurant, I will ask the manager if the dog is a service animal. I’m not naive; I know none of us are going to cure the world of this by policingrat our local Denny’s for fake service dogs. It doesn’t need to be a negative confrontationl; just ask the question: “isthis a service animal?” Even if nothing is resolved right then and there, maybe enough questions will cause the management to get a better understanding of how service animals are defined and be empowered the next time a customer tries to manipulate the system. Isn’t this how most big change begins? With just a few of us realizing something needs to change?