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Fake Service Dogs

Fake Service Dogs

Old Aug 11, 09, 11:37 am
  #1  
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Fake Service Dogs

A middle age couple sat across the aisle from me on a recent UA flight from LAX to DEN. They had aisle and window seats in Economy Plus on a 757. Accompanying them was a very large poodle wearing a "brand new" service dog vest, along with a fake diamond studded collar. (If they were real diamonds they would have been in the front cabin!) Neither passenger displayed any obvious disabilities and the dog appeared to lack even rudimentary training of a real service dog, so suspected a ruse. I asked the woman what "service" the dog provided. (God knows UA or TSA could never ask this question - their attorneys would wet their pants) To my surprise, she immediately said "none". She proceeded to tell me that United charges $500, round trip, to ship a full sized dog in the luggage hold - something I'm well aware of because I regularly pay that fee to transport my German Sheppard. She said it was easy to find a doctor willing to give her a prescription for a service dog - for no legitimate reason. (Ah yes, the death of ethics, but I digress) Not only was this her way of avoiding the $500 fee, she said flying in the cargo hold was stressful for FiFi. This dog was clearly too large to occupy only the foot area of just one passenger, and sure enough, someone WAS assigned to the middle seat between our two fakers. And how did the FAs handle this? You guessed it; they moved that passenger over to the middle seat next to me, which would have otherwise gone unoccupied. So not only did our fakers avoid a big fee, they got the extra elbow room of an empty middle as a reward for their fraud!

I sure I'm not alone in having many emotions about this. First is contempt for this couple for abusing a legitimate privilege afforded to people with real needs for service animals. Abuse like this will unfortunately push back on them, and that's not fair. Should we blame policy makers for mandating accommodations that are at times unrealistic? And what's next? If I get a prescription for medical marijuana and a stipulation that I might need it at any time, can I pull out a bong and get high on my next flight? Or have the airlines brought this on by jacking up pet transport fees? Unleash the hounds of opinion!
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Old Aug 11, 09, 11:53 am
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You should notify UAL of the seat and flight # so maybe if this couple was on the outbound they'd be snagged on the return.

to the doctor who wrote them that note... if it was even really a doctor's note, considering the couple in the first place.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 11:55 am
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I'm not longer surprised at the types of people that exist in our society, especially in LA. I used to wonder how any parents could reproduce those kindo of human beings. Now, I don't even bother. Oh, that Canadian border is looking more and more appealing
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:02 pm
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I first put blame and contempt on the veterinarian who would issue a fake certification for this dog as a service dog for no apparent reason (by her admission). Secondly, there should be a fine for the couple who abused a legitimate system which provides those in true need with an accommodation. I have witnessed the same type of behavior with disabled placards in cars, where someone who does not need a "disabled" parking space abuses the system and uses someone else's legitimate card to gain access to the space. Unfortunately, we live in a society where abuse of these accommodations will continue.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:13 pm
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And from my understanding, a service dog can be certified for a long list of conditions, including ones that aren't physical impairments. I believe you can have your dog certified due to "emotional stress", needing the dog to calm your nerves when flying. I definitely think it's terrible if people abuse this, just to avoid shipping their pets.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:15 pm
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I agree completely that their prescription was inappropriately written. But I wonder as to the extent to which your emotions are based on the ethics of the situation or your concerns that "you regularly pay that fee" and that they took your "unoccupied middle seat". Personally after getting someone to open up to me by being friendly, I'd shrug the situation off, rather than go begging for bad karma.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:17 pm
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This has nothing to do with UA though. Perhaps Travel Buzz?
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:18 pm
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I don't doubt that there are passengers willing to shamelessly take advantage of the ill-defined rules concerning service animals, but this story doesn't sound legit to me.

Accompanying them was a very large poodle wearing a "brand new" service dog vest, along with a fake diamond studded collar. (If they were real diamonds they would have been in the front cabin!) Neither passenger displayed any obvious disabilities and the dog appeared to lack even rudimentary training of a real service dog, so suspected a ruse. I asked the woman what "service" the dog provided. (God knows UA or TSA could never ask this question - their attorneys would wet their pants) To my surprise, she immediately said "none".
After going to so much trouble to "fake" a service dog, why would the "faker" immediately admit to a stranger that the dog provided no service. Sounds like they were having fun winding you up.

If I were in the position of needing to travel with a service animal, my response to such an inquiry would be, "Excuse me?", followed by, "Why would you ask?, if you persisted.

And how did the FAs handle this? You guessed it; they moved that passenger over to the middle seat next to me, which would have otherwise gone unoccupied. So not only did our fakers avoid a big fee, they got the extra elbow room of an empty middle as a reward for their fraud!

Last edited by hat attack; Apr 21, 18 at 7:33 pm
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:24 pm
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The story does ring true to me -- I've been amazed at the things passengers will admit to other passengers.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:27 pm
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Originally Posted by BlissWorld View Post
I'm not longer surprised at the types of people that exist in our society, especially in LA. I used to wonder how any parents could reproduce those kindo of human beings. Now, I don't even bother. Oh, that Canadian border is looking more and more appealing
Why? Don't you think Canadians do this?
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:32 pm
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on a side note, I once saw a woman protest loudly that dogs weren't allowed in a restaurant except for service dogs, saying that hers was a "therapy dog". Really?
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:39 pm
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Originally Posted by malsf1 View Post
I first put blame and contempt on the veterinarian who would issue a fake certification for this dog as a service dog for no apparent reason (by her admission).
I sure hope it wasn't a vet who provided that certification.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:40 pm
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Originally Posted by thebat View Post
Why? Don't you think Canadians do this?
Indeed, we do not... Thanks for asking.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 12:47 pm
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"Emotional Service Dogs" probably the term used.
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Old Aug 11, 09, 1:03 pm
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I cringe to get involved but...

It's a big issue in SF about service dogs so there's been a lot of press about it. The problem w/ cases where abuse is suspected is that according to the ADA and some local ordinances, once the person provides a doctor's note ( it's not vets, it's MD's who write the note - the note is for the person not the animal) the agency/establishment is not allowed to question the basis of the disability, or temperament test the animal or challenge it that it's not legit. The only grounds one MIGHT have would be that the person writing the note is not an MD or other health professional - i.e. the note itself was forged.

This is not to say that people 's service animals all need to be for physical disabilities . Many emotionally disturbed people are soothed by the presence of their pets when in public. But most mental health service providers would counsel their patients to choose a small animal that has gone through service training and is certified. (It's the same certification you need if you want to bring animals to nursing homes, hospitals etc)
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