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While on a walk with my aunt last month, my cousin’s dog was viciously attacked and killed by a neighbor’s rottweiler.

The dog was known to my aunt and uncle, as aggressive dogs were banned by the homeowners association. Prior to the fatal attack, several neighbors had complained about the rottweiler after it allegedly bit and harassed other dogs in the neighborhood. However, the complaints were not addressed because the animal was a service dog. The HOA was restricted from taking action against the dog because of the owners claiming it was trained as a service animal. Incidents such as this and many others compel state and local authorities to regulate service and emotional support animals to ensure the safety and order of communities across the United States.

Traditionally, service dogs have been thought of as obedient and trained animals able to complete specific tasks. In many cases, it can take years for a young puppy to be taught to be proficient enough to help a disabled person. However, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, dogs are not required to undergo specific training or present verification of training to any entity. No private or public organization or individual can prohibit an individual from having a service dog with them if they claim it helps them complete specific tasks. Since under existing law requesting verification is considered discriminatory, it is impossible to know if a service dog is properly trained.

It is entirely reasonable to require verification of training and proficiency from owners who want to be accompanied by a service dog. A simple certification process that could be completed by a trainer or owner would help ensure only actual service dogs are allowed to hold the title and the responsibilities that come with it. The verification should prove the dog is obedient and able to complete the tasks needed of it. Additionally, it would ensure that service dogs who are allowed to enter into public places that usually exclude animals would not be a disturbance.

Recently, several airlines have tightened rules regarding flying with service and emotional support animals after several incidents which included animals defecating on and biting other passengers. In December, Delta airlines announced new rules that included a restriction on young dogs, to make sure service animals were mature and well trained. Common sense regulations such as the ones proposed are much needed, especially in confined areas such as airplanes. It is hard to argue that such policies are discriminatory as they only seek to ensure the safety of all individuals and do not regulate service dogs that are mature and fully trained.

By advocating for a standardized verification process, I am not diminishing the value of service dogs. In November, Sully, President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, became instantly famous after being pictured next to the casket of the former president. Sully was trained by professionals since he was a puppy to help disabled veterans complete basic tasks. Sully’s obedience and devotion to service is an example of a true service dog. By implementing a simple registration process, we can ensure that the title of service dog is reserved for animals and trainers devoted to professionalism and helping those in need.

Charlie Chapman is a senior at Burlingame High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at

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(7) comments


There is a debate in the service animal community over registration. The majority of service dogs are trained by their owners or in classes. School trained service dogs cost $17,000 to $25,000 each. Not surprisingly, the training schools support registration.
What would registration look like? What training would be required? What would be the cost?
Actually, the better question is “Why should we burden legitimate service animals?” Why not address the fakes? The people I know that have service animals are more then happy to be asked “Is that a service dog.” Better be willing to stay a bit. Both have cards that state the ADA requirements for service dogs and business owners. Both will go on about what legitimate service dogs are.
Simply put, were fake service animals challenged and asked to explain, the problem would quickly end. Too often businesses are afraid to even talk to the fakes.
Last, I was in a hospital when a dog wearing a vest that said “service dog in training, please pet me” showed up. The lady approached me as the dog sniffed. Why she asked if I wanted to pet the dog, I replied “ I know people with real service dogs.” The lady quickly left.


Nope illegal and harmful for disabled people


There are now MORE fake service dogs with their fake owners walking around in stores than ever before.


Well, don't know if it is SPECIFICALLY illegal to ask for certification proof but if it is, I guess we will just have to petition Congress to change the ADA.


Absolute rubbish! How do you expect handlers to pay for certification when a lot of disabled people are on a fixed income? That just adds another barrier to the disability community, not to mention it is illegal. We are already treated like second class citizens. People need to learn how to ask the two questions we are already able to ask. Is that a service dog and what is the dog trained for. Stop trying to weaken the ADA and take away our rights! God I really hate non disabled people

Justin B

The thing is, a LOT of "service dogs" are fake. The buy phony paperwork and vests online. It's an epidemic.


This was a great column!

As with so much in modern life, there exists a small subset of humanity who think that they are not bound by rules and will cheat whenever they can. Using handicapped placards when you aren't handicapped is one. Service dogs are another.

I've had arguments about dogs being walked on hiking trails that ban pets. People who claim their dogs are service dogs should have to show a certificate to anyone who asks or risk facing arrest. There should also be a significant fine for using a fake certificate, which like diplomas, will be quite easy to buy ion the internet.

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