Fake Emotional Support Animals

We went with dad this weekend to Louisville,Ky. He had a business meeting and afterwards his company was having a company cookout. We stayed at a hotel and had all sorts of fun that I will talk about more later. 

Ma and I were walking around the hotel after my potty breaks and she was just chatting with some of the other people who were also staying there. We went to a couple exhibits that were being held there and that is when we started hearing stories of people who traveled a lot and like to take their dogs with them. 

A few people said things that made ma go weak in the knees. One lady said that her daughter traveled a lot and liked to take her dog with her so she got a letter off the internet and had a doctor friend sign it so she could take her dog. Another person said they had someone who wasn't a doctor write a letter that said they needed a dog to be with them to travel. There were more stories that we heard and I am honestly proud that ma kept her cool. I know you are probably wondering why these stories would bother ma because you don't see anything wrong with them. Let me explain.....

The letters were for an Emotional Support Animal

First off, an Emotional Support Animal are NOT a service dog. ESA as they are referred to are not trained task and are known as companion pets. A ESA can be ANY animal that makes a person feel better because to their presence. The person seeking the emotional support animal must have a verifiable disability. ESA are allowed in No Pet housing and allowed to fly. They are not covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) , they are covered by the FHA (Fair Housing Act) and the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act). They are not allowed in stores, theaters, hospitals, etc.. They must be potty trained and not a nuisance. The ADA states that " Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."
 If the animal makes the person feel better then what is the big deal?
How many of you have been to a dog park or walking and had a dog rush your dog? How many dogs have you encountered a dog that didn't behave around young children, women, men, or other animals? Not every owner will have a well behaved pet. Would you want to be on a plane and have someone with a dog that is barking or growling at you through the flight? How about having someone with a snake or a bird on that flight? 
What is the big deal about an emotional support animal? 
The big deal is that many people are not disabled and are having letters wrote so they don't have to pay for their pets flights, pay a pet fee or can have a pet in a no pet housing. Many people will buy vests and ID's off the internet from companies who don't check to see if the person is truly disabled. They will slap a service dog vest on their dog and that hurts real disabled people and real service dog teams. 
When a pet with a fake service vest or ID misbehaves in public it is a reflection on ALL service dogs and real Emotional Support dogs who's handlers are truly disabled. 
Did you know that airlines only allow a certain number of animals on each flight??
When you have pets who are not true service dogs or true emotional support animals on flights ; the traveler with an ESA or SD may be denied a flight because the number of dogs already on the flight are taken. That disabled handler may have to take a later flight sometimes at a higher cost and could possibly miss a funeral, a family reunion, whatever the reason. 
Many people are fleecing the airlines by getting these letters so they don't have to pay a pet fare. Many airlines charge anywhere from $75 to $150 one way for pet fares. A dog has to be able to fit under the seat in a carrier and if its too large , it must be put in cargo. People who bring fake letters have no size restriction, an example would be whether its a standard poodle or a Great Dane, it can be on the flight. 
Ma did tell the one lady who was bragging about her daughter getting a fake letter so her dog could travel with her that she didn't feel it was right what her daughter does. There are many people who DO need ESA's and its just as bad faking a ESA as it is a Service dog. She also told her that her daughter could be fined or put in jail for faking her dog as a emotional support animal. The lady's jaw dropped because she didn't know it was against the law. 
Ma also told her about the time that I was almost attacked by a fake service dog. How I had been rushed by another dog that was supposedly a service dog and how she had seen a dog fight happen from where the fake service dog had rushed another dog who wasn't as friendly or patient as I am. 
I only hope the lady educates her daughter. I hope I have educated you, my readers. 
What are your honest opinions on people who fake ESA or Service Dogs? 
Do you think it really hurts real teams? 
I want your honest opinion only please. 
Thank you for taking time to read my post. 


  1. I'm just...staggered. I didn't even know ESA were a thing, but I can see that it's beneficial that they are. But "faking" the need for an ESA devalues the role of *actual* service and ESA dogs. I mean, I love my pups so much it hurts, but I'm not going to pretend to suffer from something just so I can be selfish enough to take them with me, potentially at the expense of someone who actually needs a service dog (e.g. on a flight).
    Also, surely doctors need to consider very carefully the impact on their integrity of signing off someone as sick when they aren't? Eeesh. Eyeopening. Thanks for the post!

    Sarah (and Daisy and Cybi)

    1. I am used to hearing about fake service dogs but I was flabbergasted to hear that people would label their dogs fake emotional support dogs and fake having a mental illness such as severe depression. Emotional illnesses are a serious condition and ESA's can be a great benefit to those people who actually need them. To fake one in order to have it fly for free or stay in no pet housing is just wrong. So wrong.
      Thank you for stopping by.

  2. You know I am passionate about the subject of ESAs. I had my hamster, Charlotte, certified as an ESA. Yes, a hamster. The need was genuine; the letter from my therapist testified to that. Unfortunately, at this time only one airline—Frontier—allows hamsters in the cabin. No other airline would allow a hamster, even an ESA hamster, on the flight. I admit that not having to pay $250 (round trip) for Charlotte to fly was a bonus, but I learned through an incident with the TSA how valuable she is. Because I was carrying an animal's cage my hands had to be swabbed. A dangerous substance showed up—I have not idea what or why. I had to get a body search. My anxiety kicked into high gear. The two TSA agents were nice, but it was highly upsetting. The irony was that I couldn't have Charlotte by my side: one of the agents held on to her. They kept her in sight of me at all times, which I requested. After the body search I had to go through the entire security line again, after hiking to the ladies room to wash my hands. I was afraid I was going to cry but I didn't. Luckily we made it to the plane on time (I always arrive super early to airports because of my anxiety). Charlotte didn't prevent me from having a complete meltdown, but she provided emotional support. I wasn't alone going through that security line (twice). When I focused on her I stopped focusing on the things that made me anxious. My beloved Charlotte went over the rainbow bridge in November 2013. I still mis her.

    1. I will be honest with you Emmy , when those people were bragging about faking their dogs as a ESA, I thought of Charlotte. I thought about how you said that she could calm you, how she brought you smiles when you were sad, how petting her lowered your blood pressure and what steps you had to take to have her labeled a ESA. Ma tried to educate those people for all the Charlotte's in the world. The pets who really do help their owners who need them. I am happy that I did get to meet Charlotte and I thank you for educating me more about Emotional Support Animals.
      Happy Sunday and thank you for taking time to read my post.

  3. it is really hard to tell these people what they are doing is wrong, but it is oh so important for all those reasons you have stated..

    1. Your right. Some will listen , some won't.
      Happy Sunday!

  4. We are glad your ma spoke up. How sad that people endanger others who need these animals just to save a few bucks. Those that cheat make it harder for those that don't.

    1. Your right but it also puts people and pets in danger. I know my readers are responsible pet owners who teach their pets right from wrong but there are so many people out there who don't. I have heard numerous stories of dogs snapping or growling at people while they are in a store or on a airline.
      Thank you for stopping by to take time to read my post.
      Happy Sunday!

  5. I think it is totally wrong. It's people like that who end up ruining things for the people that really do need it. People who think the rules apply for everyone but them really irritate me.
    I hate flying, but gee, I might not mind it so much if I had my dog with me. Does that make my dog an ESA? Absolutely not, and that's all these people are doing. Great post!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. It does do a injustice to those who really do need a ESA.
      Thank you for stopping by and taking time to read the post.
      Happy Sunday!!

  6. I was speaking to a woman about this last weekend; she says that it's pretty common and I was really surprised. She told me that it's partly due to people not knowing, not thinking beyond what they want, and some who just don't care.

    It's really too bad that more people aren't sharing this information.

    1. Many just see it as a way to get their pets into no pet housing when it can be hard to find places that accept pets. Some see it as a way to be able to get their pet on a plane and not pay for them to fly.It really does hurt those who actually need or depend on their pets to function.

  7. And then there are the therapy dogs - of which I have two - actually at this time 1 needs to be re-evaluated. Another problem I think is lack of education or knowledge. I have physical disabilities - one is a visual impairment, not totally blind - yet but I have come close. Anyway, because I use a paratransit bus service to get to our visits and people see I have disabilities, they automatically assume therapy dog = service dog and I have even been told a few times that my therapy dogs behave better than some service dogs they have seen (this statement makes me a bit suspicious if those really are true service dogs) Just as with fake ESAs there are fake therapy dogs - owners who want to take their dogs into hospitals for example. There are rules and guidelines that need to be followed - for example a clean animal which I know some(the fake ones) are not and then therapy dogs are required to be evaluated for temperament and they must behave a certain way in different situations - like a busy hospital setting. I've seen some dogs which are too hyper and reactive.

    Another situation that haunts me - I am a member of a local therapy dog group. A few years ago, we had a visitor who was totally blind and in the process of getting a guide dog. She had a second dog she was training for therapy work. She was determined that her therapy dog would be allowed to go with her where-ever she had to use her guide dog. Our parent or national association - Delta Society now called Pet Partners - is very clear and firm in their rules - basically, it ain't gonna happen.

    So what I'm saying - I understand what you mean by fake ESA or fake service dogs and it never ceases to amaze me what some people will either try or be successful at getting away with. I could write more but I need to stop for now.
    Mom Kim at Team Beaglebratz

  8. This story is fascinating. I didn't know much about Emotional Support Animals and all of the benefits they receive. It's a shame that people take what is supposed to be a service for people in need and abuse it so they can get what they want.

  9. I wasn't aware of the fact that some people actually have the nerve to pass their (untrained/uncertified) dogs off as Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, or Emotional Support Dogs. I find that utterly appalling!!

    I am currently working towards my goal of having my female Boxer Missy become certified as a Therapy Dog. We still have a few training hurdles ahead of us, but have recently mastered the art of staying calm, relaxed, and PUT (!) around (falling) crutches!

    I also composed an article about the different kinds of canine helpers:


  10. I work as a resident assistant at a university, which means I take care of the students living in our residence halls, Two of these halls do not allow pets, but one has been overrun by "emotional support animals," most of which are puppies. They are not trained or house-broken when they are brought in and demanded to be allowed to stay. As someone who has panic attacks and works with our disability services here, I am insulted by these puppies. The students printed off some paperwork and had it signed by a doctor. Other students then learned that this was possible and also had a doctor sign the bogus paperwork. More puppies and kittens. We have no idea what to do. Some of the carpets are ruined by these animals and will have to be replaced. The head of Residence Life is at a loss as to how to enforce rules against these animals. There are plenty of places to live off campus and two other residence halls on campus that do allow pets.

    I find all of this so aggravating. They are allowed to take their puppies to class. They do not have vests or any sort of recognition.


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