Service dog 720x360I’m a dog lover, but I still can’t understand why a traveler would pretend their Fido is a service dog when it’s really not. Did you know that airlines can only accommodate a certain number of animals? That means that people traveling with legitimate service dogs might be bumped from their flights when that happens. If that’s not bad enough: Fake service dogs that are aggressive or growl can throw off a real service animal’s training to the point that it no longer can do its tasks because it feels threatened. And this can happen.

According to Deb Davis, a community outreach manager for Paws with a Cause of Wayland in an interview with USA Today, “it’s easy to spot the impostor service dogs: those carried in a purse, or those that growl, bark or act aggressively.” The whole article is eye-opening, as it gets into how to spot a phony service animal and how the airlines are responding to the practice. Check it out here.



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10 Comments On "How to Spot a Fake Service Dog on a Plane"
  1. LL|

    This is incredibly offensive. You cannot spot all disabilities, and a dog doesn’t have to be a golden retriever to be a service dog. Yes people abuse it, but articles like this are part of the problem, and encourages people to call out people who may not have a visible physical disability, like veterans with PTSD, or people that have allergies. Most airlines require a notarized doctors note, so maybe a bigger problem is physicians blindly approve service dogs to those who don’t truly need it. Worst tip of the day.

    1. chris|

      Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs (and miniature horses) are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
      Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.
      Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.
      Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
      Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.
      Service dog fraud is a misdemeanor in California law. (and several other states)
      The potential penalties include:
      Misdemeanor (summary) probation; Up to six (6) months in county jail; and/or A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).

  2. Kathy W|

    Fake service animals have been a pet peeve of mine for awhile. You see dogs everywhere, including places like Trader Joe’s, and when I ask the workers about it, I’m told that all they are allowed to ask is, is this a service animal. If the person says yes they are not allowed to ask for proof. And these fake service animals do bark and growl at the real service animal! I wish someone would get a backbone about this and stop the shameful practice.

    1. chris|

      Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

      Read more at:

  3. Kay|

    We were recently on a RCCL cruise and there were 2 dogs that we saw on the ship. One was definitely a service animal to a blind person but the other just looked like their little pet that they couldn’t part with for the cruise. The dog was even in a baby pouch on the man’s chest. It’s a shame that people have taken advantage of this service dog allowance to bring their pets on a cruise! This was the first time we had ever seen dogs on a ship and we have taken over 50 cruises!!!!

  4. Lin|

    Doctors do suggest animals for people who have depression or anxiety. Someone may not be blind but there could be other reasons they have a ‘service’ animal.

  5. R|

    This is incredibly offensive and ignorant. I have a traumatic brain injury – one of many types of disability that you can’t “see” just by looking at someone. And think only certain types of dogs can be service dogs? Again, totally ignorant. My service dog is 12 pounds and works in a backpack. Your ignorance doesn’t make my disability or my service dog any less real.

  6. SNH|

    Don’t be so quick to judge unless you know all the circumstances. We just found out my 9 year old grandson has JD1. He looks and acts just like any normal child his age (which he is). If his blood sugar levels are low or high, then he could die. There are service animals that can warn you when you need insulin or a snack. If you see him or any other person walking through an airport with an animal, then stop and think before you judge. There may be a reason.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Very good point and note taken.

  7. Richard Vaughton|

    I have heard so many people talk about this recently and it seems there are people who really need service dogs and those that use it purely as an excuse to make their lives easier. I can understand the annoyance of those who need the help, but abuse of any system brings more controls and this may then affect those on the median line. Miniature horses! That’s a new one.

    We are building a site for a client and this topic has raised its head, so researching it now.

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