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Fake Service Dogs a Menace for Legitimate Owners, Businesses Alike

Hotels, restaurants, shops across Ontario grappling with ‘epidemic’ of fraudulent service animals By Ashley Burke, CBC News Posted: Mar 09, 2018

Pet owners are turning to the internet to buy fake harnesses, vests and even documents so they can pass off their dogs as service animals.

People who rely on service dogs to help them navigate through life are facing some unwanted competition frauds who dress their pets up as working animals so they can take advantage of some of the special services available to people with disabilities.

Staff at hotels, restaurants and retail stores across Ontario say they’ve witnessed customers with animals usually dogs dressed in what they believe to be fake service animal harnesses or vests.

Unlike properly trained service animals, these dogs sometimes bark, jump at people and cause other disruptions.

‘It makes it more difficult for people who actually legitimately do need service animals.’

“It’s wrong,” said Kyle Rawn of Accessibility Professionals of Ontario.

“It’s almost becoming an epidemic across the province.”

Rawn, who is blind and uses a service dog, said it’s also making life more difficult for people like him who rely on the animals because now everyone with a service dog is under scrutiny.

“It’s really unfortunate because it makes it more difficult for people who actually legitimately do need service animals,” he said.

“I understand that people love their animals and they want their animals to be with them, but the law is the law. You shouldn’t be passing off your animal as a service animal. It’s fraud.”

The Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA) hired Rawn as a consultant after receiving dozens of calls over the past year from members concerned about the trend.

The ORHMA has started teaching hospitality industry staff in the province how to detect the scam and handle the situation in a non-discriminatory way.

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