Do Service Animals Need to be Better Regulated?

This is a question that, up until recently, I never would have asked.  I didn’t think that there was a need for regulation.


Recent events in the past year have definitely changed my mind. There have been a number of incidents that I  have personally witnessed that have caused me to reconsider.

According to how the law is written and more importantly interpreted, no one can truly question the validity of a service animal. As long as the owner claims it to be a service animal, it can remain in the store or place of business, no questions asked.

The only “requirement” for a service animal in public seems to be if it is moderately well behaved. That too is subject to much interpretation.


Last night, for me, was the final straw. Notice how I’ve been saying “service animal” not “service dog”? Well there is a reason for that.

This is what constituted a service animal last night…

Rat on a mans shoulder
photo by Sam Scott


While this is not the actual rat in question ( I was too dumbfounded to get a picture) It is very similar to the one in Walmart last night.  Because of the policies regarding service animals, employees are now too afraid of backlash and won’t confront anyone.

I ask you, what service does a rat actually provide? Can it actually be trained to be a service animal? I know that rats are very intelligent and easily trained, but I find it hard to believe that they can perform a service that it’s human truly needs in a public setting.


Okay so maybe you aren’t with me yet on the whole regulation thing. Well how about a baby goat? Do they perform a service that a person needs in public?


Yes as a matter of fact this same Walmart has had a customer come in with a baby goat in a shopping cart! They still did not ask this “service animal” for proof of licensing or regulation.


At least none with any teeth to protect the merchants. It is very easy for the merchant to face the wrath of the law when denying access to a service animal. Much harder to prosecute someone with a fake service animal.

Obviously, I highly doubt that the goat and the rat had any credentialing whatsoever. But what about those that go through the “proper” steps of getting a letter from their doctor, and registering their service dog (or even cat)?

Did you know that you “train” your service animal yourself?

In other words, no training of any kind is truly required. I can get Thor or Loki registered to be a service animal in a matter of weeks.

But then what about the “well-behaved” requirement?

Again, it’s subject to interpretation. In another local Walmart, I have had to dodge dog feces from a “service dog”

Yep, it POOPED on the floor and was left there. Same dog was jumping on people and pulling at his lead. Was this “well trained”?


How about the woman who brings FIVE chihuahuas into the store in an electric shopping cart? What type of service does she need that requires 5 dogs at once?


I understand that not all service animals are like this. I’ve seen a multitude of excellent service dogs. But lately I’ve seen many many more poor examples such as the ones I’ve listed.


So YES we need some type of service animal regulation. ALL service animals should at the very minimum, have to pass the canine good citizen test.


Beyond that, they should be tested in the required service area. I understand that professional training is expensive. I am okay with allowing personally trained service animals. But they need to be tested. Can the animal actually perform the tasks required of it? Or is it just a comfort animal?


Don’t believe that there is such a big problem with this? Just google service dog certification. You’ll be amazed at just how many companies are out there making money from providing “registration” for you pet.

Tell me, what do you think? Is regulation of some sort a necessity or is the system fine as it is? Comment below!



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