Lots of people have fake service dogs. This unsavory practice is bad for folks who truly rely on service dogs to get through the day, and it erodes the goodwill of the public toward service dogs. And every day we hear about more people running around with the fake certificates, confronting anyone who dares to question that the dog eating garlic twists from their lap at the Sbarros is anything but a medically needed hearing dog — or therapy dog. Uh, I mean, seeing-eye dog. Wait, what was it again?
Then we hear this, courtesy of PhillyBurbs.com. A Pennsylvania lady — a Bonehead? Yes, lets call her that — goes into court, in front a judge, with her little fake service dog.
Bucks County District Judge Daniel Baranoski regrets to inform the court that he got bamboozled by the bold women, who waltzed into his courtroom with her Dachshund and sat down in the gallery. She was there for a hearing on a traffic ticket. The dog was there because the woman is a Bonehead. As she was waiting for her case to be called, Baranoski piped up.
The judge questioned her about the dog.
The woman responded that he was a service dog.
Judge: “What service does the dog provide?”
The woman: “Psychological!”
And then she swept a business card from her purse and presented it to the judge with a flourish (which is to say, we like to think it was a flourish). The paper said the dog was “properly registered” with the “United States Service Dog Registry.”
Hah! Have you seen the United States Service Dog Registry? It looks official, sure. But for $50, you can buy whatever credentials you like, including a “documentation package” with a fancy certificate. (One PetsAdviser writer who did just that said, “We’re talking digital watermark, security foil hologram, color-shifting printing, the whole works.”)
You’ll also note the fine print on the Service Dog Registry home page: “Not affiliated with any government agency. Registrant data is based on assertions by dog owner. Registration is not required by the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act].”
Our judge, about as knowledgeable of the United States Service Dog Registry as a salesperson at Anne Taylor, let the woman stay with her dog.
But he took the woman’s case next, to get the dog out of the courtroom. Yes, he gave preferential treatment to a woman who brought a fake service dog into a court of law.
Later, because the judge was in a place full of people busy figuring out laws, he found out that he had been (probably) bamboozled. His staff told his honor that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require such “documentation” (namely, a fake business card that says your dog is “properly registered”) and that the United States Service Dog Registry is considered “questionable” by people who know such things.
It looks like our Bonehead was just another brazen person who is uses the delicate nature of the law to circumvent the hell out of it.
The problem with this, of course, is that your typical fake service dog is not an expertly trained machine who’s undergone years of study to behave like a pro in public. Your typical fake service dog is just a dog the owner really wants to be around all the time. Kind of like most dogs.
As the article says, “Such deception is making life harder for people with disabilities who rely on service dogs and face additional scrutiny and skepticism from business owners.”
At least Judge Baranoski won’t be fooled again. He has told colleagues to be on the lookout for this crap.