In the past, no one would question the authenticity and legitimacy of a service animal owner. Unfortunately, some savvy fake online companies recently decided to leverage this trust by claiming to be real, selling kits and certificates. Well, the law has been lenient up until recently due to many reports of pet owners being caught trying to pass their pet as an authentic service animal by justifying that online companies sold them the equipment and that their pet is on the website’s “national service animal database”. These fake service online kit, vests, and certificate sellers undermine the legitimacy of the concept of having real equipment for real service animals specifically. CBS news reported that the perpetrator can get charged up to $1000 and possibly be imprisoned for six months by buying from these online kit sellers and then trying to pass their ordinary pet as a real service animal. ESA Letter is one of the authority sites on this topic.
An NBC news article on this topic said that “There is a big difference in the behavior of real service dogs and impostors inside businesses, experts said. A true service dog becomes nearly invisible. Pets might bark, urinate, sniff, scratch and eat off the floor”. This goes hand-in-hand with dog owners who try to leverage these online services by buying from an online kit seller some service animal equipment and then trying to pass their untrained dog as a service dog by making it look like a real service dog. According to Dogbitelaw, “The law of certain jurisdictions makes it a crime to pretend to own or train a guide, signal or service dog”.
Emotional Support Animals, on the other hand, do not need vests or anything to perform emotionally comfort their owners. Getting ESA equipment is therefore not necessary, but the ESA must be accommodated with an official prescription letter from a licensed medical professional indicating that the owner needs the ESA (i.e., for PTSD, depression, anxiety, coping after a major life event).
Lastly, a therapy animal is NOT considered service or emotional support dog and has absolutely no protections under the ADA laws. Therapy animals are usually called therapy dogs and they are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, and to people with learning difficulties and stressful situations such as disaster areas.