FAKE Service Dogs

The issue of fake service dogs in public is one that continues to garner a lot of attention yet very few interventions.  This month we discuss some of the issues behind this troubling public health threat.

It is a disturbing reality that anyone can go online, purchase a generic service dog vest and patches and a fake ID and present in public claiming to be a SD team…and expect to get away with it.  In some cases it may be hard to separate the fakers from the real teams, while in other cases the truth is blatantly obvious yet business owners or managers are afraid of the threat of lawsuit and will back down.  This past month we spotlighted one case, as this represented a good teaching case.  We have removed all names and identifying information of the fake team and organization involved. This is a situation that was experienced by our Exec. Director as she made a difficult, but correct, decision to withdraw from a group she belonged to in order to protect her certified SD.  The case involved a woman who has brought her pet dog in public and has been observed pushing the dog around stores in a baby stroller.  She has stated that the dog is not a SD, but is in fact so destructive that if she leaves it at home it causes significant damages to the home.  She further states that she has learned that if she claims it to be a SD a business must permit entry and she is able to avoid costly damages to her home.

What does the law say?

ADA law provides us with a definition of a SD and also parameters regarding what a business is permitted to ask if a team seeks to gain entrance to their establishment.  A SD is defined as, “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”  So, we see that the law requires the dog to have received training.

The two questions that any business is permitted to ask are:

  • Is this a SD required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

As long as any person states that this is a SD and comes up with any answer to the second question, they are given a free pass to enter a business.  One of the real flaws in this law is that the law does not require professional training, certification or any credible proof that the dog has been trained.  Furthermore, the same law that requires training prohibits businesses from asking questions regarding whether or not the dog was trained.  Even in cases where a person arrives pushing the dog in a baby stroller, they are permitted entrance.  In fact in the case reported, a person can admit on many occasions that the dog is not a SD, and yet if they provide the correct answer when attempting to cross the threshold, businesses must permit entrance.

What can the police do?

If called, traditionally police officers have responded to say that since a business may only ask two questions, they are not permitted to ask for proof of training or certification.  About a year ago, our Director called the AZ Corporation Commission, as all businesses are required to register with the commission n order to conduct business in AZ.  She asked if police departments were regarded as businesses.  The answer was no.  Our concern is that it appears that the law that restricts businesses to these two questions appears to be incorrectly applied to police departments and this is preventing the officers from obtaining the very information that they will need to effectively discharge their duties.

What we believe

It is the position of the FSDS that proper training and certification must be the gold standards.  A system of checks and balances that ensures testing for all dogs who wish to present in public to ensure they are able to work safely will result in elimination of fake SDs from the public space and increased protection for all.  We further believe that future legislation must specifically spell out what police are empowered to do in situations where there is a question of a fake SD team.

Classroom News

Beginner Class – we wish to extend a warm welcome to our new student trainers and recipients:

  • Brianna Espinosa – student trainer now raising her 2nd dog with the FSDS
  • Lindsey Carlson – student trainer
  • Heather Vedeler – student trainer
  • Titus and LeAnna Springer – recipient and parent / team training
  • Catherine Teel – recipient / military family
  • Adam Croner – recipient / military veteran
  • Brian Brown – recipient / military veteran
  • Adam Sierra – recipient / police officer
  • Scott and Christie Sefranka – student trainers

The beginner class has just started and is at work on puppy skills such as potty training, sit, down and stay.  They are off to a fine start and we are delighted to welcome them to the FSDS.

Advanced Class – congratulations are in order to this hard working class for all passing the Canine Good Citizen test this past month.  We are very proud of their accomplishments.  The class is now at work on final practice for the public access test, and has begun the work of advanced service dog task training.


FullSizeRenderPlease join us in congratulating Jessica Parker on her recent promotion to lead instructor in the FSDS SD training program.  Jessica is a graduate of the Animal Behavior College and has been with the FSDS since early 2017. She brings an expertise in animal training along with her great enthusiasm for serving the community and mentoring the next generation of trainers.

Prayers for a Speedy Recovery

IMG_20141226_0001Our thoughts and prayers are with FSDS co-founder Miriam Peterman.  She has been hospitalized since October and faces risky surgery.  Miriam has worked tirelessly for the past 10 years to bring services to those in need here in AZ, and this past year was named 2017 Employee of the Year.  We wish her a speedy and uneventful recovery.


Wellness Tip

The holidays are here and it is time for a reminder that those holiday “goodies” that us humans look forward to may be lethal for your dogs.  Some of the leading offenders in terms of toxicity include chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, garlic and onions.  In addition, bones from a turkey or other meat should not be given to your dog, as these can fragment and lodge in the palate, creating significant pain and injury.  Be watchful when baking as well, as rising dough that is swallowed by your dog can continue to rise in the stomach and intestines creating a blockage…and this can require surgical intervention.  Some helpful tips include:

  • make certain that candy dishes or other food items are not placed on a low coffee or end table within reach of your dog
  • supervise your dog at all times around holiday decorations, particularly glass ornaments that can cause intestinal injury if eaten
  • food scraps should be discarded in a trash can with a lid if it is not to be taken outside immediately

Thank You

We wish to express our sincere thanks to the following for their generous program support in the past month:

  • Casino AZ
  • Valerie Schluter
  • David Larance
  • Lauren Kuehner
  • Kayci Cutler
  • Diane C. Stamp

Upcoming Events

Graduation 2018 – Date TBD will take place in Spring of 2018.  Stay tuned for exact time and date.

Photo Gallery

We thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite photos from the past year.

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The Foundation for Service Dog Support

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