Residents Claim Pets Are Service Dogs

18-service dogsBy SUE PASCOE

Many Palisades residents have seen a dog trotting after an owner in Gelson’s and Ralphs grocery stores wearing a vest labeled “Service Dog.” Many of the owners do not appear to have a hearing, sight or other disability.

The News asked one woman about her disability and she replied, “My dog provides emotional support.”

California Health and Safety Code, Section 114259.5 prohibits live animals in a food facility, which includes restaurants, grocery stores, and other places that sell food, such as the Pacific Palisades CVS—except for “service animals.”

Is a dog that provides emotional support a service animal? No, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which defines a service animal as “[A] dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.

“The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability, such as: 1.) assisting sight-impaired persons; 2.) alerting hearing-impaired persons to the presence of people or sounds; 3.) providing nonviolent protection or rescue work; 4.) pulling a wheelchair; 5.) assisting an individual during a seizure; 6.) alerting an individual to the presence of allergens; 7.) retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone; 8.) providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility impairments; and 9.) helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.”

To determine if it is a service dog, the U.S. Department of Justice permits businesses to ask two questions: Is this service dog required because of disability and what is it trained to do to mitigate the disability?

Neither a certification nor vest is needed for a legitimate service dog, but a quick search on the Internet provides an opportunity to register your common household pet as a service dog.

For $139, one site offered the gold service, which includes lifetime registration in the largest Service and Emotional Support Animal registry in the United States, two identification cards and a digital copy, an aluminum identification tag, a red vest, printed and electronic certificate and free shipping.

For $40 less, the silver service provides one ID card and digital copy, one ID tag, a red identification vest and a printed and electronic certificate.

Yet another site charges $36.99 for a service dog vest and two patches. Among the variety of patches to choose from were: Service Dog, Access Required; Service Dog in Training; Working Dog, Do Not Pet; Emotional Support Dog and Psychiatric Service Dog.

Different from a service animal, an emotional support animal may go on some airline flights and may be allowed in some housing situations that restrict pets. But beyond that, this animal has no special access to public places, such as grocery stores, movie theaters or restaurants.

To get the emotional support designation, a doctor or therapist must write a letter saying the owner needs the animal and generally cites a diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Or, for $125 on another Internet site, “It [sic] easy as 1-2-3” to find out if your pet qualifies as an emotional support animal, by: “1. Completing the purchase online and receiving an email with a link to the online diagnosis questionnaire; 2. Submit the form; 3. A registered therapist will contact you for a phone interview; and 4. At the end of the interview, the therapist will make a diagnosis and ‘if they estimate that you suffer from an ailment which would benefit from the presence of an Emotional Support Animal, they will produce the ESA letter.’”

The site warns that the ESA letter is valid for 12 months. “Please note that airlines and landlords will require a letter that is less than 12 month [sic] old.”

Be wary if you try to pass off your pet as a service dog because it is against in the law in California.

Penal Code section 365.7 states: “(a) Any person who knowingly and fraudulently represents himself or herself, through verbal or written notice, to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed as, to be qualified as, or identified as, a guide, signal, or service dog, as defined in subdivisions (d), (e), and (f) of Section 365.5 and paragraph (6) of subdivision (b) of Section 54.1 of the Civil Code, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
Can you tell if this animal is a service dog, emotional support dog or pet? This animal is a pet.


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