Regarding Proposed (though not yet drafted) legislation to address the problem of “fake” service dogs

Just sent the below to a state legislator’s office who is proposing legislation to address the problem of “fake” service dogs. As usual, they’re calling for the ability to ask for ID’s or certification. Anyway, here are my comments, for what they’re worth. Feel free to use them for your own purposes…


I’ve gotten word that legislation is proposed that would punish those who fraudulently represent a dog as a service dog when it is not one. Thank you, first of all, for addressing this very real problem. It is a problem, and the problem does need to be addressed. However, it needs to be addressed in a way that will not infringe upon the rights of people with disabilities who legitimately use service dogs. As, first, a guide dog user myself, and second, as someone who has recently trained his own guide dog, I have some thoughts and concerns I’d like to share with you.

While well intentioned, I think you may be coming at this issue from the wrong angle. I’d like to establish where the rights and responsibilities lie in this discussion. The right to be accompanied by a trained service animal rightly belongs to the person with a disability. That means that it is the person, not the dog, who is perpetrating fraud in some fashion, either by falsely representing that s/he has a disability, by falsely representing that the dog has been trained to mitigate that disability, or both. The most likely case is “both”.

Having said that, however, since the ADA stipulates that one cannot be questioned as to the nature of his or her disability, there has to be a different test. A certification of the service dog? For one thing, there isn’t one, and creating one would present its own set of problems. (If you want to know what those are, I’d be happy to discuss them, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion, and the problems are many.) Anyway, certification or ID. ID’s are a dime a dozen. Anyone can, and does, get them. The people perpetrating the fraud are most likely to have ID’s and are eager to show them. How, therefore, do you tell the real ones from the fake ones? Certainly the two allowable screening questions in the ADA implementing regulations help: most fakers will be able to answer the first and will either struggle with the second or, at best, won’t be able to give a reasonable answer to it.

The standard, therefore, is and must be behavior. Under that standard, any dog, whether service dog or not, can be removed from a place of business if it is not housebroken, and especially if it isn’t under the handler’s control or is aggressive or disruptive. This has always been the case. However, whether through fear or ignorance, business owners are reluctant to exercise their rights to have such disruptive animals removed for their disruptive behavior. Whether a dog is a legitimate service dog or not, there is no place in a public setting for it if it is disruptive or, especially, if it’s aggressive.

I’d suggest that the laws, first, address behavior of aggressive or disruptive animals. Second, address the fraudulent misrepresentation of disability. If, indeed, someone does not have a disability as defined in the ADA, and if their dog is not adequately trained (something that could easily be proved if it were aggressive or disruptive), that’s where your legislation could step in. Absolutely, give the false representation of disability or of trained status real teeth. As outlined, it seems to me, however, that your proposal would be unenforceable. The litmus test must be, not the presence of an ID or certification, but rather the behavior of the dog in question.

As I mentioned, I have trained my own guide dog. She’s my fourth guide, though only my first that I’ve trained myself. I started her out as a puppy, and I would say that she’s as well trained as any guide dog that came from a training program. How would your proposed legislation affect me? I have no ID for my dog, nor do I believe that I should have to prove that I, a law-abiding citizen, am not breaking the law with my dog, who is very well-behaved and always under my control. Laws should certainly be available to penalize the guilty, but the innocent should not be made to bear the burden of the behavior of the guilty. Conversely, I have met program-trained dogs who have ID’s issued by their schools, who are aggressive, disruptive, and whose training has not been maintained by their handlers. Those dogs would get a pass, and they absolutely should not. I can’t stress this enough: behavior, not ID, should be the litmus test here.

I’d be happy to discuss this with you further if you want or need.


A Couple Observations

Just couple of observations. There really isn’t a whole lot that’s terribly new.

I wonder if teething has started yet? She likes to chew on her toys of course, but she doesn’t like softer rubber puppy things so much as she likes the sterilized bones, Nylabones, and things like that that area bit harder. The funny thing is though, she has a pretty soft mouth, all things considered. She hasn’t actually destroyed anything, apart from getting open a couple of stuffed dog toys that then got thrown away, and that was a while ago. In fact, her leash got in her crate with her while I was napping, and I can see a part that got chewed on a little, but the damage is very minimal, nothing to really compromise the leash much if at all. She picked up an SD card that somehow fell off the desk, and no problem, it was intact (I got it very quickly). She likes to pick things up and carry them. She’s picked up one of Alena’s shoes a couple times, on her way out to park, and dropped them somewhere on the ramp. Same with slippers. She got a sock once or twice that she wanted to play tug with. The good thing is that she’s not obsessive about things, and I’ve been able to get things away from her easily enough and without complaint.

She does another interesting thing, too. Most of the time, she noses the bell at the door, tor anyway, she rings it, even if just barely. Sometimes, maybe half the time though, she goes one better. She’ll jump at the doorknob. She’ll jump then at the handle to the screen door, and she can almost make it. I reckon she has some idea of how the door opens and wants to open it herself.

Seems to me between these two things, we might be able to do some service dog tasks for fun. I definitely wanted to work on a fetch anyway for when I drop stuff, but that she’s interested in opening doors as well is kind of neat.

Waiting to eat is also coming along really well. Now, I only have to start the exercise over just a couple times, and even so, no more noise.

We’ve also determined that it isn’t being left alone that bothers her when I leave. It’s *me* leaving that bothers her. Melanie, Alena, Melanie’s aid, and all the critters (and I) were downstairs yesterday, and I had to go to the drugstore. So I put the Hildabeast in her crate. When I walked out the front door, she put up her usual protests. So I moved her to the upstairs crate. That one’s a plastic crate, and I think she might feel more comfortable there, because I gather she put up less fuss for less time, because when I got back, she was still pretty quiet.

In addition, I believe that when we went for haircuts and grocery shopping on Wednesday, she was able to hold her bladder the whole time.

We’ve had several attendants come in for Melanie, and a couple of them claimed to be afraid of dogs. Hilda acted the same with all of them, which is to say, excited, jumping (another thing to work on), unfailingly friendly.

Puppy classes start on Friday. I’m kind of excited about that.