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Additional Regulation Isn’t Necessary to Resolve the Issue of Fake Service Animals

Note: This article is reprinted with permission from: Hands Off Our Harnesses!

From The Seeing Eye Inc.: Additional Regulation Isn’t Necessary to  Resolve the Issue of Fake Service Animals

James A. Kutsch, Jr. PhD

President and CEO, The Seeing Eye

October 5, 2016

News stories across the nation continue to report an increase in the number of people who pretend that their pet dog is a service animal. The major concern stems from the unruly behavior of these supposed “service animals”, and how their presence jeopardizes the safety and access rights of legitimate service animal teams. Most of these stories lead the reader to believe that existing federal laws make it impossible for businesses to identify and take action against these imposters. As a result, some individuals and groups have focused their efforts on creating new regulations to differentiate legitimate service animals from those whose owners make false claims. These proposals fall into three broad categories: mandatory identification cards, identification equipment or tags on the animal, and national or state registries. This article will discuss how these solutions are not only flawed, but moreover, aren’t needed. Existing federal laws already make provisions for the exclusion of misbehaved or poorly controlled animals – regardless of whether the animal is a legitimate service animal or not.

One of the most commonly proposed solutions is to require disabled people to show an identification card before being allowed entry with their service animal. Before implementation, any ID system proposal would need to answer the questions of who would issue the ID cards (remember owner-trained service animals are permitted by the ADA), how the system is funded (this burden shouldn’t be an extra tax on a disabled person whose independence is achieved through their service animal), how international visitors with service animals obtain temporary IDs, and how counterfeiting of cards is prevented. Assuming those questions can be addressed, an ID scheme would still require disabled people to prove they have the right to enter an establishment. This is an “extra” step that a non-disabled individual would not have to take, thus it can be viewed as discriminatory. But, the single, largest issue with this solution centers on protecting the privacy of the disabled person. This is particularly important when the disabled service animal user is blind or visually impaired. A blind person cannot verify the authenticity of the person asking for the ID. There would be no way to know if it’s a legitimate request or if the person requesting the ID is attempting to obtain personal information (name, address, etc.) with criminal intent.

Another proposed solution is to require that the service animal wear something that clearly identifies that animal as a legitimate service animal. Various proposals suggest that such items could include a vest with text stating it was a service animal, a highly visible tag placed on the collar or other item the dog is wearing, or some type of “special” equipment worn by the animal. At present, any and all such identifying equipment can easily be obtained by any person attempting to fraudulently pass their pet off as a legitimate service animal. Controlling the manufacturing or sale of such items is not only impractical, it borders on absurd. Society does not depend on tight control of who can purchase white lab coats and stethoscopes to validate who is a legitimate medical professional versus who is faking it. Finally, there is an issue of personal dignity with this solution. Highly noticeable equipment on the animal can draw undesired attention to the service animal and the disabled person. Furthermore, such equipment blatantly identifies the person as an individual with a disability, potentially making him or her more vulnerable to harm.

The third commonly proposed solution to the problem of distinguishing legitimate from fake service animals is the implementation of a national or state registry. A registry would have to answer the same questions noted earlier for an ID card scheme regarding what animals get included and how temporary registration of service animals used by foreign visitors is handled. In addition, a system whereby business establishments, transportation providers, and lodging establishments could access the database would need to be developed. It’s important to remember that it’s the specific animal that would be registered. Thus, some way of linking a particular animal with an entry in the registry would be necessary. To be fully operational, that might require all service animals to be microchipped and for all businesses to have chip readers. Even if those issues could be addressed satisfactorily, a national registry would not only impose eligibility requirements that would segregate individuals with disabilities, but also subject the disabled person to the indignity of waiting for store personnel to identify the animal and perform the registry lookup.

As detailed above, all three categories of the proposed solutions are plagued with a variety of significant problems that range across a continuum of expense and complexity. Further, all three depend on accurate identification of the disabled person and/or animal in the first place. No universal method of identifying a disabled person with his/her associated disability-related need for the service animal currently exists.

The good news is that these costly, complicated and discriminatory programs are not needed. Public accommodations already have the ability to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history. In other words, the problems attributed to fake service animals can be addressed within existing legislation.

The Americans with Disabilities Act already contains language regarding a behavior standard. Specifically, in “28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c) – Service animals,” the Act states:
(2) Exceptions. A public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if:
(i) The animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it; or
(ii) The animal is not housebroken.

So now the focus moves to how a business can determine when a service animal’s behavior warrants removal. According to the supplemental information accompanying the 2010 Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title III, the DOJ maintains that “the appropriateness of an exclusion can be assessed by reviewing how a public accommodation addresses comparable situations that do not involve a service animal.” Common sense tells us that the standard of behavior for a child in a family diner is very different than that in an exclusive restaurant.  These same types of measures could be applied when evaluating a service animal’s questionable behavior. For instance, while it might be acceptable for a service animal to bark in an environment where loud cheering or applause was taking place, it would be inappropriate for a service animal to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library or other quiet place.  However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog should be removed. In circumstances where a service animal misbehaves or responds reasonably to a provocation or injury, the public accommodation must give the handler a reasonable opportunity to gain control of the animal but if necessary, take effective steps to prevent further provocation or injury. Such steps may include asking the provocateur to leave.

Further guidance on behavior appears in the DOJ’s 2015 publication titled Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA. The document clearly states that Handler’s must maintain control of the animal at all times, and may not allow the animal to freely wander about the business. It also states that stores are not required to allow service animals to be placed in shopping carts, and those restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink are not required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or fed at the table.

It appears that the primary complaint of business owners and patrons is that the fake service animals are misbehaved in the business establishment. As stated above, the handler of any misbehaved animal may be required to take their animal out. This applies equally to fake or valid service animals. This is as intended. The Act specifies that even valid service animals, when not behaving appropriately, are not granted access rights. As for the question of fake service animals interfering with the effective use of legitimate service animals, no properly trained service animal should fail to behave and function appropriately when in the presence of other well-behaved, under control animals. Thus, for the service animal handler, encountering a well-behaved, under control fake service animal should be no different than encountering another legitimate service animal in a place of business.

Rather than placing a focus on additional regulation or legislation, the focus should be on educating businesses and the public on the existing regulation. All businesses should be comfortable requiring that misbehaved or out of control dogs leave without fearing a violation of the ADA or damaging social media notoriety. If the fakers invest in training such that their animals meet the required behavior standards, then, admittedly, a few more dogs might illegally be present in businesses. But, if their behavior meets the standard, they would be doing no harm to the legitimate service animal users and, one has to wonder what harm they would be doing at all. So let’s stop trying to create identification schemes that are unnecessary, burdensome, and contrary to the spirit, intent, and mandates of the ADA.

Instead, let’s welcome disabled people who seek to engage in ordinary activities of daily life and start making use of existing legislation to stop the disreputable actions of others.

2010 Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III
Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

New Service Dog Training Book is LIVE Today!

TrainBook2CLICK HERE to Purchase

Because I want to make sure that you succeed, this book comes with a COMPLIMENTARY COACHING SESSION In case you have a training question that the book didn’t answer.

This book is dedicated to the veterans of all wars, who with good reason comprise a large portion of those afflicted PTSD and other related disabilities.

Of course, it doesn’t take the carnage of war to cause PTSD; If our own “worst nightmares” become reality, severe psychological wounds can occur when the horror of the traumatic experience crosses the threshold of tolerance.

Training Your Own Service Dog – Book 2 (Psychiatric Service Dogs) takes up where Book 1 leaves off, taking your dog from the basic foundation training common to all Service Dogs, to performing Tasks and Work for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other disorders.

Many people cannot afford the cost nor abide the long waiting lists to acquire a trained Service Dog from an organization and so are opting to train their own.

I believe that everyone who needs (and wants) a Service Dog should be able to have one, so I’m retiring from my Service Dog Training Coach business to focus on consolidating my lifetime of training experience into books (as well as dedicating time to answer questions on the phone or via Skype for my readers).

This book contains detailed information specific to Psychiatric Service Dogs and how they do their Work, including a 30 Day Intensive Training Curriculum with step by step instructions for training your own Psychiatric Service Dog.

I will teach you how to take your dog from the basic foundation training that you learned in Book 1 to teaching specific Tasks and Work that your dog might do to assist with the challenges unique to your situation.

Many people cannot afford the cost nor abide the long waiting lists to acquire a trained Service Dog from an organization and so are opting to train their own.

It’s my hope that my books can help assure that those needing a Service Dog to combat the challenges of living with a disability may now have the means to train their own competent and reliable Service Dog.

If you are training your own Psychiatric Service Dog, this book can help guide you through the process.

CLICK HERE to go to download page.

Tenative Retirement

It is my (tentative) plan to retire from active Coaching, and focus on consolidating my knowledge into books.

I will still be available for my current (as well as any previous) clients, but will be taking few if any new ones.

I plan to teach an occasional Training Seminar, (hands on with dogs) so if that interests you, watch for updates on the website, and you can sign up HERE so that I can notify you by email if I schedule anything.

Please Don’t Let a Child Do This!

I found this video and thought I’d share it. We all know that children are sometimes harder on dogs than they ought to be, which is why they should be supervised while they are still learning how they ought to treat others (canine, fellow humans, or otherwise).

This is a very tolerant dog, (as dogs should be, of course) and his owner should protect him, rather than encouraging the child to abuse him like that.

Testimony To Varah

Here is a video that Varah’s new partner and her husband made for us. I still miss Varah a lot, but knowing that she’s making such an important difference in someone’s life makes it worth it.

Note – The audio seems to be in a loop and plays twice. You can tell when it is starting over because you hear the introduction again…

Varah and Her New Partner

Varah’s new partner is working hard to establish a good relationship with Varah, and Varah is responding well. We’ve been doing daily home visits for them to learn to work together, with lots of bonding time.

Varah is a fully trained service dog who has done a fantastic job mitigating my disability during the time that she has worked for me, and very soon we will be training her to do diabetes alert for her intended new partner. I have no doubt that Varah will excel at that task because she already understands the concept of alerting to my medical condition (which is NOT diabetes) and also does well at the general scent discrimination training games that we play.

In the next day or so Varah is going to have her first overnight stay, and in the meantime her new partner is preparing the scent samples for Varah to train with.

It’s an exciting time for all of us!  🙂



Varah’s Vocabulary

This is a partial list of Varah’s Vocabulary that I am making for her new partner, and I thought that I would share it here. I will add more to it later, but right now we need to get ready to take Varah over for another in-home visit with her new partner, and today we plan to give them some alone time to get to know each other better, thus the need for a written list of the words that Varah knows and exactly what they mean to her.

Sit – Usual dog sit position

Lie – Usual dog lying down position. This is her default position for waiting under the table in a restaurant or to give her something to do if she is alerting or otherwise poking you, and you are already addressing the problem need a break from the “Touching”.

Touch – She pokes with her nose to get your attention to alert to your medical condition, but on her own she learned to do it to get my attention when she needs to go outside. If she wants to go outside, she will run toward the door and back to you between poking. It’s easy to tell the difference.

Stand – She rises to her feet to let you put on her Packs or to allow you to brace yourself on her shoulders to help you stand up.

Stay – Used to get her to hold a position such as Lie, Sit or Stand. Give command as: “Lie, Stay” or “Sit, Stay”

Heel – She should walk beside you, well focused on you, turning and stopping etc when you do. For myself, I do NOT require an automatic “Sit” when stopping, because lots of public places are dirty, or there may be water puddles or snow that I would rather she did not have to sit in…

Come – When you say “Come” she should present herself directly in front of you, making eye contact. For myself, I do NOT require a “sit” when she arrives.

Stand, Stay – She braces herself so that you can brace yourself on her to get up if you have fallen. Be sure to only put weight near her shoulders, above her front legs, and not lower on her back.

Take _______ – “Take” tells her to pick up something that is nearby and in sight, or has a permanent location. “Take Phone” “Take Socks” Etc.

Find _______ – “Find” tells her to go search for an item that is not nearby in sight, and which usually does not have permanent location. “Find dish” “Find ball”

Give – She will hand an object to you.

Tug – She takes an object in her mouth and pulls on it

Open – Usually by pulling on a cloth or rope tied to drawer or door that needs to be pulled open (she does however understand doors pretty well and knows that sometimes they open by pushing.

Shut – She pushes with her nose to Shut a door or drawer that is already open. She has generalized doors and drawers quite well and does cabinet doors and refrigerator doors as well as the ones that you walk through.

Go – Go directs her to walk. She will walk in the direction that you point.

Go In – “Go in” directs her to go into the space under a chair, table or bench or church pew to be out of the way, especially in a public place where she needs to wait. Also for crate or any other such area to which it would logically apply.

Up – Up tells her to go to a higher elevation, such as a couch or bed. “Go up”

Down – “Down” does not mean to assume a lying position, it directs her to go to a lower elevation if she is up on a bed or couch. You would say, “Go down”.

Paws Up – Directs her to put her paws up on something that you indicate.

That – “That” indicates an object for which you are not sure she knows the name. Point to an object and say, “Take That” to have her pick it up. Also, when teaching her a new object word, say, “That’s Monitor” for example, if you would like her to fetch your blood sugar monitor, (which I would recommend)   Then tell her “Touch Monitor” and “Take Monitor” until she learns the word. In the case of the monitor, find a good sturdy case with a handle on it to keep Monitor in, and keep an extra one in a permanent place that is easily accessible to her and teach her where it is.

Leave It – “Leave It” tells her not to touch or bother a certain thing.

Excuse Me – It means she is in the way and will move for you. It pays to be polite!

Rug – Can be a towel or blanket or an actual “rug” for her to lie on for a bed. It also provides a boundary that relieves stress if you need her to stay in one spot, but she doesn’t have to hold a certain position, only confine herself to the rug. It is like crating without the crate. Tell her “Lie on your Rug, Stay. Stay on your Rug”.

Wait – “Wait” is for when she needs to exercise some control, usually before she is about to do something that she knows you are going to ask or allow her to do, like not diving into the food before you put it down, or jumping in or out of a vehicle. However, she is trained to wait for your invitation before getting in or out of a vehicle, so it would be unlikely that you would need it for that situation at this point.

Flip Light – She uses her nose to turn on a light. If it is already on, “Flip Light” will get her to pull it down the other way, and she usually uses her front teeth for that. If the light is above her head you need to teach her the location and provide a chair or something for her to reach it.

Potty – “Potty” is the area that you have designated for her to relieve herself in, not the act of doing it or the excrement itself.

Pee Pee – Urine. This tells her to relieve herself, and it’s a good idea before going somewhere to ask her to do that. She will usually ‘try’ and manage to do a little bit even if she has already done it  recently.

Poop – Feces. Like the above, it reminds her to get on with it if she has to ‘go’.

Socks – She recognizes socks and can find them if you send her on a search, or better yet, keep them in a specific place so that she can fetch you a clean pair when you’re ready to put on your shoes. (Unless you just want to play the “Find It” game, which she enjoys)

Kong – She loves her kong!

Ball – She likes balls of all sizes and will happily go find you one if you ask.

Dish – She recognizes all bowl shaped containers as “Dish” and will fetch it for you, and especially loves bringing you her own so you can put something in it.

Stuffy – A stuffed animal. We usually name them “Stuffy Bear” or “Stuffy Rabbit” to differentiate between them. She especially likes the ones with squeekers, but will randomly perform a ‘squeekectomy’ on them!

Phone – “Phone” refers more to the container that I keep the emergency phone in to protect the phone, rather than the phone itself.

There are more which I will add later…

Just Suppose…

Note: This post is mostly for those who do NOT have a disability. Those of you who do have such challenges are of course very well aware of the limitations and frustrations involved.

I usually advocate that people visualize only good and positive things for themselves, but for the sake of illustration I would like for you to imagine that YOU were to acquire a disability that substantially limits one or more of your major life activities. It would be impossible for me to provide a comprehensive list of examples, given the variety of unfortunate possiblities, but for our demonstration I will use some common disabilities that most people are familiar with.

Suppose that you could not hear. (That can occur for a variety of reasons, you don’t have to be born that way) You can learn sign language to communicate, but door bells, normal alarm clocks, and smoke alarms are useless to you. You cannot hear your child or spouse call your name, and you don’t know when someone rings the door bell.

What if you could hire an employee whose only job was to stay at your side and tell you when your baby cried or to warn you if the smoke alarm goes off, and to wake you in the morning when s/he hears the alarm clock?

Or suppose that you have diabetes. (That can happen unexpectedly too) You have to test your blood sugar level throughout the day and night, but sometimes the levels can still become unexpectedly high or low, even though the food that you have been eating seemed appropriate for the amount of insulin that you had. You can’t always tell when it is happening, and the situation can be life threatening.

What if you could hire an employee who had a “magical” ability to know when your blood sugar was rising or falling and could let you know precisely when it was at a level that is getting unsafe, but well before it is too late to do anything about it?

Suppose that you could not walk, (Yes, that too, could happen to YOU) or perhaps even if you can move yourself from place to place, it’s too painful for you to bend over and pick up an object from the floor. If you drop your pen in the middle of writing an important document and can’t otherwise get to another one, you have to hope that you don’t have a deadline, because it is just more than you can handle to get down there to get it.

What if you could hire an employee whose only focus is to wait upon you to the best of his or her ability, picking up what you drop, fetching items that you commonly use, helping you with some of your clothing, or bringing you a drink or snack?

Further suppose that this employee is completely non-judgmental, unobtrusive, dedicated and loyal, and loves you with all of his or her heart and their greatest joy in life is to be beside you serving you as best they can. You don’t have to feel guilty that they have devoted their lives to helping you live a more full and normal life. You love them too, and together you make a great team.

Yes, of course I’m talking about a Service Dog.  🙂

Service Dogs are excellent “employees” who do all of those things and more, enriching the lives of their “employers” and allowing a disabled person to overcome some of the difficulties of living with a disability.

Suppose again that you could not hire this employee because your income is limited by the very disability that you need the employee for…

One last supposition – Suppose that YOU could make a difference in the life of someone who lives with the reality of a disability such those just mentioned?

Here is your chance to help someone who can’t afford the cost of Service Dog Training.

We’d like to help as many people as possible who suffer from disabilities and who desire the Assistance of a Service Dog. If you qualify or know someone that does, you can help by referring them to us and/or make a donation by clicking the Donation button at the top of the page. Thank you in advance…..

Varah Has Found Her New Partner!

We have found Varah’s new partner!  I will now tailor Varah’s tasks to best meet her partner’s needs as we take the time to let them get to know each other and learn to work together. We will do this part of the process slowly so that Varah does not get confused or upset.

Some of you who did not originally train your own dog will probably remember fondly the beginning of the relationship when you first met and began to work with your dog. That is usually an exciting time for everyone!

When it is evident that Varah is comfortable with her new friend, and shows signs of attachment and works eagerly for her, then we will begin the final transfer which will consist of an intense couple of weeks that we all spend together as the human partner is leashed to her new service dog while I supervise and give instructions on all aspects of living with a service dog and utilizing the tasks that Varah is trained to do for her.

So far they are hitting it off well!  🙂



Clips of Varah

I’ll go ahead and post a video and a couple of photos of Varah below. I know they aren’t very good, (my son says I should wait and get better ones) but they are all I happen to have with me at the moment and I want to go ahead and post this now. I’m visiting and working in the Portland Oregon area at the moment and most of my photos are at home on my other computer, but this will at least give you an idea what she looks like….

Varah Getting Drink

Varah Getting Drink





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