Service animals are in the news again; I am not surprised. It is one of the most abused area of the Americans with Disability Act. Under the ADA, a person just needs to mention that they are disabled and the animal performs some function to assist with that disability. The person is not required to present proof of disability or evidence that their dog is specifically trained to assist the person.
If you Google “Service Dog,” you will see advertisements for service dog vests and ID that a person can purchase, in hopes of overcoming the question as to whether a person can appear to be legitimate. Thanks to the Internet, you can appear to be legitimate for thirty or forty dollars.
A major airline took the stance that certain breeds and size of dogs were not going to allowed on aircraft. The airline was experiencing an increase in dog bite incidents and wanted to improve passenger safety. The ADA stepped in and advised the airline that they could not discriminate on breed or size of a service dog.
From my experience, there is more fraud surrounding service animals; by my guess that for every legitimate service animals, there are four per owners taking advantage of the system, by claiming that their pet is a service animal. Just going online to see the numerous companies that cater to this abuse is evidence enough.
Unfortunately, although the ADA has laws that prevent abuse, there is no substance that anyone can act on. Under the ADA, a business owner must accept the word of the dog owner. The only reason that the dog owner may be asked to leave is if the owner or the animal becomes unruly. Here is a list of frequently asked questions about service animals.
Pet owners are required to clean up after their pets, but anyone who will abuse the laws of the ADA will likely refuse to clean up after their pet. It becomes most troublesome for passengers on a crowded aircraft to have to maneuver around a large “service animal.”
If you go on a website that is selling the supplies for fake service dog registrations, they will provide a long list of ailments that would meet the requirements for claiming a disability. That list is so extensive that 80 percent of the population would meet the requirements of claiming use of a service animal.
What bothers me about the ADA laws is the impact that it has on people who legitimately need a service animals when they live in a world that is largely made up of fraudulent abusers.