How to Register a Service Dog or How to Scam the Disabled

How to Register a Service Dog or How to Scam the Disabled

Registering a Service DogNorm Lanier wrote the following article with that very provocative title.

But don’t be alarmed, the article is for people with disabilities and explains how they can AVOID being scammed. The long and the short of the message is if you’re disabled and you have a service dog, you do NOT need to hand over ANY cash to a so-called registration company for service dogs. Service dogs do NOT need to be registered.

Here’s Norm’s informative article containing your protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act:

I’m often asked how you register or certify your service dog, the answer is “You Don’t”. Companies that claim to register or certify your animal without training are simply taking advantage of the handicapped to make a dollar. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect which gives handicapped persons with service animals legal protection to be accompanied by the animal in public places.

Understanding the ADA

So lets first define what a service animal is, According to the ADA, an animal is considered a service animal” if it has been “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” As you see, the word certify or registered doesn’t appear in the law. As a matter fact the US government does not register, certify, license or approve any animal.

The ADA Catch 22

Because the definition of a disability is so broad it would be impossible for the government to create any sort of testing criteria other then the vague definition above. Also, since many disabled people live on fixed incomes requiring professional animal training would be an added financial burden that many disabled people could not afford. Unlike a person with a handicap license plate or ID, there is no official identification and service dogs without some form of ID are often assumed to be pets. The ADA also states that a handicapped person is not required to show proof of their disability. So that’s what the law says, but the reality is that having your service animal identified with an ID, vest, cape or bandanna helps identify the dog as a working partner and not a pet.

The Registration Scam Registering a Service Dog

It wasn’t long after the ADA went into effect that companies started popping up offering to register or certify your animal. Now please understand that we are not talking about trainers that teach dogs to perform tasks for the disabled. What we are talking about are companies that use official sounding names that in exchange for your money will certify or register your service dog. In exchange they often provide you with a registration number, certificate, patch and maybe a cheap laminated tag. Some shameless companies charge as much as $250 for “registration”.

So What’s a Service Dog Owner to do?

First, make sure you meet the definition of a disabled person and that your dog is specially trained to perform tasks related to your disability. Trying to pass off your pet as a service animal is a federal offense and comes with severe penalties. Outside of the two requirements spelled out in the ADA you don’t have to do anything. If you feel identifying your service dog will make your life easier then purchase a quality photo service dog tag, vest with patches or a cape.

Spot is the owner of and is a prolific writer on matters concerning service dogs and the disabled. Spot lets his owner help him put the web site together and write articles as it’s hard as heck to type with paws. Besides it’s good to throw his owner a bone every once in a while so he feels useful. (formerly DoggyDMV) makes personalized service dog tags. You can learn more about service dogs on our site

Thanks, Norm. (Not sure why you say Spot is the author – seems a bit silly to me, but each to his own).
I’m sure your article has cleared up several misconceptions on the part of people with service dogs – not to mention people and businesses who come into contact with service dogs and their owners.

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18 thoughts on “How to Register a Service Dog or How to Scam the Disabled

  1. Jeff Martin

    Hello I am a Quad in wheelchair for some years now I have been trying to get a service dog from ADA the last 2 lots of dogs did not past so still have to wait . Well about 1 month ago i finally got a retied service dog he is a great help to me and he goes everywere with me.Only one problem I can not get any conssion cards for him to go on transport eta there is no way I can leave him dog at home he must still go with me and he still does commands very furatered help Jeff

  2. Pami

    I have a service dog and if you are looking for patches, vest and service dog scarf go online to Pup’parel that’s were I bought all my service dog supplies. Also the website is coming out with service dog ID badges and Transportation service dog ID badges if you don’t see badges up yet email the website and they will email you a picture of them. Also this website is the first service dog website that also take money orders.
    I hope you will have just as much luck taking your SD out in public like I have. Before I got patches from her website I had a harder time taking my SD out in public, Not anymore these patches stand out more and people real do belive you have a true service dog when you wear them.

  3. Pami

    This is for Jeff Martin You can’t take a retired service dog out as a service dog. You are breaking the Federal law and state law and it can be 2 years in jail plus a fine and community service also. That why you can’t get help with anything.
    You are make it hard on people that do have a service dog that is still able to work!
    I which I new your address and phone number so I could turn you in for lying, Business don’t have to let you come in with a retired service dog. Get another dog a black lab age 2.

  4. annonymous

    to comment on Pami’s angry threats to the poor man in wheelchair who wrote for help with problem getting on public transportation… first off the ADA doesnt supply dogs (the man is obvoisly confused- perhaphs a brain injury is part of his diagnosis) and i say this to be kind/ second, if a disabled person is using a dog to allow them to do things in their life they couldnt do otherwise- then that dog is a SERVICE DOG. whether it was retired from a previous handler or not, the ADA stipulates it is the FACT THAT THE HANDLER IS DISABLED that gives the ADA laws their punch. lighten up pami, legalistic judges like you need to educate yourself and pray for others rather than get on a soapbox and spew venum at well meaning innocent people.


  5. Brigitte Smith


    I agree with “anonymous” – whoever you are – that you need to lighten up. Clearly, Jeff is looking for help here and his dog clearly IS a service dog since it assists him and he needs this assistance because of his disability. Shame on you for adding to his worries by threatening to report him when he has NOT done anything wrong!


    Sorry I can’t suggest anything for you. Don’t take any notice of Pami. Pami clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about. Hopefully you have had some luck by now. I sincerely wish you the best, and hope everything works out for you and your current dog, and any future dog you may succeed in getting.


    Some of what you say is certainly helpful – thanks for that – I appreciate those comments – but attacking Pami for his ill chosen and poorly researched comments really doesn’t help anyone.


  6. Seeing Eye Dog's Mom

    Hi. While it’s true that you might want to be careful about working with a retired dog (generally, they retire for a reason), it’s just not true that if you *do* work with that retired dog, you’re breaking a law. But indeed, there can be safety concerns. I would not trust my now-retired guide dog in conditions involving heavy traffic. (I do have a new guide who is at the top of her game.) But if I wanted to harness her up and take a cab to Starbucks or something, I’m completely within my rights to do that.

  7. Marlene

    It is quite apparent that Miss Pami is clueless about Service Dogs and the ADA regulations. It is really quite simple: If you are disabled (as defined by the ADA) you qualify to have a service dog. A Service Dog is a dog trained in basic obedience and social skills AND specifically trained to perform at least one task that ‘mitigates your disability’. That’s it.

  8. Judy Armstrong

    I don’t know why this thought went through my head tonight but….here goes: I am disabled, and as we all know that the Disability Check makes us the lowest of the Poor. If my bed stops working; I’ve only to call the medical supply store. If my shower chair breaks, the call to the same medical supply store. All of the costs are taken care of. Where do I take my Service Dog if she needs help? I’ve never had a dog(pet) that didn’t live long past “typical” years the majority of the breed. I don’t have an answer! The people at the medical suppyl store would think that I’m really off my rocker! I’ve got enough issues without being labled mentally ill too! I sure would rest easier if I knew that the one medical necessity, above all others, would be taken care of too! I think that those of us who are lucky enough to have one of these wonderful “Perscriptions” doesn’t want to even consider that the Dogs may become sick at one time during their brief time with us. I believe that being quiet about this posibility isn’t going to stop things from happening. I just don’t know what I’m going to do if/when this happens. Surely, you might know what to do or how to work to find an answer to this unspoken “repair”! Please help me rest easier and know that my “Special” Service Dog will have a chance at getting health care? Thank you in advance for anything you can do to help those who help us!

  9. JoJo

    For Jeff Martin:
    If you are disabled and your dog is performing a task for your disablility, that dog is a service dog. You can get service dog patches and a vest for your dog and can legally take him anywhere you go. It is against the law to deny a disabled person access if he has a service dog. Service dogs are not required by law to be registered. Unfortunatly, that opens the door for people to commit fraud and claim they have a service dog. The only thing that can be asked of you is , is this a service dog?” and “what tasks does your dog do for you?”

    If your dog was retired once, he was retired for a reason. He may not be able to work for you very long. It is not fair to the dog to require him to work all of his life. If he is a senior dog, watch for symptoms that he might be in pain or just plain tired. Dogs can’t tell you this information and will always want to work for you, even if they are in pain.

    There is a long waiting list for any service dog. You can also get your own dog and do the training yourself. There are 2 books/DVD’s called “Teamwork I” and “Teamwork II” that teach how to train dogs for people with disablilities. It will teach you how to train your service dog even as a quad. If you do decide to train your own service dog, get the CD called, “So You’re About to Get A Service Dog ” by Linda Alberta from the Lake Erie Assistance Dogs. It has materials for pre-planning, puppy planning, classes and early preparation.

    To Pam: Don’t comment if you don’t know what your talking about. You don’t know anything about service dogs or the ADA.

    I train service dogs and go to many seminars in the USA and Canada. Many people have successfully trained their own SD. It can be very rewarding, but also time consuming and challenging. It takes commitment.

  10. Brigitte Smith

    Thanks for your input, Seeing Eye Dog’s Mom, Marlene, Judy and JoJo.

    JoJo, your comments in particular are greatly appreciated. I’m sure many of my readers can benefit from them, as it’s clear you know what you’re talking about, being in the service dogs industry yourself.


  11. joeline

    Deaf people train their own service dogs all the time. They did it long before the ADA ever came along. I had two deaf parents and our dogs were trained in sign language from day one. Later, I became a trainer myself and have helped deaf individuals train dogs for years. I coach, they train. I have a lot of respect for those who train their own service dogs… and zero respect for those who are offering phony *certifications*, etc..
    A comment about retired service dogs. Our service dogs are on the job 24 hours a day, even when we are asleep. That does create a strain on them that is often not recognized. Older dogs’ health may suffer from that kind of strain so I’d be very watchful with a retired dog. That said, sometimes people with severe disabilities, where the dog’s work is more demanding, retire their dogs younger than the rest of us and those dogs .

  12. shaney frame

    I logged onto this site because I’m doing a report for a college paper. I am 44 yrs old and disabled. I have balance issues caused by my medical problems. I have entertained the idea of a service dog for years, and since I’m not gonna get any younger or better, now is the time. any suggestions would be nice. Would like a larger breed (necessary for my problem) prefer one that doesn’t shed too much, that would cause me more problems. any body know anything about labradoodles?

  13. john driscoll

    excellent site im a one hundred persent DAV also have trouble walking also deaf since ww two have dog who lets me know when door bell or phone rings what kind of a service dog tag should i apply for
    thank you for any help you can send
    john driscoll

  14. Rene Pardue

    The VA Hospital in Fayetteville, Ar. is up-dating their policy on Service animals and the word is…the VA here will require a photo ID from a ‘certified training facility’ IE: one and so far as I have been told only one in WA state.
    I happen to be from WA state and know the people who started their ‘registration for a fee’ company, and why they did.

    I have been seriously warned not to make waves over this issue again as the Administration is well protected by the Senators, Congressmen, etc and I can expect serious reprocussions if I make issue again in this facility. Just get the card and shut up.

    I have been a strong advocate for Service Dogs and Handlers for 15 years and educator, but a direct threat from here is NOT to be taken lightly. Usually, I would tell them where to put their threat, but this time I am seeking assistance and backup.

    So there you have it. I just found you and am glad you exist. Thanks, Rene Trainer and handler of Service Dogs for 15 years

  15. lISA

    This is for the person that is looking for a dog that don’t shade then why not try this breed a labradoodle go online to Seattle Labradoodle and also look online at Pup’parel website for service dog vest and patches, if you don’t see one you like she will make one for you, but you need to tell her she can use your idea patch online as long as it two different sizes patches. Well I hope this will help people out!
    Let me know how its going for you! When training a SD don’t forget to train them to tuck tail and curl up! this is for their saftey so people don’t step on tail or legs, you don’t need to train for this under American With Disablity Act. It just something I train to keep my dog safe.

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