Service animals are trained to do the impossible.
They can open doors, turn lights on and off, pull wheelchairs, remind their handlers to take their meds, and alert them of impending seizures, just to mention a few.
These canines are lifesavers and heroes in the eyes of the disabled and the general public.
Without them, their handlers would be in great danger and discomfort.
While there are many genuine service dogs out there, impostors have also sprung up everywhere.
Some dog owners are always looking for an excuse to bring their pets to no-pet areas.
The easiest way is to order a fake service dog vest online, slap it on the dog, and go anywhere with them.
The law doesn’t require any kind of documentation from service dogs. That means they gain access to places they shouldn’t be in.
This begs the question, “How can you catch a fake service dog?”
We’ve listed quick tips in this post. Let’s begin with a few basics…
Why Fake Service Dog Is a Menace
According to this article on CBC, fake service dogs have made life difficult for people who are actually disabled.
This is because staff and business owners put service dog handlers under scrutiny to root out the fakes.
Additionally, having untrained dogs in a facility complicates things for everyone. Those with high prey drives may attack the service dogs and injure them.
Impersonators are not only hard to handle but they spoil the reputation of genuinely trained service dogs.
In summary, impersonating a service dog is very disrespectful to the actual service canines.
How to Catch a Fake Service Dog- 10 Quick Tips
1. Out-of-control dog
You can identify a fake service dog if he isn’t under the control of the handler.
For starters, service dogs should be on a leash unless they are performing a task related to the handler’s disability.
Whether they are on a leash or not, a service animal should remain calm and not out of control.
Rather than being all over the place, he will stand on the left or side of the handler.
His focus shall be on the handler, meaning he will not be pulling the leash, barking endlessly, sniffing like a crazy dog, or anything like that. He should simply obey the commands of his handler.
The opposite should make you concerned.
2. Lack Of Or Insufficient Potty Training
Besides being out of control, a service dog should not have potty incidences in public as well.
The US Code of Federal Regulations actually states that a service animal that urinates and defecates in undesignated areas should be expelled from the establishment.
This only means one thing – any service dog that is yet to be potty-trained doesn’t qualify as a service animal.
If you come across one, high chances are that he is simply a pet in the wrong place.
In such a case, you have the right to remove the dog from your premise.
3. Excessive Barking In Public
Service dogs are some of the most-behaved pups you will ever come across.
They undergo rigorous training aimed at keeping them calm when they are out in public.
Part of the hurdle they must pass is avoiding all distractions including the sight of other dogs, the smell coming from the meat section at the grocery store, and any other attractive object out there.
A service dog that barks uncontrollably when they are out with a handler isn’t fit for the job.
Either he has insufficient training or is just not a service animal in the first place.
4. Begging For Attention From Others
Another tell-tale sign that a service dog is a fake is if he’s constantly in strangers’ faces begging for their attention.
Service animals are trained to focus on their handler unless when carrying out a task for them.
They should remain quiet under the table or beside the owner’s chair and ignore all distractions.
This implies that they have no time to wander off and beg attention from others.
If they did that, who’d watch over their handlers?
5. Whiny and Growly Behavior
We have pointed out that service dogs are calm and peaceful no matter the distractions they come across.
They are trained to the point of fighting their natural instincts to whine and growl when something interesting catches their attention.
Even when they are hungry, they will stay calm until it is time for them to dine.
When a dog can’t keep calm but whines and growls non-stop, you can safely assume that they are fake.
6. Dog Being Pushed In A Cart
Service animals accompanying their handlers are at work. That means they are always on their heels walking or lying down next to them.
Pets or companion animals, on the other hand, may be carried around when out in public.
It is not uncommon to see owners transporting their Chihuahuas in their purses or pushing their animals on carts.
Under no circumstance should a service dog need to be pushed around.
He is the one to pull the wheelchair, run and call for help when his handler has an attack, or pick up items and place them into the shopping cart.
The only time a service dog is carried is when they need to be close to the handler’s chest to monitor their heartbeat.
Even then, you can tell they are at work and not on holiday like their counterparts.
7. Sniffing Everything
Dogs naturally love sniffing on things. Their sense of smell is so strong and is the number one thing that helps them to explore their environment.
However, service dogs are exceptionally trained to ignore this part of their existence when working.
Having to sniff stuff will distract them from performing their duties. It may also come off as unruly behavior in the eyes of the public.
A fake service dog with no training will find it difficult to resist smelling anything and everything.
They will want to sniff other pets, people, food, you name it.
Service dogs, on the other hand, will stay put no matter what scents come their way.
Only Allergen Alert dogs use their nose to perform their task.
However, the sniffing should be directly related to their tasks and not for purposes of exploring.
8. Stealing Food
Besides sniffing everything, some dogs go the extra mile to steal food from strangers in restaurants and other public areas.
If you happen to witness a ‘service dog’ coming over to your table to beg or steal food, you can draw the conclusion that he is no service animal.
Service animals are able to ignore all distractions including yummy food smells.
If their handler is in a restaurant, they sit quietly under the table without moving around too much.
They may change positions from time to time but they cannot wake up and steal food from strangers.
9. Rude Behavior In Public
Excited dogs display all kinds of behaviors in public. They may jump on strangers, rub against them, lick them, roll around, and show their bellies.
Well, these are not acceptable behaviors for service dogs.
As the owner of a no-dog establishment, you have a right to get rid of a service animal if he displays these characteristics.
A dog that does this disturbs the peace of the public. It is worse if the dog is aggressive to the point of growling or intimidating pets and people who are peacefully eating or shopping in the facility.
If the animal refuses to stay calm and sit beside the handler, take action because you certainly have a fake service animal with you.
Related Post: Can A Hotel Ask For Proof Of Service Dog?
10. Destruction To Property
This one is rather obvious. Service dogs are not destructive creatures.
They are trained on basic obedience, public access skills, advanced obedience, and self-control.
There’s simply no time to go around destroying properties and pulling down things when they feel like it.
On the contrary, there’s important work to do. A dog that exhibits excessive drive and energy is not suitable to be a service animal.
A professional trainer will know right away that such a doggie doesn’t qualify to be a service animal.
Destruction of property puts the dog and others in danger and costs the handler a great deal.
What to Do After Catching a Fake Service Dog?
You have spotted a fake service dog. What next?
Well, the best thing to do would be to contact the local police and report what you have observed.
ADA rules are to be followed. A violation of the same is treated as trespassing the law.
The police will come in and question the owners of the alleged fake service dog. Don’t attempt to do it yourself. Things can get ugly for you and your customers.
Secondly, you can report a fake service dog through the ADA’s website. Contact the organization via the phone numbers listed on the official site.
Be sure to give all the information you can. A representative will take up the case and hopefully bring the owner to book.
Whatever you do, don’t confront the fake service dog’s owner yourself.
Desist from asking for proof. The ADA itself doesn’t allow such even for real service animals.
You may deny entry but if the person has a real service dog, you could be sued for the same.
The wise thing to do is to call the authorities or report the dog.
Penalty for Impersonating a Service Dog
According to Nolo, different states have different penalties for fake service dog handlers.
In New Jersey, for example, you risk being fined $100-$500 for slapping a fake harness on the dog.
In California, the fine goes up to $1000 and you can also attract a jail term of up to six months.
Hawaii also fines its victims up to $500 for such a crime according to bill 2461.
Are there real service dog ID cards?
Since the ADA requires no identification for service dogs, there are no official service dog registries in the United States.
The vests that you see around are from voluntary groups just to make life easy for you as a service dog owner.
However, there are countless businesses doing the same for profit. It is difficult to know one from another.
Beware Of Fake Service Dog Registration
Although there are no real service registries, you will often come across websites claiming that they can register your dog.
Some are legit voluntary organizations with tests and training for service dogs.
However, many of them are simply scammers looking to make a quick buck from innocent victims.
The US doesn’t recognize any service dog registry.
Related Post: Most Popular Dog Registry Organizations
There you have it – 10 quick strategies to catch a fake service dog.
Some of these signs are subtle while others are major red flags. Regardless, all of them help identify an impostor.
People who are disabled deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
Those who fake disabilities break the moral code in more ways than one.
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Sable McNeil is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.