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Why We Don't Say "Fake"

I'm sure you've seen it in the news or heard about it online. "That fake service dog bit someone!" or "I saw a service dog pee on the floor it must be fake" or even "That dog looked at me when I made a noise. They must be lying and it must be a fake service dog".

But here at Phenomenal Canine we don't use the word fake and actively ensure our service dog students understand why.

As a service dog trainer you'd be surprised at how many folks are misinformed about how service dogs work. Many well meaning legitimately disabled folks get confused by the conflicting information online. It also doesn't help that businesses also refuse to use their rights and that websites who sell certifications will lie and tell folks it's all they need. Service dogs in the USA do not need IDs or certifications and many will be from scam websites who simply want to part money from disabled folks.

That perfectly well behaved ESA might be a task trained dog. That dog who had an accident may be feeling ill and their owner hadn't noticed. Some folks will even impose their own stricter standard like "a service dog should never look at a stranger". None of these dogs are fake in this scenario. However we wouldn't know this because it is not our job as the public to make this determination.

So what's the solution? Whose job is it to weed out the true service dogs? How can we stop misbehaving dogs in stores where they clearly don't belong? What about that emotional support peacock?!

Well for one businesses need to enforce their rights. In the USA the ADA allows them to ask two questions "Is this a service dog" and "What task do they perform to help mitigate your disability". If the answer is "no", "oh they're an ESA", "oh no therapy dog", "they comfort me", etc then they can be denied access with the animal.

Businesses can also abide by the ADA by only allowing dogs and miniature horses. No peacocks, parrots, or alligators here.

Businesses can also dismiss a dog if they are out of control. A dog who is jumping on people, barking at people, or causing a disruption that is not related to a task can be removed. Even if that handler answered the questions and even if that dog is from a well known program like guiding eyes or canine companions.

I believe that the solution is more education on both ends. Help folks realize what it takes to train a service dog and offer solutions while also educating businesses on what they can do to protect themselves.

For more information about the ADA, please visit or call our toll-free number.

ADA Information Line 800-514-0301 (Voice) and 1-833-610-1264 (TTY) M-W, F 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m., Th 2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) to speak with an ADA Specialist. Calls are confidential.

For people with disabilities, this publication is available in alternate formats.

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