Editorial: Doggy Deception

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Macie the service dog (Photo by Courtmay22000 via Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0)

A woman brought her dog to a casual restaurant I dined at recently. I didn’t think much of it until the manager came by to tell her that dogs are not permitted inside. Immediately the woman claimed her pet was a service dog. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but based on her defensive reaction, I really don’t think this dog was a service dog.
It is wrong to lie about your pet being a service animal. Furthermore, it is a crime.

Service dogs are dogs that have been trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Guide dogs and hearing dogs assist owners who are blind or have hearing impairments respectively. Emotional support animals are not included under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or New York Civil Rights Law. Only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals.

In New York, the penalty for falsely representing your pet as a service dog is a fine, and on the third offense, up to 15 days imprisonment.

It shouldn’t take the threat of jail time to deter you from lying though. The moral concerns should be enough. It is disrespectful to people with disabilities to pretend your dog is a service dog because what you’re doing is actually pretending to have a disability yourself. The ADA exists to protect a class of people who would otherwise face discrimination while just trying to live their lives. Don’t make light of that by faking a disability.

Additionally, service dogs undergo hundreds of hours of specialized training to become exceptionally well suited for the tasks they are called to perform. A poorly behaved pet masquerading as a service dog only gives service dogs a bad name and makes it harder for true service dogs and owners to get the respect they deserve.

On a practical level, the more animals that enter a place of business, the more hair and dander and scents they leave behind that can be an irritant to humans and a distraction to true service dogs. The owner relies on their dog to help them safely get around and a distracted service dog could lead to their owner getting hurt.

Finally, service dogs are not supposed to interact with other people while they’re on the job. If you allow your fake service animal to be pet by strangers, it sends the message that petting service dogs is perfectly acceptable when it is not.

Don’t put your desire to bring your dog everywhere above the needs of others—it’s selfish, harmful, disrespectful and ultimately illegal.

—Kimberly Dijkstra

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear from you! Send a letter to the editor to kdijkstra@antonmediagroup.com.

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