NPR logo A Loose Definition Of 'Service Animal'

A Loose Definition Of 'Service Animal'

Most service animals undergo intensive training before receiving certification. Some pet owners are now going online to "register" their companion as "service animals." iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Most service animals undergo intensive training before receiving certification. Some pet owners are now going online to "register" their companion as "service animals."

iStockphoto.com

A recent Wall Street Journal story tells the story of Maxx. He's an 11-year old West Highland terrier who accompanies his owner, Rhonda Kimmel, everywhere dogs aren't usually allowed — "to the mall, restaurants and even to the bank." How does Ms. Kimmel pull it off? She bought him a vest that identifies the dog as a service animal.

Maxx is a lot of things, including well-behaved, and he is a faithful companion. What he is not, however, is a therapy dog or a service dog, and Ms. Kimmel is not disabled.
Still, Ms. Kimmel says the vest, which she purchased online, no questions asked, makes people think otherwise, so they don't object to Maxx. "They know they are not supposed to ask," Ms. Kimmel says, alluding to the federal law that protects people with service animals from inquiries about the nature of their disability.

Among other questionable service animals she came across: a 4-foot long iguana that keeps its owner calm. An awful lot of people are not happy with this development — including those who have to walk alongside the iguana, and many of those who need the assistance of full-fledged, legitimate service animals. Read the full article at the WSJ.com.

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