Pretending your dog is a service animal is disrespectful and selfish

by Chelsey Crowne, Contributor

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Loving your pet too much can put people with disabilities at risk.

Buying a vest off of Amazon, pretending your unqualified pet is a service dog and taking them into public spaces damages common perception of what the purpose of these animals are.

I would love nothing more than to shop, dine and travel with my dog, free from restrictions. But, the rules we have in place to regulate animal access to stores or venues are not just there for the sake of having rules. The consequences of bringing imposter service dogs into places they do not belong is that it gives real service dogs a bad reputation.

Service dogs undergo hundreds of hours of training to tune out the outside world and focus exclusively on their handler — a practice that isn’t the standard for every puppy sold worldwide. No matter how well-behaved or good-natured a dog is, there is no guarantee that he or she won’t become a nuisance if spooked or uncomfortable.

Even setting the misbehavior of the average dog in public aside, it’s just disrespectful to feign disability because you want to bring Princess into Vons. People wouldn’t normally tell someone that their prosthetic limb or walking cane is cool or that they wish they had one, so why is it different when the personal assistance is an animal?

The purpose of having a service dog goes far beyond nurturing humans’ innate need for companionship. In many instances these hard-working canines perform tasks their human partners may be unable to do such as retrieving medication or interrupting a PTSD flashback. Even though they are dogs, their purpose is to make the life of someone living with difficulties, physical or otherwise, a little easier. The vast majority of people who wish they could take their dog everywhere with them would probably be unwilling to actually live with the disability required to make that happen. You wouldn’t pretend to be blind to get a reduced bus fare.

Service dogs are one of mankind’s greatest inventions. It’s incredible what they can be trained to do. Don’t discredit their important work by purchasing and using a faux vest for a pet.

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