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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Fake Service Animal Epidemic - Spotting Fake Certification/Registration/ID

information provided by Ability Chicago Info | July 9, 2015

A Service Dog is a type of assistance dogs specifically Trained to help people who have disabilities. Those disabilities may include visual difficulties, hearing impairments, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), seizures, ambulatory issues, mental illness, diabetes, autism, and more
A Certification does not mean an individual dog is a service dog. Neither does registration or an official looking ID. There are several businesses selling fake certification, registration and IDs over the internet. All a person need do to get these products is pay a fee. Their dog is never tested and their disability is never verified. All the product really means is that the person was willing to pay money to get it.
If you question whether ID or certification is legitimate, a quick internet search of the name of the organization will reveal whether it is an agency that actually trains service dogs, or one that merely certifies, registers, or identifies any dog sight-unseen for a fee.
How can you tell a REAL service dog if ID cards and certificates are actually meaningless? The US Department of Justice permits businesses to ask two questions:
  1. Is this a service dog required because of disability?
  2. What is it trained to do to mitigate the disability

Remember that "animals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals..." so a service animal must be specifically trained to DO something.
Additionally, if the animal behaves inappropriately, by disrupting business, behaving aggressively, interfering with other patrons or clients (say by sniffing them or jumping up on them), or toileting inappropriately, then it doesn't matter whether it is a service dog because you can still exclude it on the basis of "fundamental alteration" or "direct threat."
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards). http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
BE WARNED: when you see a fake certification, it is a STRONG indication that the dog is not a legitimate service dog. People with legitimate service dogs tend to be familiar with laws and know that certification is not required so long as the dog meets the legal definition. Those who purchase fake certification do so because they, or those they encounter, doubt their dog's real status and it is easier to purchase a fake document than to actually get their dog properly trained and evaluated by an expert.
A few examples of certification/registration/ID for a fee schemes:
  • SARA (Service Animal Registry of America)
  • USARplus (United Service Animal Registry) *
  • Goldstar German Shepherds
  • SDA (Service Dogs America)
  • Registered Service Dog
  • SDCA (Service Dog Certification of America, aka Certify My Dog)
  • NSAR (National Service Animal Registry)
  • American Service Dogs
  • Service Dog ID
  • Certified Service Dog
  • National Association of Service Dogs
  • Service Dog Tags, aka emotionalsupportanimals dot org **
  • Free My Paws
  • CRTASA (Canadian Registry of Therapy Animals and Service Animals)
  • USSDR (United States Service Dog Registry) - registration is free, but they also sell official looking certificates and ID
  • emosdogtags ***
  • registermyserviceanimal
Note: Not a single service listed above tests the dogs they certify, register, or ID. They do nothing to verify the dog's training or the owner's disability. All that is required is that the purchaser fill out a form with the information for the certificate and where to mail it, and include payment ranging from $35 to over $200 depending on the package being purchased.
Here are some quotes from some of the sites above:
  • "Since 2003, Goldstar has certified over 1,300 dogs of various breeds, large, medium, and small."
  • "SDA recognizes that every person in America may have some form of disability."
  • "Get an SDA kit so your dog can accompany you everywhere you need."
  • "This is a site designed to assist disabled people in obtaining a valid certification and ID card for their service dog so that you can take it on public transportation, into public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc."
  • "Service Dog Certification of America recognizes that every person in The United States of America may have some form of disability."
  • "If your dog exhibits occasional nipping, Service Dog Certification of America recommends muzzling."
  • "Your "canine helper" is moments away from becoming a Certified Service Dog through Service Dog Certification of America!"
  • "Yes, You Can Take Your Dog or Cat With You! It's no secret that many businesses simply aren't pet-friendly, even though most of the population is. A large number of our clients register their dogs (cats and other animals) as Certified Service Animals or Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) not just to accompany them into stores, restaurants, motels, or on airline flights (for no extra cost), but to successfully qualify for housing where pets aren't allowed."

At least one business, Free My Paws, has taken it to a new level. They put an expiration date on their ID cards so you have to buy new ones each year, to the tune of $19.99. "In order to remain compliant with most Transport Administration's requirement that documentation be current within one year, we require our clients to renew their IDs each year. Note that the same rules may also apply to any Doctor's certificates you provide airlines when travelling. If you purchased your ID as part of a kit, an ID renewal is available for $19.99 per annum (normally $39.99)." It's interesting to note that regulatory law does not in fact require ID to be less than a year old, but the doctor's letter which accompanies an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal must be less than a year old. 
The DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION regulatory law: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/20030509.pdf
Example of Fake Service Dog ID
Ask yourself why the regulation requires a current doctor's letter. It's not to prove you've paid your annual fee for a meaningless ID card, but as evidence your treating physician still feels you qualify as disabled and require either an ESA or PSD. Since they don't require any sort of documentation to purchase their ID kits (ranging up to $200), their card wouldn't meet the requirement of a current doctor's letter for those that must have documentation. Other than this specific case (a doctor's letter for an ESA or PSD), documentation is only required if the person's story is not credible. I personally fly all the time with my service dog, without issue and without showing ID, but he is a real service dog, and it does show in his behavior and demeanor.
A simple search at Ebay (photo) turned up many businesses selling ID certification over the internet: http://www.ebay.com/bhp/service-dog-id
How's this for honesty?
Business owners, take heed: this problem is becoming rampant as more and more people enter the market of selling certification, registration, and IDs (including laminated cards, collars, leashes, and vests) for service dogs to anyone, for a fee, and without any oversight. The lure of selling something that costs less than a buck to make (such as a certificate or ID card) for $30 and more, can be too tempting to pass by.
Vest's are easily available on sites such as Amazon, Ebay, Etsy to name just a few.

1 comment:

Jim Watkins, Ability Chicago Info said...

On March 28, 2017 a question was asked, hopefully answer provided offers help:
I have a question, I want to know if this website https://www.registermyserviceanimal.com/emotional-support-animal-requirements.html, is legit? Because I would like to travel. My child has a disability and has emotional support pet. We can't go to the doc again and again for the letters. It's hassling so we thought we can get these pets certified. Can you please advise.

NO IT IS NOT - Emotional support and psychiatric service animals – Individuals who travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may need to provide specific documentation to establish that they have a disability and the reason the animal must travel with them. Individuals who wish to travel with their emotional support or psychiatric animals should contact the airline ahead of time to find out what kind of documentation is required.
Examples of documentation that may be requested by the airline: Current documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a licensed mental health professional stating (1) the passenger has a mental health-related disability listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV); (2) having the animal accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment; (3) the individual providing the assessment of the passenger is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and (4) the date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.16 This documentation may be required as a condition of permitting the animal to accompany the passenger in the cabin.