The Department of Justice recently released a document explaining what constitutes a service animal. According to the ADA revised guidelines of 2011, a service animal is “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” These revisions to the ADA were made in part to stop people without disabilities from pretending their pets are service animals.
While I myself do not use a service animal, several of my blind friends can travel independently thanks to their dog guides. Hearing about people posing their pet snakes, monkeys, birds and even pigs as service animals infuriates me. Individuals with disabilities utilize service animals to be more independent, not simply because they want to have their pets with them all the time.
I applaud the government’s effort to clarify the definition and duties of service animals, but more needs to be done to decrease the number of people who pose pets as such. Several dog guide schools give students identification cards, but public entities are not allowed to require patrons to show such documentation in order to provide service. Furthermore, people can easily purchase things like vests, harnesses, etc. online.
Much more needs to be done to stop people from using their pets as service animals, but the reality is that it is not as easy as it might appear. The government should do more to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and penalize non-disabled individuals who think lying about their pets is cool. People need to understand the importance of service animals to those of us with disabilities. These creatures are much more than your average pet because they give independence to people, whether that might be leading someone who is blind across the street or picking up something from the ground for someone in a wheelchair.
You can read more about this new document here. Have you heard or seen stories of people using fake service animals? If you use a service animal, what are your experiences? Please share your thoughts and comments, and thanks as always for reading!