The Service-Dog Thing Is Out of Control

Attorney General Mark Herring has taken action against a problem that is fast becoming a social crisis: that is, the runaway enthusiasm for “service dogs.” The AG’s office has filed a lawsuit against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, Inc., a Madison County dog breeder that trains Labrador and G0lden retrievers to be “diabetic alert dogs” and sells them for $25,000 a pop… er, pup.

While making grandiose claims about the dogs, Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers often delivered “poorly trained puppies with significant behavioral issues and inadequate skills or training to notify a customer of a potentially life-threatening high or low blood sugar situation,” the AG’s office said in a press release. The business also allegedly misled customers about certain aspects of its payment structure and lied about the principal’s service in the armed forces.

“Our investigation shows that, in many instances, Service Dogs was simply selling a $25,000 pet, leaving customers with a huge bill and no protection,” Herring said. “Customers have a right to rely on the accuracy of a business’s claims, especially when it involves a person’s health and well-being.”

The company says it is committed to changing the lives of those living with “invisible disabilities such as Autism, Diabetes, PTSD, and Seizure Disorders.” The website provides heart-warming video testimonials of happy employees, satisfied customers, even former Governor Terry McAuliffe, and, of course, lovable pooches. You truly have to have a heart of steel to watch these dogs and not go, “Awwwwwww.”

I don’t know if the AG’s charges against Service Dogs are warranted or not. But I will say this: The service-dog thing is out of control.

Service dogs have long been a staple of society as companions for the blind. Blind people need help navigating streets and sidewalks, and and everyone accepts the idea that the dogs can give them mobility and autonomy. Because the blind are few in number, everyone is willing to make minor accommodations for them and their dogs.

But the concept of a “service dog” is morphing. Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers is a perfect example: It helps people with “invisible disabilities” such as autism, diabetes, PTSD and seizures. That stretches the definition to encompass, I’d guess, 10% of the population. But the concept is even more elastic. Now people have “emotional support dogs.” And they want to take these dogs onto airplanes and into the workplace. If we include people who need “emotional support” among the protected category of “the disabled,” we’re probably talking about half the population!

Because the “disabled” enjoy legal protections, and because anyone who utters inappropriate sentiments might find him/herself tarred as an “ablist” and a bigot, people are scared to resist the trend. Americans always push the boundaries as far as they can, and there are no discernible criteria in our culture of victimization that people can draw upon to say, “That’s enough!”

What if you’re allergic to dogs? What if the dog sniffs your crotch? What if seeing a dog triggers post-traumatic stress because a neighborhood dog mauled your kid? Do you have rights? Not now.

Herring’s lawsuit does draw a line of a sort — the service dog must be capable of providing the advertised service, in this case, detect swings in blood sugar. That’s a start.

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7 responses to “The Service-Dog Thing Is Out of Control”

  1. CrazyJD Avatar

    The service dog industry started in this country with Seeing Eye, located since 1931 near where I grew up in north central Jersey. As a kid I would see them training dogs on the busy central square known as the Green in Morristown, where George Washington first assembled his troops. Seeing Eye still owns the same campus outside Morristown today and still trains dogs on the Green.

    1. TBill Avatar

      We raised a Seeing Eye pup in NJ. Ours was a Marley equivalent in both looks and behavior, so he flunked the final test and we got him back (against my no vote). He died of old age here in NoVA when the time came. But his siblings did well in guide dog service. Darwin was his name, given by the Seeing Eye.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Oh MY GAWD! Mr. Libertarian here is calling for YET MORE Regulation!


    What happen to leaving the buyer and seller to work out the transaction like we say we should do with payday loans?

    Seriously … the number of times this blog calls for MORE regulation should give folks like Crazy and V R the HIVES!!!!

  3. The problem is with not making the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal. Two different things and its the ESA people that give all animals and disabled a bad name. Sad to say but very true.

  4. Acbar Avatar

    You truly have to have a heart of steel to watch these dogs and not go, “Awwwwwww.”

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    You know… all this talk about people knowing how to spend money better than the govt is hilarious at times.

    Not only do they spend it foolishly but then we have to make new regulations which burdens other legitimate businesses – to “protect” them from their own ignorance and idiocy.

    These folks would, no doubt, also be ones that argue against taxes for school funding or highways or health care… and don’t save enough for retirement and are counting on the govt subsidizing Medicare for their health care.

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    I’m with Larry – people this dumb shouldn’t be allowed to hold onto their money. A dog that alerts you to blood sugar levels so you don’t have to do the finger prick? You can keep eating sweets because the dog isn’t giving you the high sign? 🙂 Will the AG now start going after all the advertisers with other outrageous medical nostrums promising miracle cures?

    If so, okay. Actually I have no sympathy for the people behind this scam and my question is how long has it been around and why did it take this long to bring action?

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