Canada Cracks Down on Fake Service Dogs — Why Can’t the U.S. Do This?

It’s simple: Require training from qualified facilities, and give service dogs official ID cards.

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It’s a law that makes so much sense, you wonder why it’s so hard to get one like it passed everywhere.

The problem: Fake service dogs. Buying a vest is as easy as a click of a mouse. People pass off their dogs as service animals in order to travel with their pets or enter restaurants with them. However, this makes it more difficult for people with disabilities who depend on trained service animals for daily tasks.

The solution: A common-sense law just like that one that the government of British Columbia, Canada, started enforcing yesterday.

Under the new Canadian law, called the Guide Dog and Service Dog Certification Act:

  • Service dogs must be training-certified, either by approved training schools or through a government certification test.
  • Identification cards are issued.
  • Now that it’s clear which dogs are truly service dogs and which ones aren’t, businesses or landlords that refuse to allow service dogs face much higher fines.
  • Finally, people who try to fake a service dog can receive fines of up to $2,000 — 10 times higher than in the past.

Makes sense, right? So why can’t the United States pass legislation like this?

Petful has been covering this issue since the release of our special report Fake Service Dogs, Real Problem in 2012. Fake service dogs are a real problem because, as one of our readers puts it:

“I need my service dog. She is essential to my disability and my ability to get through the day…. My service dog and I have faced people who think we are faking it. My dog has been distracted by people who, believing she isn’t an actual service dog, reach out to pet, hug or tug on her. During the moments she is distracted it becomes dangerous for me; she is not paying attention to the changes in my medical condition, so I become vulnerable since I am relying on her to alert me.”

As it stands, service dog fraud in the United States is “all too easy” because you can simply buy a vest and a fake certificate online for $50, says Jennifer Hanes, an instructor with Canine Companions for Independence, which trains assistance dogs.

She says her clients, who really do have disabilities, are “being met with increased skepticism from businesses … because maybe they’ve had bad behavior in the past from a dog that’s not really a service dog but has been fitted with a vest and brought into public.”

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Canine Companions for Independence is petitioning the Department of Justice to do something about the problem. So far, the group has collected more than 25,000 signatures.

“It’s not a vest that makes a service dog,” says Hanes. “It’s the training that makes a service dog.”

Sources: CBC, WTSP


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Petful®, formerly known as Pets Adviser, is passionate about helping pets live happier, healthier lives. Our writers include veterinarians Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, and Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, among other experts. We are a veterinarian-recommended source of trusted information. Founded by award-winning journalist and editor Dave Baker, a longtime advocate for pet food safety, Petful is the leading independent source of U.S. pet food recall information on the web. Learn more about the amazing team behind Petful here: Meet the Team.

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