Fake Service Dog Handlers


The link leads readers to an article on Colorado’s plan to punish “fake service dog handlers” – individuals accused of masquerading as members of a federally  protected class – people with one or more disabilities that utilize service animals.

As has always been the case, the problem of fake service animal handlers, and in this Bald man’s opinion, the problem of integrating more pet dogs more thoroughly into the fabric of our communities is one of our resistance to training and managing our dogs’ behaviors, especially in public settings. I believe that “fake service dogs” would hardly worthy of our attention, if the dogs were trained and socialized to be unobtrusive in public settings.

Business owners are busy. They lack the training and are litigation-averse. Who wants to devote mental energy and resources on this issue? Perhaps this could be addressed legislatively – require any dog handlers to maintain certain minimum standards and everyone is told – if your dog is disruptive, if your dog urinates/defecates – remove the dog. Your dog must be licensed, vaccinated against rabies, and whatever… We live in a society that (mostly) wants greater pet inclusion – I suspect that the allergy and phobia afflicted among us would rather eat metal filings than deal with more dogs, in more places.

Of course, this is closely related to another topic that concerns me. I believe it prudent for prospective pet owners to be thoughtful and more discriminating about the dogs they bring home. In the dog world, especially on the animal welfare side of the planet, I think we would do well to objectively consider the pet-worthy characteristics of the placements we make. Cute is cool, but perhaps there’s more to consider?

Instead of the classic (and, I believe fraught with peril) approach to penalizing people for taking unprepared pets into public access settings, what might happen if we empowered people, legislatively and practically to achieve parity with their pets in public accommodations? I would be willing to support people with well trained and well socialized dogs in an organized effort that empowered them to earn such a privilege. The path has already been blazed by those of us in the service dog industry, including the owner trainers/handlers who get it right, everyday.

Am I alone in thinking that the Colorado approach is likely to result in untrained, and uninformed people meddling in areas where they have no business. The legislation that is proffered is going to run up against the ADA (and other civil rights legislation). Someone will encroach and trample upon disabled persons’ rights and do it in the mistaken belief that they are empowered by this ill-conceived legislation


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