Service animals are amazing companions that can perform tasks to help someone or even save their life. However, many people will actually fake having a service animal in order to get the benefits. It actually happens much more often than you would think, but luckily, some states are finally cracking down on fraud. In fact, faking your pet as a service animal is about to be considered a crime in Alabama.
Many people will pretend their dog is a service animal simply because they want to be able to spend more time with them. This is an understandable reason for every dog parent, but that does not make it okay. Service animals are very important to those who need them, so by pretending your pet is a service animal, you are only hurting those that actually need them to survive. Luckily, there are some easy ways to spot the fakers out there.
“When I fly with my service dog I would say on average 50% or greater of the dogs we contact in the airport are fraudulent,” said Abigail Witthauer, Director of Roverchase.
Since a service dog needs to go through a lengthy training process to be certified with the necessary skills, they will be much more obedient and calm than other dogs. It takes at least 18 months to properly train a service dog. Therefore, it’s likely someone with a very young service dog is faking – unless the dog is “In Training.”
Also, a service dog should not be looking for the attention of others. They’re there to assist their human, not run around and get pet by strangers. Many real service dogs have a sign on their vest that says, “do not pet.”
If you are unsure as to whether or not a dog is a real service dog, there are two simple questions you should ask the person. First, simply ask if their dog is a service dog. If they say yes, then ask what task they perform. Someone with a real service dog should be able to answer these questions without hesitation. Someone who is faking will likely think too much before they speak or not be very specific with their answer.
Emotional Support Animals
While emotional support animals don’t usually fall under the same laws as service animals, they’re often faked more frequently than service animals.
An emotional support animal differs from a service animal because they’re not required to perform a certain task. Instead, they are there to help with the mental and emotional health of a person. A real emotional support animal is one that an official doctor signs paperwork for. However, it’s very easy to quickly sign up for one online with no official prescription.
Many people will get their dogs falsely registered as emotional support animals so that they can fly on a plane for no additional cost. However, airlines are starting to be more thorough with checking the paperwork because there have been many issues recently. There have been multiple cases of fake emotional support animals attacking other passengers during flights.
The New Law in Alabama
There are so many websites where you can simply pay a fee and get a vest and certificate for your dog sent to you. With so many different breeds as service dogs today, it can be difficult to tell which ones are legit at first glance. Luckily, at least 23 other states already have laws in place regarding these fake service animals.
If you are caught with a fake service dog in Alabama, it will be a Class C misdemeanor. Individuals will be charged a $100 fine and will be forced to do 100 hours of community service to make up for it. It may seem like a harsh punishment, but many states even have it worse. In California, you could get a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months of jail time.
To some people, these punishments might seem extreme for faking a service dog, but these laws are in place to protect those that actually need a service animal. Service dogs are needed to do incredible things like helping people get around and responding to medical emergencies, like seizures.
Therefore, it’s not fair for people to go around, pretending that their dogs are trained for these special skills. You should never act lightly about something that is so important to other people. So, as much as you love your dog, you need to understand that they can’t have the same rights as real service dogs unless they have the proper training and documentation.
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