I have an issue with the focus of the general public (and some service dog groups) on “fake” service dogs. I was just reading about this in a Facebook group and wanted to share my thoughts here.
The ADA requires a dog to do work or tasks to help with a handler’s disability and behave in public, otherwise the dog can be kicked out.
Notice the ADA doesn’t require perfect behavior! While I would love it if all service dogs were perfect (mine included, please!), valid service dogs still sometimes do things like pull on the leash, eat dropped food, bark, get distracted by another dog or a kid or a person, etc. Just because a dog isn’t a robot doesn’t mean it is a “fake”. Little things like this aren’t disruptive even (unless we’re actively playing “service dog police”), so no cause for even thinking of removing the team.
Even if something major goes wrong, and it rises to the level where a dog can be asked to leave, it doesn’t mean the dog is a “fake” service dog. All dogs have bad days, they are dogs still after all! Of course, if a dog is aggressive, rather than messing up in some other way, the handler needs to re-evaluate the dog before working more.
One of the biggest reasons I don’t like the focus on “fake” service dogs is because it is so very ableist. Ableism is like racism, only towards people with disabilities instead of towards people with certain skin colors.
Going out there with the thought that everyone with a disability should be scrutinized to see if they “really qualify” or whatever is the wrong way to go about things in my opinion. Assuming that everyone who claims a disability is faking it until they prove otherwise is very ableist. We should be accepting of different levels of abilities, and thinking acceptance first instead of things like “that person doesn’t LOOK disabled” or “that dog isn’t perfect” etc. Everyone always has room for improvement and their own struggles to get through.
It’s also very harming to the service dog community as a whole to have the general public so concerned about “fakers”. Everyone is likely to have a harder time of things if the general public is out there trying to police the service dog community. This is one of the reasons the flying rules are so bad—everyone is so worried about “fakers” getting through instead of prioritizing the rights of people with disabilities.
So please, when you see a dog out somewhere in a no-pet place, leave them alone if there’s no obvious problem. If they are disruptive or destructive, you can inform the manager of their rights to remove the dog, but know that it still may be a service dog having a bad day or needing some retraining. Just because it’s not a robot doesn’t mean it’s a “fake”.