My wife noticed some suspiciously unruly service animals at her workplace last month, and wondered about this. Looking into the situation further, it appears that there is a veritable epidemic of fraud. Ordinary pet owners are passing off their mangy beasts as trained service dogs.
There is no shortage of news features on this increasingly common practice. Here is one of those articles, from 2013:
CHICAGO (CBS) – Despicable. That’s the word used by advocates for the disabled to describe the newest trend – people disguising their dogs as service dogs to travel, shop, and even go to night clubs.
“People think what they’re doing is harmless but it’s not. It’s very harmful,” said Marcie Davis, founder of International Assistance Dog Awareness Week.
As a paraplegic, Davis uses a real service dog, one that’s been trained and certified over hundreds of hours.