There is an ongoing problem with fake service dogs and people believing that they can take emotional support animals into public. Today I wrote my representative about this problem. While changing ADA law in regards to service dogs isn’t necessary – and could actually do more harm than good – there are some things that I believe can be done to benefit everyone involved.
I will keep everyone apprised of any response that I get.
Dear Representative Wittman;
I am writing you today about The Americans with Disabilities Act…or at least the portion that pertains to service dogs. There is an ongoing problem with fake service dogs. Let me see if I can keep this short and explain.
I have heard and read a long number of stories where people have mentioned that, while in public, a fake service dog or an emotional support animal (these do not have public access as per the ADA) have attacked and injured their service dog. Service dogs should not be licking shopping carts or breaking open food packages in stores and eating the contents, yet this happens just often enough that some businesses have tried to prevent even legit service dogs into their establishments because “others have been ill behaved.” The bulk of business employees and managers have said that there is nothing they can do, and they aren’t even allowed to ask about the dogs. They are obviously uninformed of ADA law, or they are afraid they will be sued or lose their job.
These problems are perpetrated in part by companies on the Internet who claim “Service Dog Registry”, when in fact, there is no such thing. These same companies also claim that if people get their dog “certified” as an Emotional Support Animal” (ESA) that they can “take them anywhere”. This is putting more burden on those with legitimate service dogs for a number of reasons.
- It puts legitimate service dogs, as well as people, at risk of being attacked by an untrained dog that does not know how to behave in a public situation. Businesses do not know their rights and allow this continue for fear of repercussions. In fact, there have been cases when disabled veterans, with service dogs, have been asked to leave establishments because the mere presence of their dog was provoking an animal that should have never been granted public access.
- Because of these fake registries many businesses are asking people to provide an ID to prove that their dog is indeed a service dog. According to ADA law, no one can ask for these this. In fact, it shouldn’t even be a thing. This is putting disabled people with service dogs in the position of having to educate businesses about ADA law.
As you may know, in the state of Virginia it is a class 3 misdemeanor to interfere with the work of a service dog and it is also a finable offense to represent your dog as a service dog when it is not. The problem is the laws are hard to enforce because there is no certification process and the ADA only allows two questions to be asked: “Is this animal required because of a disability?” and “What task does the animal perform?”
It would go a long way to help those with legitimate service dogs and those with real disabilities if there was some federal regulation put in place to prevent companies from claiming that they offer “certification” for ESA’s and bogus “Service Dog Registries”.
I would also like to see businesses being required to provide training to all employees on ADA law and service dogs. It would prevent a lot of harassment for the disabled and prevent untrained and sometimes aggressive dogs into stores that are going to go after patrons and Service Dogs.
While the law may be hard to enforce because of the way it is written, these are things that can be done to help the disabled and businesses out alike.
Thank you for your time and attention.