I would like to take this moment to clarify this story just a bit.  Originally, it was posted on 8/16/2017.  Since then, I've been contacted by the Maine Human Rights Commission and would like to clear up and add a few things.

The original story is posted below.  According to the MHRC, some of the information is inaccurate and/or incorrect.  Let's start with the definition of a service animal: a dog that has been individually trained to do work perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.  My definition was close...however not completely accurate.  Also, there are NO requirements or limitations based on breed, size or weight of the dog.  Under federal law, miniature horses are also considered service animals under certain circumstances

I was correct when I mentioned identification is NOT required...but I need to add (and this is a GREAT point) that harnesses, vests & certification are also not required.  No formal training is required for service animals. 

According to the MHRC, the list below regarding 'fake' service animals only has 1 item that is actually correct.  That is that the fake service animal is a GOAT!  All other items on that list are not required of a service animal (see above)

This story is regarding service animals and public places and is different  from emotional support animals (ESA) and housing.

You can read the original post below.  Please click here to refer back to the Maine Human Rights Commission.

This is always a touchy subject in the community.  As upset as some people can get, I still think it is very important to talk about it & educate the public about this issue.  The term 'Service' seems to be getting mixed up, or confused with the term 'Therapy'.  The two are actually quite different and this is why this information should help you.

Let's keep it simple.  A service dog is a dog that provides a service or task for its handler.  A task, such as...sight, sound, detecting seizures, mobility etc.  A service dog is allowed to go anywhere the general public is allowed (ie: stores, restaurants, public parks, hotels, airplanes etc).  Obviously they can't go in operating rooms and other places closed off from the general public.  These animals are protected under the ADA (Americans with disabilities act).


A therapy or emotional support dog is used for those with anxiety, depression etc...and provide comfort for its handler.  These dogs are NOT covered by the ADA and are not allowed access to public places where animals are NOT allowed to go

When a dog is in a place where dogs are prohibited, but service animals are, two questions may be asked to determine if the animal is a service dog:

  1. Is this a service dog?
  2. What service does the dog provide?


Now, it's easy to 'fake' your answers to those 2 questions.  Plus, harnesses and vests can easily be purchased online.  Here's how you can detect if a dog is a fake 'service' dog:

  1. They are being carried or pushed in a cart
  2. They're not on a leash
  3. They're pulling on a leash
  4. They're barking or whining
  5. They're sniffing everything
  6. They steal food
  7. They look nervous
  8. They're aggressive
  9. They seek attention
  10. THEY ARE A GOAT!!!  (I added this one...I've seen it at the Augusta Walmart)


I've notice A LOT of public places not following the 2 question rule and it really needs to be enforced more.  For the safety of those with service dogs!  Let me give you an example...

  • A service dog is working with his blind handler in Walmart.  They turn down an aisle that has a small dog in the shopping cart.  The small dog starts barking at the service dog.  As well trained as the service dog is...it can still become distracted from its job and accidentally walk his handler into a display case.

Distracting a service dog doesn't happen only by small dogs barking, but by people as well.  You need to respect the team and not touch or talk to the dog.

If you see a fake 'service' dog in public, please report it.

Hopefully, this will help spread awareness.  This is not my personal OPINION.  It is the LAW!