Fake Service Dogs Put at Risk Those Who Need Them Most

May 4, 2023

NEADS Chief Development and Programs Officer Cathy Zemaitis is passionate about the growing problem and negative impacts of fake Service Dogs on persons with disabilities who are partnered with legitimate Service Animals. She testifies regularly before the Massachusetts State Legislature to move legislation that would penalize such misrepresentation.

Service Dogs who are properly and legitimately trained and placed provide clients with life-changing emotional support and enable them to navigate the world more safely and confidently. However, fraudulent Service Dogs are a growing problem, negatively impacting NEADS clients and those from other ADI-accredited Service Dog programs across North America and globally.

A recent survey of more than 1,300 Service Dog clients from ADI-accredited organizations (including guide dog, hearing dog, service dog for physical disability, medical alert service dog, psychiatric service dog and facility dog teams) shows not only how common encounters with fake Service Dogs are, but also how significantly they are undermining the feelings of independence, quality of life, and potentially even the safety of clients with legitimate Service Dogs.

  • 92.6% of respondents encountered fake, questionable, or uncontrolled service dogs in their time as a service dog user.
  • 78.8% of respondents had experienced an uncontrolled dog snap at, bitten, vocalize at or interfere with their service dog.
  • 66.0% reported feeling that fraudulent service dogs had negatively impacted their independence and quality of life.
  • 50.0% encountered fraudulent service dogs in grocery stores and airports.

According to ADI, for legitimate ADI-accredited Service/Assistance Dog programs a Service Dog “has always been more than just a vest – bringing expert training, crucial socialization, and years of task-based independence to people with disabilities. Now, the results are clear: poorly trained dogs in public being portrayed as trained [service] dogs are harming those who need help from [service] dogs the most.”  You can read more about the survey on ADI’s Website.