People Are Catching On, And Fakers Do Get Punished ... Sometimes
Those incidents we mentioned just now, when businesses turn away service dogs? They aren't that common. Denying a service dog can turn into a PR nightmare, whether it's by a hotel, an airline, or Popeye's Chicken. "That's why we aren't called out on it more often," says Ashley. "No one wants to be the person bashing the handicapped out of something they need." So when the owner of one family-style restaurant refused her dog entry and finally threatened to call the police, Ashley wasn't shaken. "Do it!" she said. "They'll tell you how wrong you are!"
Within ten minutes, the cops were there.
"I was doing OK in convincing them until they asked if it was an emotional support dog," says Ashley. "To which I said yes. They knew about the service and support distinction, so they knew a lot about these laws. I didn't have to, but I showed them my certificate for my dog, and they said, 'Haven't seen them like this before.'" Now she started to panic, but she was saved by a random coincidence. The officer recognized the name of her doctor and decided to let her go. Petty corruption for the win!
California currently has a $1,000 fine and six months in jail lined up for faking a service dog. In Florida, it's $500 and two months in jail. Other states have measures too, and in case it sounds like a slap on the wrist, that's per count. So Ashley now keeps a lower profile -- including taking tips on how legitimate support animal owners act. "Owners with real problems won't let you touch the dog, or even get near it," she says. "It's working, and you can distract it. Owners taking it on for the hell of it, they'll be like, 'Sure, you can pet them!'" Even with emotional support dogs, you can't do that. "I have to act like that now."
One flight of Ashley's had three support dogs on it. There was her, a woman in a wheelchair, and then the third woman, who had a Chihuahua. "She was letting kids pet the dog," says Ashley, "and I had told those same kids before that my dog was working. The woman in the wheelchair overheard me and said, as we were both looking at her, 'Don't those people make you sick?' She had no idea."
Evan V. Symon is a journalist, interview finder guy, and writer for the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.
Instead of getting your floofer a service vest they're not qualified to wear and doing the general public a bamboozle, how about a heckin' cool but also warm coat instead?
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