What Is A Service Dog?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person in a wheelchair may have a dog that is trained to open doors and retrieve dropped items. A person with
diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. Or a person who has suffered a stroke may have a dog that assists with balance needs and aids with redirection to then help the person remain safe from obstacles.

We adhere to the guidelines of International Associations of Assistance Dog Partners.

What do we think of fake service dogs?
Do you have a few hours to listen to us talk about how hurtful this is to those who truly need the assistance of a service dog? The influx of people who want to take advantage of the concept of taking their pet with them has increased and it’s up to us to spread the work that it’s not a victimless crime.

Doing this is harmful to the following:
Businesses – nobody wants to visit a location where there are dogs unfettered, begging and/or barking. This drives away customers and hurts the locations bottom line.
Service Dog Handlers – Fake dogs break the trust that the public has for service dogs. Businesses will question and put undue stress on handlers if they have been burnt by fake service dogs. This is not hypothetical – it has happened to our recipients and it is embarrassing, stressful and hurtful.
Service Dog Trainers – we work hard to get our dogs ready for any situation and the same loss of trust for handlers goes for trainers. If we can’t train in public, we can’t get these dogs ready for their real-world situations.
The Dog – Imagine the concentration it takes and years of training to be able to be so well trained in public. Now, take that fake service dog and put him into the same setting. Does that seem fair to that dog to have to endure the stress of dealing with what takes YEARS of training? It’s an undue stress to put these dogs through this so you can have your pet with you at a store.
The person committing this offense – Yes, it does harm you. Is taking your pet with you everywhere worth losing credibility? Being turned away because you have this fake service dog? Worse yet, your reputation as someone who’s harmful to the disabled community? Is it worth that?
The disabled community – if enough people run into problems and trials with businesses, do you think this helps the community – no. It’s harder for people to go out to eat, go shopping or to the movies. Worse yet, it’s harder for people to rent apartments, travel to hotels and fly on airplanes.

Stay away from the individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or register documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof the dogs is a service animal.

Once again, by participating in this ‘harmless’ activity, you are putting those in need at risk. You would NEVER risk someone’s wheelchair access or make it impossible to use a walker, access braille communications or remove a hearing aid – so why would anyone think it’s ok to take steps that make it harder for the disabled to use their service dog? You wouldn’t use crutches or a wheelchair to make your life “easier” so don’t pass your pet off as a service dog. Be respectful to those in need and leave your pet at home.

Ok, rant done, but if you want to talk more about this, ask any of our volunteers, we can share our own personal horror stories of how this has harmed our community.

Helpful links
ADA – https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html
Illinois attorney General – http://www.ag.state.il.us/rights/servanimals.html
International Associations of Assistance Dog Partners – http://www.Iaadp.org