You hate to go anywhere without your pet.
We get it, and we feel the exact same way.
It’s tough to find an apartment or house rental that accept pets. Those that do charge expensive pet fees.
It’s tough to travel when it costs about $125 each way to take your pet on an airplane with you. It’s even more expensive – not to mention nerve-wracking – when your larger pet has to fly in the cargo area.
And it’s tough to socialize and exercise your pet when you also have to run errands.
But turning your pet into a fake service animal is not the answer.
The Differences Between Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, And Therapy Pets
Many people don’t realize that there are different kinds of working animals with unique rights and purposes.
What’s a Service Animal?
Service Animals are specially trained to perform tasks for their disabled handler. The handler has a disability that makes it difficult, even impossible, to go about their lives without the help of their service animal.
Not every service dog handler has an obvious disability. They can also help autistic people navigate difficult situations, detect oncoming seizures, drops in blood pressure or blood sugar and other potentially dangerous situations.
Service animal handlers are permitted to bring their service animal everywhere. In the US, their rights are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They can bring the animal to stores, restaurants, national parks, museums – anywhere. They also do not have to pay a fee to bring the animal on an airplane, into a hotel room or to live in rented housing.
What’s an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional Support Animals are not necessarily specially trained. They simply provide emotional comfort for their disabled handler, who may have a condition such as PTSD or severe depression.
Emotional Support Animals are NOT permitted to go to stores, restaurants, and other public places. But they are allowed to live in pet-free rented housing and ride in-cabin when their handler travels on an airplane for free.
What’s a Therapy Animal?
Therapy Animals are laid-back animals that are trained to interact with the public. Their handler is typically not disabled. Therapy animals visit nursing homes, schools, hospitals and other institutions to provide comfort to many people.
Therapy animals do NOT have special rights to access public places. They do not get to ride airplanes or live in pet-free housing for free.
When Fake Service Animals Meet Real Working Animals
You may have seen ads from online services claiming that, for a small fee, you can have your pet legally registered as a service animal. The service provides a doctor’s note from a physician in another country that proves you have a disability… even if you really don’t. These shady businesses may also send you a vest and badge for your pet to wear.
Real service animals are trained to ignore everyone except their handler. Fake service animals act like pets. They may have accidents, bark at people or seek attention. They may also attack or try to play with real service animals that trying to do their job.
Just one interaction with a fake service animal can ruin months of training and could be extremely stressful for the animal’s disabled handler.
Fake Service Animals Give Working Animals A Bad Rap
It sounds like fun to have your dog with you everywhere you go. But for a disabled person who actually needs a service animal, it’s no cakewalk.
With fake service animals on the rise, more store owners and staff are becoming suspicious of real service animal teams that enter their public place of business.
ADA law states that service dog handlers can only be asked two questions:
“Is the animal required because of a disability?”
“What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”
Even so, uninformed staff might (illegally) ask the handler probing questions, or demand proof of their disability, which can be very distressing.
New Laws Make Fake Service Animals Illegal
Faking a service animal has become a crime in some jurisdictions. While it is difficult for these laws to be enforced, the hefty fines were designed as a deterrent.
Even if it’s not technically illegal in your area just yet, it’s always better to be honest.
Better Solutions To Pet Travel and Housing Issues
Okay, so now you understand why it’s not a good idea to pass your pet off as a working animal.
If you’re having trouble finding a home to rent with your pets, consider applying to pet-free housing anyway. You can create a pet resume that highlights your pet’s good behavior and best qualities. Some landlords will bend their own rules for a well-behaved pet.
If you want to socialize your pet in stores, many retail businesses allow well-behaved pets. Most Lowe’s and Home Depot stores allow pets, but you will need to call your local store to check. Of course, pet supply stores typically allow animals to shop.
Travelling can be difficult, expensive and stressful when you bring your pets. It might make sense to leave your pets at home and have a pet sitter visit them several times each day for walks and feeding. A professional pet sitter from Pet Sitters International is the best choice because they’re trained in pet CPR and first aid.
Fake service animals are a serious issue. Share on social media to spread the knowledge!