Today I decided I would be a little ratchet, and get myself a service dog to circumvent “no pets” policies and indulge my sense of boundless self entitlement. After all, a true ratchet never has just a pet – they have a registered therapy emotional support animal for their autistic child suffering from anxiety, depression and PTSD. It’s a proven fact. And because the laws governing the misrepresentation of service animals are scant, a centralized registry non-existent, and the rights of landlords and business owners to refuse them scarce, it’s pretty easy to get yourself the right to bring an untrained dog anywhere. But it can’t be
Meet Clarence Woods Emerson, my new service dog.
He’s registered online, you can’t ask me very many questions about him, and it’s illegal for you to refuse me housing because I have him, regardless of your pet policy. I registered him for free, in less than 10 minutes.
You can look up my id # to confirm. It’s 1553552927, on the deceptively official looking United States Service Dog Registry.
Don’t be fooled, the site has absolutely no affiliation to any government agency “Registering” your dog in one of those and buying a fake certificate and ID from them for less than $100 won’t make it a service dog.
But it sure does look official, and considering by law business owners can only can ask only if it is a service animal, and what is it trained to do, it’s easy to fake a service dog than it is to sign up for a magazine subscription online.
According to the ADA laws, there is no service dog registry or certification. The only thing that can make your dog a service dog is: you being a disabled person and task training the dog to mitigate your disability. Training a legitimate service animal takes several years and can cost more than $40,000 – but “registering” one is free, quick and easy – and representing your dog as one is even easier, and protected. I registered a fake dog under my fake name with a fake address all in less time than it takes to boil pasta. Is anyone going to object to me bringing Clarence on an airplane or into a supermarket? Probably not – he doesn’t bite, bark, piss on things or hump legs, and is extremely well behaved (except on social media.) But not every “service dog” is so well behaved. Are business owners and restaurants really going to go after people who claim their dog is a service or support animal, If it has a vest of if the owner says it’s helping them? They won’t. They don’t want to get sued.
Even more difficult to delve in to are “emotional support animals” – or animals whose purpose is merely the comfort of their companionship. You know, like a pet. Except, a quick Google search and $99 can get you a letter that gets you around pet policies, breed restrictions and pet deposits. No training necessary. Now your neighbors can enjoy all the barking, dog poop, and possible aggressive behavior they never wanted, and there’s nothing they can do about it! And although not covered by ADA laws that allow for them to be brought into public spaces that otherwise prohibit dogs, Emotional support animals are protected by the Fair Housing Act. So if you want to live in a dog-free apartment complex, too bad. There’s nothing that can be done until after the dog misbehaves enough times – if management wants to risk the potential legal recourse, that is.
So, good news. You can take your poorly behaved 65 pound pit bull into any rental (or even on an airplane!), with little more than the vague threat of a fine if you’re found to be misrepresenting him as a service or support dog – but odds say you won’t be. Or you could, I don’t know, just be a decent fucking human being and leave the support animals to the blind and otherwise disabled people who chose to spend the time, money and care on a dog that is actually trained to perform a task. But until we have a system that qualifies, monitors and enforces these standards, there are going to be a lot of pet dogs walking through Costco in vest, pissing into the bulk Capri Sun boxes.