ADA to Crack Down on Bogus Service Animals

Mar 01, 2011
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New ADA rules may only protect dogs and miniature horses as service animals due to progressively more people buying bogus Internet-based National Service Animal Registry credentials to declare their pets as service animals.

It is becoming increasingly common for people with disabilities to own service animals such as seeing eye dogs, as helpers to cope with seizures, monitor meds, and for minimizing behavior problems for children with autism. Yet there are creatures of all types working as service animals such as Capuchin monkey helpers, and even more unusual service animals like ferrets, parrots, pot-bellied pigs, and snakes. If these peculiar animals have service-animal credentials, businesses could face $55,000 civil penalties for asking about disability or denying access and thereby violating a person’s civil rights.

However, starting on March 15th, only service dogs and trained miniature horses will be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, reports The Wall Street Journal. Why this drastic change? Because some people believe there are too many bogus service animals – people who are taking advantage of the system in order to keep their beloved pets handy at all times.

WSJ mentioned two service iguanas which freak some people out. Cosmie Silfa has a large iguana service animal called Skippy. When Silfa takes his iguana on the bus and for walks in the park, he totes around a letter from his psychiatrist stating that Skippy “helps him to maintain a stable mood” which helps his depression and helps to keep him clean and sober.

Roy Mair works at the front desk of the subsidized housing unit where Silfa lives and stated that Silfa “cradles him like a baby, a big scary baby.”

Yet Skippy may truly help Silfa, unlike Rhonda Kimmel who has no disability and bought her terrier, Maxx, a therapy dog vest online. She takes Maxx everywhere she goes; Rhonda gets by with it because businesses don’t risk the $50k penality by suggesting Rhonda is neither disabled, nor is her dog a service animal. She told WSJ that she “hates to ‘take advantage.’ But she lives in such a hot climate, she argues that the only place Maxx can get some decent summer exercise is in the air-conditioned mall.”

People such as she, pretending to have a disability and passing off bogus pets as service animals, are the ones who may ruin therapy and service animals for everyone. In Rhonda’s case, it’s a dog which will for sure still be an ADA safely declared service animal in which businesses still will take great risks to asks about disability or reason for the service animal.

Some people use the excuse of service animals to take their pets on planes and to avoid shipping them as cargo. Airlines are only allowed to ask passengers with physical disabilities how the animal assists them, but people with psychiatric or emotional-support animals are required to “submit a letter from a licensed mental-health professional that documents their mental or emotional illness.”

President of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society, Joan Esnayra, said, “We are forced to disclose we are mentally ill in order to fly. It’s un-American. Everyone with a service dog should be treated the same.”

Although I’ve yet to see a miniature seeing-eye horse inside the grocery story working as a service animal, they – like dogs – will be ADA approved in businesses where food is served or sold for human consumption. Other species of trained service animals are expected to be permitted in some other public places. If peculiar animals are truly certified as service animals but the ADA bans them, then aren’t we moving backwards in people with disabilities rights and in their abilities to live a “mainstream” life?

Author: Tessa



  • http://www.moldremoval.org Mold Testing

    Surprisingly! It is like you understand my mind!

  • Skippys Dad

    It is quite peculiar the way the system works. Even though Skippy & I saved each other’s life, I never take advantage. I don’t take him everywhere, or very crowded places, or food establishments any more, since he’s so attention grabbing now. We just want to continue to enjoy our lives, with each other’s company, since we understand one another so well.

  • Kay

    Dear Rhonda: Shame on you. There should be a $50k penalty for people like you who take advantage. You don’t “hate to take advantage” — if you did, you would respect the people who truly need service dogs and not bring your PET with you everywhere. You are a liar and a fraud.  

    And by the way, “therapy dogs” are not service animals, and do not have public access rights. Any business would be well within their right to ask you to remove your dog from their place of business. 

    I hope someone does. 

    Tessa: I hope you will forward this comment on to Rhonda. 

  • Meghan Ace

    Rhonda you should know better than that, because of what you are doing is making it hard for people with actual disabilities like myself. See unlike you with no “fake” disability, I actually have 2, PTSD and damaged shins, which actually makes it difficult to walk but unlike you due to my injuries, I have to wear cam-walkers to walk correctly. And Im military on top of that. But unlike your Maxx , my Max was given to me as a trained Service dog, and is trained to help me. I didnt pay a bogus fee, to make him one. But i will say this I take him where I go when Im not with friends to help me. When i have help he stays home to play with the other dogs, but still i didnt pay a bogus fee to have him. Its individuals like you who, ruin the reason we have our dogs to help us.