Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a 6-part series, “Fake Service Dogs, Real Problem.” (You can go back to Part 1 here.) The following article was written by Stacy Fromgolds.
* * *
New Yorkers, there’s a good chance you’ve seen me walking the streets in Manhattan. Maybe you’ve seen me in the grocery store with my service dog, or running into the coffee shop to pick up a latte with him.
I don’t stay for too long. Most of the time, I get “carded,” so I flash his credentials, which are kept in my wallet and on his safety vest. Then on rare occasions, they’ll examine his tags — which all note that he’s a registered service dog.
No questions asked. Why would there be? I have a big dog, and they probably figure, Why would she lie? For a business it’s against the law, not to mention just plain rude, to ask someone why she needs a service dog.
Here’s the thing. I am lying. My pet is not a real service dog. I don’t have any disabilities that would cause me to need one (unless you count having some mental issues from time to time, but who doesn’t?).
So Why Do I Do It?
Before we get to the “why,” let’s first talk about the “how.” I simply paid $50 on the United States Service Dog Registry website to get a kit that provided me with incredibly official-looking credentials. (We’re talking digital watermark, security foil hologram, color-shifting printing, the whole works.) Here’s a photo of the package:
Even though the US Service Dog Registry looks and sounds official, it states in fine print at the bottom of the site, “Not affiliated with any government agency.” And anyone can go on the site. You can register your dog for free, and they’ll give you a confirmation number that any official could easily type into the site to “verify” your dog — that is, if they really wanted to make the time and take the hassle to make sure you’re not full of crap. There are other websites like this too.
I know, I know. You want to know why someone like me would go to the trouble of lying about something like having a service dog.
Frankly, I just really like having my dog with me. Is that so bad?
Think of it this way. You’re at a restaurant, and there’s a screaming child running around disrupting your meal. Then there’s a service dog, calmly chilling on the floor. Would you rather sit by that noisy kid? Or would you rather sit next to the dog quietly chilling on the floor next to his owner?
Let’s assume that I can’t have children and that my dog is all I have. Would you see my point in why I’d want to bring him along almost everywhere? Who’s it really bothering if I make sure he’s in line and I’m going about it the right way? Who really has to know? Whose business is it, really?
Go Ahead, Think I’m a Horrible Person
Go ahead and send me hateful comments. It’s really none of my business or concern what you say about me behind my back. I’m admitting that I do this, so I can’t be all that bad.
I’m actually going about this the right way so I won’t mess things up for others. I’m not running around bragging about it and throwing it in people’s faces about how easy it is to do. It is easy. Very easy.
I had a friend who flew with her dog on an international flight to Turkey using the identical documents I had bought on the internet. If you do this, check the animal policies of the country you’re traveling to.
Department of Transportation rules require U.S. airlines to accommodate passengers with service animals and allow human and canine alike to sit in the cabin together on flights. However, don’t be an idiot about it. Even though any breed or type of dog can legitimately be a service dog, according to certain regulations, few will believe that a teacup poodle is a service dog.
Note: Many airlines and establishments don’t take “therapy dogs” seriously or waive the fees for them. You’ve gotta have “service animal” credentials to make that happen.
You can get mad about my little white lie all you want. But why? People are selling drugs, evading taxes, and I’m simply trying to take my dog to get a cup of coffee. Is this something to get that worked up about? I don’t think so.
Then again, some people have a little too much free time on their hands and love to complain about just about anything. Not all fake service dogs are bad dogs; maybe you’ve met mine, and everyone usually loves him. As for the owners, we’re just people trying to beat the system and be able to take our furry companions with us. For all you know, they may be the only ones we have.
* * *
“Stacy Fromgolds” is actually a pen name for a writer who lives in New York City. She asked us to keep her identity anonymous — probably because she knows that her “little white lie” is, in fact, a crime. Despite her claims that there’s nothing wrong with what she’s doing, we can’t help speculating that she really does know, deep down, that pretending to be disabled (!) is just plain wrong. After all, some people depend on their (legitimate) service dogs to literally get out the door every morning.
- “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel.” 14 CFR Part 382. U.S. Department of Transportation.