Guest Post: fake service dogs

For working dog month at Embrace, Dr Riggs, talks about the impact of fake service dogs and their impact on true service dogs, plus how you can help do something about it.


Service dogs change people’s lives. That is a fact. There are dogs that detect seizures in epileptics before they happen, dogs that are seeing eyes, dogs able to tell glucose levels in diabetics, and dogs that help people with mundane tasks that we all take for granted.

Service dogs can be true lifesavers. There are many great organizations that train dogs to be service dogs. I have been fortunate to be involved with a wonderful organization, Canine Companions for Independence, for almost 20 years now.

Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. Headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA, Canine Companions is the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs, and is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. The result is a life full of increased independence and loving companionship.

I have seen so many lives changed in so many ways by these wonderful dogs. These dogs go through extensive training from the time they are born right up to 2 years of age when they are presented to their companion person, which we call graduates.

These dogs know 35 commands. These are very well trained companions. They go everywhere with the graduate. The store, restaurants, sporting events, work, on planes, trains and automobiles. The graduate and their dog companions are a team. The dogs are trained to perform their duties and remain calm and quiet and not to disrupt anyone around them. In fact, if you see a service dog with its working vest on, do not attempt to come up and pet him/her without the graduate’s permission, because they are working, they are not pets.

Unfortunately, a cottage industry in service dog fraud has sprung up and you can find a number of internet websites willing to sell service dog’s vests along with “identification papers” to anyone willing to pay them. These fake vests are causing a lot of inconvenience and hassle to the legitimate service dogs and their companions. People then use them fake vests to take their dogs into public areas where other pets are not allowed.  Untrained dogs can cause all sorts of problems that make some business owners deny access to real service dogs and the graduate. Denying a service dog’s access to a public place is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Corey Hudson, CEO of Canine Companions for Independence, is spearheading a letter writing campaign to the Department of Justice to stop the sale of these fake vests. If you believe service dog vests should only be for true service dogs, please go to the website cci.org/stopfraud to send a letter yourself.

Remember…. “Some angels have wings…others have tails”.

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Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.


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