Fake service dogs cause real problems

Abigail Prichett, Assistant Growl Editor

Wikimedia Commons (Texas A&M University Libraries)

Service dogs play an important role in our society: they aid people with disabilities and help them perform everyday tasks. These dogs are trained from a young age and can help those with a wide range of disabilities including blindness, seizure disorders, and those who are in wheelchairs.

Though these dogs are often on the job, they also provide companionship just like any other dog would. But service dogs are more than just the vests that they wear. Service dogs are specifically trained not to jump on people, growl, or cause any disruptive behavior.

Lately, there has been a surge of fake service dogs shown on social media through TikToks, Tweets, and Facebook posts. Fake service dogs are easy to spot and although they may have a vest on that states “service dog,” they definitely aren’t. These dogs will generally bark, jump, and are less likely to follow orders, as they are just regular dogs.

So why is this so harmful to actual service dogs and their owners? Well, for one, it causes businesses to be more suspicious of those with real service dogs. Some businesses have even tried to refuse those with service dogs, which is actually very illegal.

These fake service dogs can also distract service dogs from their job: helping their owners. For example, specifically trained service dogs can sense when their owner is going to have a seizure. If that dog is distracted, there’s a possibility they could miss the signs of a seizure, causing injury for the owner.

Fake service dogs can give real ones a really bad rap as well. If you have a fake service dog in the store that’s barking at people and trying to jump on them, people will assume that service dogs are obnoxious. Owners of fake service dogs generally allow people to pet their animals, which is a huge red flag that it isn’t a legitimate service dog. Real service dogs have signs on their vests that say “do not pet” and as it says, strangers may not come up and pet them.

In fact, in many states, it is illegal to pretend that your pet is a service animal when they are not. Besides it being illegal, it also just makes you a huge asshole.

Now, you may be thinking, what about emotional support animals (ESA)? Therapy animals? Though emotional support animals do provide support for their owners, they are generally not allowed in public places.

ESA’s are allowed on flights and in apartments that have “no pet” policies, but they are not specially trained. Therapy animals on the other hand, are sometimes allowed in public places, but usually with a specific organization. For example, Pet Therapy at Bloomsburg University provides free therapeutic services to students, therefore the animals are allowed to go into places like the Student Service Center and the library.

All types of support animals are important and lovable, but there are major differences between them that need to be recognized. Even fake service dogs deserve love, they just don’t belong in places like stores and restaurants.

Remember that if you see a service animal in action, leave them alone! They’re on the job. Yes, they may be very cute, but by attempting to pet them or talk to them, you’re preventing them from doing their job. And if you ever have the urge to bring your dog into the store, remember the consequences that could result. Respect service animals and their owners.