GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

March 8, 2013

Don't fake it with Fido

Falsely claiming pet as service animal could cost you

You love your dog.

Wouldn’t it be nice, when traveling, to take him right on the airplane instead of putting him in a crate in the cargo hold? Or, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take him anywhere you want, and rent any apartment you want, without worrying that someone will tell you he’s not welcome?

A lot of people feel the same way. The problem is that they may be trying to accomplish those things by breaking federal law, and there are some questionable companies making it all too easy for them to do so.

If you think having a service dog is as easy as buying a service dog certification card and vest, beware! According to Service Dog Central (http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/), a community of service dog partners and trainers, “There are criminal penalties for falsely claiming a pet as a service animal. These penalties can range from a small fine, to one over $1,000 or a few days in jail up to a year in jail, depending on how the offense is committed and where. In some cases, the dog is confiscated and the owner may have a lengthy court battle to get the dog back.”

Legitimately disabled people who are paired with a service dog, whether they trained the dog (not many people have the skill to train a dog to do complex tasks that are sometimes required of these dogs, but it is not illegal for a dog to be owner-trained), or whether the dog was professionally trained, are feeling the heat from business proprietors and others who are now routinely confronted with pet dogs that aren’t really service dogs. This is unfair to disabled individuals with real assistance animals, and is largely due to the number of pets that are causing disruption to those businesses because they really don’t have the high level of training necessary for service dog work.

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