“Please DON’T try to pass off your pet as a service animal”

No pets

Looks like the fake service animal problem is out of control.

I spotted this sign outside a grocery store in Prescott, Ariz. recently. It’s posted in cooperation with the Yavapai County Food Safety Industrial Council, and it basically cautions patrons not to lie about their dogs.

Here’s the warning in its entirety:

No Pets Allowed

Please DON’T try to pass off your pet as a service animal.
FAKE service animals may hurt the reputation and acceptance of valid service animals.

There’s a reason you see signs like this here. This is dog country. I tried to find numbers on pet ownership in Yavapai County versus nationwide and came up empty-pawed, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from spending time here that this place has gone to the dogs. (Disclaimer: My parents, who live here, are owned by two rescue cats. They do not know I am writing this story, and they would not approve if they did.)

By the way, FDA 6-501.115, the rule cited in the sign, says that with certain exceptions, “live animals may not be allowed on the premises of a food establishment.”

Hmm. Asking your customers not to lie. What’s this world coming to, you ask?

I wonder, too.

Some might say that dog ownership is complicated. That’s true. Consider a group called Luv Mutts in Prescott, a network of trained and registered volunteer therapy dog teams who work with hospice, reading programs and nursing homes, among others.

As Luv Mutts explains, there are various designations for animals, from guide dogs to service dogs to therapy animals. I couldn’t tell you the difference between AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) and AAA (Animal Assisted Activities), but there is one and apparently you need to know it before you take Fido for a walk in Arizona’s territorial capital — at least if you’re heading to the grocery store.

Some might also say this has gone too far. Enough with the alphabet soup after the dog’s name. Business owners should demand to see their papers. No more lap-dog therapy animals with faux paperwork, please. Leave your mutt at home unless it’s a trained service animal.

And these voices have a point, too. If I read one more story about a therapy snake or pig, it will be one too many.

But that’s not what this post is about. The warning isn’t really about service animals. It’s about telling the truth.

In the old days, stores had signs that said, “SHOPLIFTERS WILL BE PROSECUTED.” Of course. What business isn’t going to press charges against a thief?

But this sign really says, “Your lies have consequences. They affect people with real disabilities who actually need service animals.”

We knew the fake service animal problem had gotten bad, but this is a new low. Here’s a business imploring its customers to tell the truth. Unbelievable.

Kinda makes you wonder what would happen if the roles were reversed. What if customers could put their own signs at a store entrance, encouraging the company to tell the truth, or warning their fellow customers? What would the signs say?


WARNING: This business plays markup games with its prices.
CAUTION: Our staff will say anything to make a sale.
BEWARE! Our loyalty program is a barely legal bait-and-switch.

But I digress. Customers lying about their pets is an extreme example of irresponsible pet ownership. Maybe someone from animal control should stop by their homes and remove these dogs.

Should the government confiscate pets whose owners lie about them being service animals?

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