Apparently anyone can have a service dog!

EDIT: This post receives a lot of hits on people wondering about service dogs.  I want to clarify some things, and also link to an updated FAQ on service dogs here:

1.  A service dog is different than a therapy dog.  In order to take your dog to any public place you must have a disability, AND your dog must be trained to do a task to help in that disability.  Therapy dogs do not have public access rights, even though they often visit nursing homes, libraries, and hospitals they must be INVITED.  If you do not have a disability and a dog trained to help, please do not hurt the rights of those who do by putting a cape on your dog and pretending.  It is a slap in the face of everyone who needs a dog's help legitimately.

2.  There is no legal requirements to get certification for a service dog.  So if you truly have a disability that your dog has been trained to help with, you do not need to buy "certification" papers online (worthless!) or go through an organization.  Your dog does need to be well behaved and it is often recommend that your dog be able to pass a CGC test and public access test.  Both are very basic manners tests.  Also, any business has a right to kick you and your dog out of a store if the dog is not under your control and is being disruptive (ex. barking, jumping on shoppers, urinating...) even if you and your dog are eligible for access rights.

3. The ADA does not cover dogs in training; public access for service dogs in training (SDIT) are up to each state to set their own laws.  Some states do NOT allow SDITs public access, while some states only grant SDITs public access if they are from a certified organization or with a certified trainer.

Back to original post:

I am so pissed off right now that I just have to comment on a news article.  I got a link to an article off of Cesar's Way website that is announcing Junior becoming a "service dog." 
Junior gets his Service Dog certification!  Junior recently received his Service Dog certification from The United States Service Dog Registry (USSDR), an independent registry service that offers self-identification for Service or Assistance Dogs. 

I'm so proud of Junior," Cesar said. "He's been an amazing helper to me and so many dogs, and now he can continue to share his balance with the rest of the world in his service." 


Now I don't know if Cesar Millan has a disability so can't really comment on the legalities of calling Junior a service dog.  Although really being a service dog has nothing to do with helping other dogs and the rest of the world.

But I can comment on this next section:
Do you think your dog has what it takes to be a Service Dog?

Although not required by law, your dog should be trained to follow both specific and basic obedience commands, as well as display non-aggressive and sociable behavior in order to be considered an effective Service Dog. It is recommended that any potential Service Dogs undergo at least 120 hours of professional training to obtain the necessary skills and demeanor. USSDR suggests that every candidate complete the Public Access Test created by Assistance Dogs International, Inc., to fully assess your dog’s ability to function as a Service Dog.

If you would like to learn more about how to register your Service Dog, check out the USSDR website here.

This call for other people to make their pet dog into a service dog is unbelievable.  There is not one mention of the legal requirements involved.  Not only does the individual have to have a recognized disability, but the dog has to be able to perform specific tasks to help out.  I would LOVE to be able to take Vito everywhere I go.  He is well trained so we wouldn't cause any nuisance and it would be so much easier on the both of us with his separation anxiety.  BUT by calling him a service dog it would not only be against the law but it would be a slap in the face to everyone out there who has a disability and relies on their dogs for help.  It really disgusts me that Cesar basically challenges people to do so.  Shame on you Cesar.

Apparently he must have already received enough complaints that the article has been taken down off of the website.  I am hoping that Cesar is just really ignorant about what a service dog is.  I would just find it hard to believe though since even the "certification" from the USSDR talks about what service dogs do.  And you would think that with all of the people surrounding Cesar that they could have directed him to a therapy dog organization instead.  Of course that would actually require them to take real tests instead of just filling in a form over the internet.

Ashley (the mom), Dixie (the Catahoula) and sometimes Lola (the Pit Bull)  – ( September 4, 2010 at 3:11 PM )  

We have been LIVID over this. After removing the first article, a second was posted (which still didn't mention whether Cesar was disabled or not) and has also since been removed.
There is already a big problem with fake service dogs, this will only add to that (not to mention it will be people who possibly follow Cesar's methods exactly, which is definitely not an image we want attached to service dogs. Can you imagine someone rolling their "service dog" on its back in public?!). To have a public figure handle service dogs and the law this way is truly disappointing, regardless of how you feel about his methods.
I also want to point out that Certification and Registration is NOT required by law and these are scams out to get money by registering/certifying dogs they have never seen and don't know if they have had any training. The one registration that you might need is the one from animal control (city, county or state) and that does require extensive proof of training and would be useful if you were pursuing a court case against a business that denied you access.
We've been following your blog for a while but haven't comment before. I'm a person with a disability who uses a service dog and I applaud you for posting this and spreading the word.

Janice Anderson  –   – ( September 4, 2010 at 6:10 PM )  

This was a poorly written blog post and not reviewed by Cesar. It's been taken down and the writer will likely be fired. Cesar knows about Service Dogs and the ADA. His dog is highly trained and probably better behaved than most Service Dogs.

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( September 4, 2010 at 6:44 PM )  

I'm not saying that Junior is not well trained but that has nothing to do with service dog status.

I agree that it was probably not written by Cesar. But I did check that website and Junior IS "registered" as a service dog with him. It was also posted on his facebook page (even if he doesn't run it) and there was a quote by him in the article. I am assuming that somebody will get fired over it, but I still find it hard to believe that this was all done behind his back.

Ashley (the mom), Dixie (the Catahoula) and sometimes Lola (the Pit Bull)  – ( September 4, 2010 at 7:10 PM )  

Janice, I'm sure you didn't mean that to sound as rude as it did, but most service dogs ARE that well behaved. They spend up to 2 years in training learning both their tasks and public access behavior. My recently retired service dog didn't bat an eye when a cart with raw filet as parked inches from her nose for 30 minutes.
The poorly behaved "service dogs" you may have seen are the fakers that I was speaking of above.
Also, as a public figure, he was directly quoted and his quote said nothing about being disabled just how he "was going to share his balance with the rest of the world," which, quite honestly, is exactly what we don't want service dogs to do while working. They should be focused on their handler and their job not on other people. That article reached tons of people and now those people may think it is ok to "certify" their pet dog and take it everywhere with them. Even if you are a fan of him, you have to admit this was a major misstep and could greatly harm the service dog community.

Amy / Layla the Malamute  – ( September 5, 2010 at 12:42 AM )  

That's pretty effin ridiculous. At work (the pharmacy) we were talking about therapy dogs and how Layla's a therapy dog. One of the customers (a hardcore junkie) asked why she isn't there with me. I gave a very short explanation about how she isn't allowed unless she's providing emotional therapy. He said something to the effect of, "It's against the law for people to ask what your disability is, so you should just bring her." It seems that the ones who always try to skirt around the law are the ones that know it best.

PS ~ If I really wanted to, I probably could take her with me and claim her to be my service dog. But like you said - not even the fact it's illegal, it's just insulting and horrible to the real disabled people.

Anonymous  –   – ( September 5, 2010 at 12:29 PM )  

I applaud you for bringing this article to our attention. I saw your blog post sent to a list serve I co-moderate on Service Dogs. I have had Guide dogs for now over ten years, and can tell you that not all dogs can be or should be a service dog. It is true that the business cannot ask what is your disability, however they can ask, If the dog is a Service animal, what tasks it is trained to do, and whether the dog is trained. They can also refuse any service dog who is not behaving properly. The test in my eyes for a Assistance Dog is one that is specifically trained, to preform physical tasks to mitigate a person's disability. For example, I am visually impaired and there for my dogs are guides, and do the tasks required for guiding. If my dog retrieved dropped objects, could turn on lights, or dial a telephone but not guide they would not be a service dog for me as I do not need those tasks to mitigate my disability. This particular company is indeed a scam to print up a "unofficial" I.D. card, and you can get those at Office Max. Certification or Identification is not required for public access. I will tell you that assistance or service dogs are dogs and will act badly on rare occassion, smile, but that doesn't mean that they are not as well trained as Junior is. I will tell you that the school I recieved my three dogs from, Judson, Guinevere and now Ludden employs clicker training and positive reinforcement and is very successful with their graduates and successful partnerships. An assistance dog, is not a Therapy dog, it helps the person with the disability and no one else. Ludden is my guide dog, he won't guide for other people nor would I expect him to do so. We are a team, a partnership. If Ceasar has a disability that is fine, but the article doesn't state that of the most important requirements. Thank you again for sharing this.

Shelley and Ludden, black lab.

Anonymous  –   – ( September 6, 2010 at 10:41 AM )  

Alot of you are getting stuck on "Cesar has not said anything about being disabled...."
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE... remember this.... You dont want people asking what your disability is and it is against the law... so why dco you persecute him for not mentioning a disability... that is his private right.

Now if he is faking it then the right people will find out and they will take care of it. He is a public icon so everything he does is being looked at by EVERYONE.

Dont judge people and then expect not to be judged back... ALSO CESAR doesnt write that stuff on the website... his web designers do.

Raegan  – ( September 6, 2010 at 7:43 PM )  

If he does have a disability, he is spectacularly uninformed about the law. The redacted article (available through Google cache) would be laughably inaccurate if the possible repercussions were not so dire. The world is already full of idiots that try to be Cesar without a quarter of his experience, energy, or reactions.

And the paragraph following "Does your dog have what it takes to be a service dog?" is WRONG. Service dogs do have to have at least three TRAINED behaviors to mitigate a disability. That is what MAKES them a service dog. Simply existing as a dog and the emotional support that comes with that it not enough.

Susan  – ( September 12, 2010 at 5:59 PM )  

Junior sounds like a therapy dog not a service dog. Big difference. I have a therapy dog, we go to hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, etc. He is also my psd dog, psychological service dog. He prevents me from having anxiety and panic attacks. However, I don't take him every where with me. I manly take him to school with me when I have a presentation, he helps keep me calm and collected so I can get the words out without being a stuttering mess. I also have a letter that is renewed yearly with my psychiatrist that allows him to be my psd dog. Still not quite the same thing as a service dog. Cesar Millan should be more responsible about what is getting posted. Service dogs are amazing animals, they have very specific jobs, and not every dog has the patience and overall demeanor to be a service dog.

FeistyScribe  – ( May 1, 2012 at 8:43 AM )  

There is nothing that irritates me more, as a service dog trainer, than people like Cesar doing stuff like this.

I think Canada had it right: They had, for the longest time, a "no such thing as self-trained service/guide dogs" rule. A working dog HAD to come out of a recognized program.

I've seen a LOT of so-called service dogs, especially in airports, who clearly had no clue what they were doing or how to behave in public. Most of those seemed to be animals being taken "in cabin" with their handler to avoid shipping/cargo. I've even seen a guide dog get pounced on by a so-called service dog in an airport!

People who do this kind of thing give the rest of us who work with SDs a bad name. There needs to be some kind of process for true registration/identification, and the handler SHOULD need to go through some kind of application process to be identified as a disabled individual, by law.


(In totally unrelated news -- say hello to Vito for us! We also have a Vermillion pup :) who, currently, is a service dog in training. )

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( May 1, 2012 at 10:53 AM )  

FeistyScribe- I'm not sure that I would support program only dogs. Wait lists are long, not all programs are necessarily "good", and there aren't programs doing all the types of service dogs that people need (or not enough of them).

I have mixed feelings about a real registration program. I agree that all service dogs should have the skills to pass a PAT and of course the skills to help the person with their disability. But the logistics of administering and requiring the PAT could be a nightmare. Many people live in rural areas and may not be able to afford traveling to a city that hosted the tests, or the person's disability might prevent them from being able to travel far from home (i'm thinking anxiety disorders).

I don't think it's owner trained dogs that are the problem, it's the people who take their pet dog and impersonate a service dog who make it very difficult for all the legitimately trained program and owner trained dogs. It certainly is an interesting thing to think about though and I wish there was an easy answer to the problem.

That's so cool about raising a vermilion toller!!! I don't think I'd be able to give up a toller if I were to puppy raise one :)

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