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FAKING IT: Scammers Hurt Legit Service Dog & Emotional Support Animal Partnerships

by | Nov 9, 2018 | Dog Training & Care | 44 comments

UPDATE: I continue to get “pitches” from scammers wanting me to promote their fake credential services especially for Emotional Support Animals. Interesting that they often say they “love my blog” (thanks!) but that they can add even more value if I’ll just publish something they provide. So…I’m updating and reposting this blog since they probably missed seeing it or might not have sent me that email.

Online companies are getting very good at meeting the letter of the law, if not the intent. They promote themselves as a way to relieve pet owners of unfair expenses (pet deposits, airline fees, no-pets-allowed housing or other services)–oh, and sometimes as an afterthought, they add in the emotional aspect, too (insert #sarcasm).

Are They Legit? Maybe . . .

These services typically pre-qualify applicants based on answers to online questionnaires that are easy to fake. I answered truthfully and was turned down. Then I created a fake identity, chose the obvious “right answers” on the emotional questionnaire scale, and pre-qualified with my nonexistent ASA-wannabe ferret.

In this latest pitch, the company charges $150-200 for your choice of three versions of an ASA letter. That includes a $35 phone consultation by one of their “qualified professionals.” You pay up front, and if turned down, they promise to refund all but that $35 consult fee. I sent an email with these questions:

Thanks for reaching out. I also like to educate my readers so your information interests me. Can you tell me how your mental health professionals qualify potential candidates for ESA credentials? I see there is an online questionnaire/survey. How do you get around the “fake” folks who just want to take pets everywhere with them (heck, I’d love to take my 95-pound puppy everywhere, too!) Is there a further step to the evaluation?

Also, I know the ESA letter must be generated from a mental health professional who has diagnosed and offering active treatment of the person in question. So how is that possible with an online service?

The Company Answers

Hi Amy!

It is lovely to hear from you! I would be happy to answer any and all questions that you have and feel quite qualified to do so because I not only work for REDACTED, but used REDACTED to register my dog as ESA during a time where I didn’t have access to a therapist due to overbooking (for 6 months..,yikes!).

So we have a basic short survey that people can take to see if they would be a good candidate for an ESA. This is not what the Licensed Mental Health Professionals see – it’s more just for the candidate to understand if they might qualify. Once that short survey is taken and the candidate feels like they should move forward, they can choose if they want a housing letter, travel letter or both. They are brought to a checkout where they purchase the letter(s) – but technically are sessions with a LMHP. The candidate is then prompted to complete a lengthy questionnaire that can take up to a few hours to complete depending on the individual. The questions go extremely deep and personal just as if you had many sessions with a LMHP face to face. Once you submit the questionnaire, you are assigned to a LMHP in your state. The LMHP will then read over the entire questionnaire and schedule a time slot to have a session over the phone. After the session is over the LMHP write s a plan of action (for example, I suffer from flying anxiety and GAD so my therapist sent me an email with a plan of action to use music therapy). It is only after all of these steps that the LMPH determines if an ESA would benefit the candidate. After the letter(s) are received by the patient, the LMHP continues to check in and provide care if requested by the patient. I actually talk to my LMHP I got matched with through CertaPet all of the time!

So fakers will be fakers whether they are getting in-person therapy or online therapy, unfortunately. Having an ESA does not serve the individual the same rights as having a service animal. So ESAs can’t go everywhere with the individual. The ESA letter was put in place for housing and travel ONLY.

Wow! A 95-pound PUPPY?! What kind of pup do you have? I have an 8lb Italian Greyhound. He is the perfect travel companion and sits on my lap the majority of the day!

Please let me know if you have any more questions or if something is unclear. I know I just threw a lot at you.

Name Removed Per Request

FURTHER NOTE: The original email I received said they wanted to contribute information about ESAs to my blog after finding it (and I assume doing research/reading my blog). When I received the above answers to my questions, I replied that I would add that info to this post, whereupon I was asked to remove the person’s first name (I have done so) and add a live-link and name of the company (I will not). I’m posting for informational purposes only, not advertising one service over another. If readers like what this company provides, now you know what to look for when vetting them.

Skirting the Law?

I’m grateful for the company rep’s cordial reply and glad the company helped her with certifying her dog for her needs. From her description, it sounds like the company goes far beyond what a majority of these services do.

That said, I’m still not convinced that the system satisfies the requirement to “be under active treatment for your disorder by this same mental health professional.” Because once you qualify, your ASA letter is generated by that mental health pro on his/her letterhead with his/her license number and sent to you within 48 hours.

You’re considered “under active treatment for your disorder” after completing an online survey and speaking on the phone. As promised, I’m sharing this information and look forward to any further comments or feedback from folks. What do you think? As the representative notes, an ASA and service dog are quite different.

I have friends and colleagues who train and/or partner with service dogs, including ESA — Emotional Support Animals. I’ve also been aware for some time that unscrupulous folks fake service dog credentials to take advantage of what they consider to be furry perks, like taking their dog with them into businesses and restaurants, or (a biggie!) getting pets into no-pets-allowed housing or on planes for free.


Sure, we all love our dogs (cats, rats, mini-pigs, horses…). But the folks who RELY on their animal partners are being damaged by the disregard of clueless (or mean-spirited) individuals who think they’re better than the law–and taking animal companions everywhere. Here’s the problem–if YOUR sweet-as-punch pet acts inappropriately, that makes the next for-real ASA or service dog and human partnership suspect. It’s the law that service dogs be allowed in businesses, and there are rules that businesses must follow. When non-service/ASA animals don’t follow the rules, it puts businesses in a bad position, too. Read on.

service dog

All images courtesy of


Scammers offer fake service dog credentials supposedly out of the goodness of their heart–but of course, for a fee. Both the fake-paper-pushers and the service-animal-fakers argue, “Who does it hurt? It’s a victimless crime.”

It hurts the business, the reputation of legitimate handlers and dogs, and even the animal and his owner-faker. See if you qualify for a service dog here. The only entities that make out like a bandit are organizations supplying fake paper and lining their pockets.

Reality Imitates Art–Or Vice Versa?

Actually, I researched this a bit for background in one of my thrillers, since the main character September Day has a service dog Shadow, who helps mitigate issues with her post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For instance, Shadow alerts in advance of panic attacks, and helps anchor September to the present during flashbacks, among other things. PTSD, debilitating migraines, seizures, diabetes, IBD and other health concerns can be helped enormously by trained service dogs. But these “hidden” issues open the door to abuse in a way that service dogs partnered with visible/physical challenges may not face.

I hadn’t planned to blog about this, at least immediately. Then on January 1, 2015 I received an email interview/story “pitch” that purported to offer reputable, legal help for those seeking ESA credentials. Frankly, the message raised alarm bells, and when I got sick with the “crud” I delayed doing anything about it. I wasn’t sure how to handle it.

Man holding tabby cat with big green eyes

Real & Fake Service Dog Credentials, Conflicts & Confusion

Heck, I’d love to take Magical-Dawg with me more places, and he’d love that, too, especially if they served bacon! Karma-Kat certainly offers me lavish emotional support, as does any animal friend with whom we share a bond. Besides, who would know–According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a business owner is only allowed to ask two questions:

  1. Does the dog provide a service?
  2. What has the dog been trained to do?

Under ADA guidelines, only DOGS qualify as service animals (sometimes miniature horses serving as guides for the blind also qualify), and PETS are not considered service animals. The dog must be trained to provide a SPECIFIC SERVICE for SPECIFIC DISABILITIES.

Sadly, this is easy to fake. Dogs are not required to wear any kind of identification like a vest. Heck, you can order a FAKE vest for your animal, too! In reality, a real service dog/human partnership isn’t required to show documentation for training. There is no single over-arching government-endorsed training agency for service dogs.

But it’s not just the ADA that offers guidelines and regulations. The Fair Housing Act, and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA, administered through the Department of Transportation) also provide what can be confusing or even conflicting regulations.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act follows the ADA definition of service animal (dogs only,) and EXCLUDES those designated as emotional support animals. However, it does state that reasonable accommodations should be made for any service animal including ESAs. To qualify, the person is evaluated by the housing provider based on answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability —i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
  2. Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

Portrait of the girl with the iguana Air Carrier Access Act: Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

ACAA doesn’t restrict Emotional Support Animals to dogs–they can be cats, birds, hamsters, lizards, goldfish–anything at all. Most airlines do require the animal to fit under the seat as “carry on” luggage, though. Rather than a case-by-case evaluation, airlines typically require a signed letter from a “licensed mental health professional” (not just your general practitioner). The letter must include:

  • The professional’s address and phone number
  • State that you have a disorder listed in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.
  • You also must be under active treatment for your disorder by this “mental health professional.”

Ditch the Pitch? or a Big Reveal?

Remember that email pitch mentioned in the opening paragraph? Yesterday I got a LinkedIn request for a connection from a person with the same name. So I decided to reply with some pointed questions, indicating I’d like to include them in a possible future blog. Most of my questions arose from the lack of detailed information posted on the website. There were no names, no credentials listed, just a lot of generalities and promises.

The website offers an online evaluation of your completed questionnaire by an (unnamed) board-certified psychiatrist. When that evaluation confirms your qualifications, the expert then generates a letter that qualifies your ESA and thus allows plane or housing privileges afforded to service animals. For a fee, of course. If your answers to the questionnaire fail to qualify you, the fee is promised to be reimbursed.

I figured a “no response” would be telling. So I was happily surprised to receive a prompt response with detailed answers, which I’ve cut-and-pasted below. I will leave it to readers to make judgments about this particular service.

Q & A with National Center for Emotional-Support Animals

Hello Amy!

Thank you very much for your interest. Please see my responses to your questions below.

Who are you? What is YOUR background in pets? Is this you? (NOTE November 2018: the profile has now been hidden)

Yes, that’s me. I’ve had a dog for the past 10 years and a cat for the past 16.

Who is your “board certified psychiatrist” ?

My husband, Jamie Feusner. He is the co-founder of National Center for Emotional-Support Animals. (Amy’s note: I googled the name and found more about Dr. Feusner here)

What board certifies a psychiatrist to diagnose a patient over the Internet?

Our letter does not constitute a diagnosis. It recommends an ESA to help treat the problems that you are currently experiencing.

Why does the pop-up invite someone to get a FREE “ESA Letter” but then require a credit card to submit the questionnaire for $150?

The offer is buy an ESA letter for housing for $149 and as an added bonus, we provide a letter covering air travel, worth $149, free. Other services charge to each letter separately.

If, indeed, someone qualifies for an ESA, why would they need an annual letter for another $150 each time?

The letter itself never expires. It’s dated the day that it’s mailed out. The issue is that airlines and landlords do not accept letters that are dated more than a year old. In addition, people have to retake the questionnaire because their symptoms and health problems can change. What they said a year ago may not be the case today. No doctor can write a recommendation or prescription for someone in perpetuity. They have to be re-examined at least once a year.

What percentage of your applicants do you turn down as “not qualified” for an ESA and actually refund the fee?

None. Everyone who has come to us have [sic] met the medical qualifcations [sic] to get an ESA letter.

Are you not concerned that unscrupulous individuals would manipulate the questionnaire/answers to get an ESA letter for which they do not qualify?

The medical questionnaire is the same one a psychiatrist would give during an in-office visit. Mental health treatment for the most part is provided based on self-reported symptoms — unlike other health conditions that can be physically measured with tests. If people lie on the medical questionnaire, they could also lie during an in office visit. Psychiatrists have to take people at their word. You may deem someone as “unscrupulous” or that “they do not qualify” but that’s just YOUR opinion and judgement of them. It doesn’t make it true. Mental illnesses are invisible. A person may look and act completely normal yet still suffer from a mental illness.

Your Turn…

Okay, gang, what do you think? How would you characterize such a service? I did fail to ask one question–does a questionnaire answered by a mental health practitioner constitute “being under active treatment for your disorder,” as required by the ACAA?

What about you? Do you think “fake” service animal credentials is a victimless crime? Are you, or do you know someone partnered with an amazing service animal? How could the “rules” be changed to improve the situation you?

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  1. Carol Bryant

    WOW this is a very thorough article. I know this is a very hot topic and rightfully so. My dog goes most places with me. When it comes to stores or businesses where he is not allowed, I am honest here: My spouse and I take turns watching him outside.

    It makes me so sad and it is such an outrage that there are fakers who ruin it for the people who really require a service dog. You did the right thing calling these people to task. It seems pretty scammy to me what they are doing.

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks Carol, I’d always rather give publicity to those who do RIGHT by people and the pets they love.

  2. Random Felines

    sounds squirrelly… is a doctor who is never seen anyone allowed to diagnose something based on a paper questionaire? our rescue doesn’t even adopt animals without talking to the person face to face or over the phone. you would think that the medical profession would certainly frown upon their members being involved in a “business” like this as well….I can’t imagine that the AMA or whomever allows for diagnosis of any diseases – mental or otherwise just through a questionaire

    • Amy Shojai

      I know that some veterinarians have gotten into hot water simply offering “general” info online, not even diagnosis. That’s why I asked specifically about the diagnosis. To be fair, the letter is said not to be a diagnosis but rather a “recommendation” and perhaps that’s how it’s managed. *shrug*

  3. Mary McCauley

    Amy, I’m glad that you covered this. About a year ago, I was in Walmart and an older couple had a small poodle with. I spoke an assistant manager and she said that once they had refused to let a woman in the store with a small dog. This lady claimed that this was little dog was her emotional support. She raised such a ruckus (I don’t know if she threatened to suit) that they let her in. So they let other people in with pets. I haven’t seen any other dogs in Walmart since that one time. I wouldn’t trust a diagnosis from a psychiatrist over the phone. The are M.D.’s first and my doctor insists that I come into to see him if I have a problem.

    • Amy Shojai

      I know of a couple of folks locally who DO have legit ESA. It’s such a tricky and difficult situation because businesses don’t want to infringe the rights of legitimate partnerships. *sigh*

      • Rogers

        If I had a Service Dog I would be pleased that my ID be ligitimate & shown when asked. I see FAKE Service dogs in Restaurants, Grocery Stores, etc. etc. Wal-mart, etc. If postings of what the ID should be like on any and all establishments would be helpful. I have 2 Therapy Dogs, all the shots, etc. have to be up to date. I take them to Schools, Nursing Homes, Hospitals on an INVITE and I have to produce ID & shot papers. The FAKE Service dogs ….I am guessing may not be up to date on shots, etc. and can cause a problem. I see fakes more and more as in every time I am out somewhere. Personally, I would not do this. Send $$ on line and they can get you into everyplace…Movies,and all …..

  4. wendy christensen

    The fact that they’re charging for these “ESA letters’ tells me they’re bogus. Something is very, very fishy here… And even if it’s somehow legal, it’s unethical as all get out. And then there’s this: “None. Everyone who has come to us have met the medical qualifcations [sic] to get an ESA letter.”


    Whatever professional and/or certification organizations Dr. Feusner relies upon for his “official” career need to know about this…

    • Amy Shojai

      Wendy, that was my litmus test question, too–how many had been declined. Wow.

    • Amy Shojai

      *sigh* that was my reaction, too.

  5. Cathy Armato

    Very thought provoking post! It’s not a victim-less act because the more fakers there are the greater the chance of service dogs losing credibility and one day losing All-Access rights. I didn’t realize an establishment can ask what the dog is trained to do; that seems like a violation of a person’s health privacy. How do you answer that without revealing that you have PTSD or Panic Disorder and then risk being judged? I’d love to bring my Husky on a plane or inside restaurants but I wouldn’t lie to do so, it could potentially jeopardize a true service dog’s rights one day! People should be required to obtain such documentation from a doctor that has diagnosed them, not just A doctor that you haven’t even seen.

    • Amy Shojai

      I suspect that it would be a bit more difficult to “fool” a doctor in person, than by answering an online questionnaire, never mind it’s the same one use in-office.

      Also, those who plan to get a “fake” letter I think would be less likely to attempt an in-person evaluation.

  6. Bethany

    Thank you for such an eloquent article on a touchy subject. I too have been followed and contacted by fake service dog companies but I just ignore them. My passion about fake service dog crime, that damages the lives of countless innocent people everyday, is just too hot for me to respond as you did. I could go on and on about the friends and family I have with real, highly and specially trained service dogs, who have been discriminated against because of fakers. A fake service dog attacked and injured my friends real service dog and she had to live without an essential tool for weeks. Faking a service animal is like stealing a wheelchair. It’s despicable. And any company offering any service dog credentials for profit, no matter how hard they try to make it sound real, are a scam and should be prosecuted.

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks for your comments and so sorry you’re equally frustrated.

  7. Kaye Killgore

    My mother has had a guide dog since I was in the second grade. She has had several guide dogs. They come with an ear tattoo, easily recognizable harness, and identification. Some of these “service dogs” actually have caused problems for us. I have no problems with legitimate service dogs, including ESA, but, the scammers on both sides of the issue are enough to make me crazy. Fake service animals do very real harm to legitimate service animals, and when a local restaurant asked for the dogs ID, my mom and I were happy to comply, even though that is actually illegal, and they probably will get into trouble at some point. I totally agree with Bethany.

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Kaye, thanks for sharing you and your mother’s experience. I hope the blog shines a light on the subject.

  8. Voodoo

    I just read this post from a woman on Facebook: “Officially registered my Betsy as an Emotional Support Dog, just ordered her little red vest, and waiting on her identification card to come in the mail. I can legally take her with me anywhere and everywhere. Muahahaha”. As a disabled person with a legitimate Service Dog, this angers me as I definitely feel these people are a threat to the safety of others and to our service dogs whom we rely on everyday. I didn’t choose to become disabled, so it amazes me that just because they feel entitled to take their pets with them everywhere, they pretend a disability or a mental condition in order to do so. Totally disgusts me and I hope one day the ADA will implement procedures to combat the fakes and scammers to protect the rights of those who truly need these animals to live life……this is reality, not a reality show.

    • Amy Shojai

      So very sorry that this clueless person would flaunt such a flagrant illegal action. Sad and truly upsetting that the person apparently thinks nothing of it. Absolutely correct–it’s reality, not make believe.

      • Voodoo

        What is also upsetting is the comments to her post stating a lot of them know people who do this all the time, she just posted a photo of her dog wearing a vest stating it’s a “Service Dog”, totally not the same thing as an ESA and a flagrant violation and I am seriously angry she is flaunting it.

        • Amy Shojai

          Perhaps someone *cough cough* could link this blog post to the thread? Is there a reportable agency that could “out” such flagrant disregard for the law? Actually, it’s apparently not “illegal” to purchase fake vest/credentials and no mechanism that I could find that punishes such things. But it surely is unethical. I can’t imagine if her need was legit that she’d make light of the situation. For shame!

  9. bumpsnwarts

    I am an Advocate for STOPPING these Fake ESA scams! I do have a legitimate ESA dog letter prescribed by my psychiatrist of which we have a ‘history’ (patient/doctor relationship). Is it even LEGAL for these scam sites to dx a person from afar, especially using a questionnaire to diagnose and thus writing an ESA letter? I would like to know if a consumer uses these fake ESA letters and found out, can they be fined? Also, can the Fake Company be fined? Pls send any legal info. Thank You. Melinda.

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Melinda, I’m sure that there are legal ramifications to misrepresenting yourself and pet as ESA-approved partnership. I would assume (but I am not an attorney!), that filing charges would be up to the municipality in which the misrepresentation takes place. The doctor certainly could be investigated and possibly sanctioned by the appropriate board/organization should complaints be made.

  10. Clara Stephens

    Well not all people are fakes I not and I got a letter by phone witch they tell me it’s not legal I’m out of a 149.00 they told it was legal but I have a thing about a turpist yep they can be fooled big time I had a bad experience with them they can only talk to you you tell em what to hear had a sister commit suicide the Dr told us she wasn’t gonna hurt herself or anyone well she didy brother did and my daughter tried it twice all) were under care but I need my ESA dog but I don’t want to have to go to psychiatrist don’t trust them they can be fooled why not let people alone let them decide I know there’s fake regerstration sites I registered mine on one first got to checking and registered mine at one that I found to be legal so if people does it what’s it to us you didn’t pay for it they will get caught one day they ought to controle these companies that does this fake stuff yes it will hurt outhers companys but not the ones that’s legally got their pets so what’s all the fuss I hate it when people judges outhers some of the people may realy need it but don’t have the money don’t judge and ye shall not be judged you don’t know what outhers goes through they may look fine speak smile but dying on the inside

  11. infopdscenter

    Really enjoyed reading this blog and very helpful information.

  12. Shelby @ For The Love of Paws

    I think fake service animals should be treated by law very seriously. These people who need service animals should be protected, and it’s so sad to me that people are taking advantage of these things. It could mean life or death for some people! 🙁

  13. pupparker

    Really great article. I know there are service dogs trained for various things and the confusing one now is the emotional support animal. Aren’t most of our pets emotional support in some way. It bothers me when I see there is no behavioural training in these animals at all. At the least they should be tested and certified by the AKA good citizenship test

  14. Rajni.gandha

    It really bothers me how people exploit the system and put a service animal vest on their dog or register their dog as emotional support animal and get into places where pets are not allowed. It’s good to know that you need to have a disorder diagnosed by a licensed health practitioner before getting your pet registered as emotional support animal. I feel bad for the pets though, not their fault at all!

  15. FiveSibesMom

    Very in-depth and informative article, Amy. To think that there are these fakers, is just so wrong. I have a small friend who has epilepsy and just received her Service dog. Unbelievably, there has been some struggles with the family getting the dog to attend school with her because some are under misconceptions. In the end, of course she can, but for folks who need these dogs, people who fake it are truly causing harm to those who truly require them.

  16. Tenacious Little Terrier

    The majority of “fake” service animals that I see are also not trained even according to pet standards so yes, I think it makes a terrible impression and makes it harder for people with legitimate animals. It’s illegal in several states to fake having a service dog but I wonder how much that actually gets enforced.

  17. Ruth Epstein

    Fantastic article and one of my biggest pet peeves especially as I have been seeing lately so many dogs being walked in the streets with harnesses saying Service Dog and unfortunately I blame the companies that are making them and just selling them for the money.

    Layla is an emotional support dog for me, but I do not take advantage of this, and she is registered legally with Animal Control in San Francisco, but I see those that are abusing this system also and its sad.

  18. The Contemporary Pet

    It’s a terrible shame that people who truly need support animals end up being the ones to suffer when fakers try to put one over on stores, restaurants or housing authorities. It diminishes the training and discipline of true service animals and their dedication to their owners.

  19. Sweet Purrfections

    Very nice and thorough post. I’m not so sure I view the website as a valid source. Unfortunately, like everything else, people who abuse the system make it hard for those who really need it.

  20. Enviro_Dog

    Wow so many comments and such a hot topic! I agree that there needs to be some sort of ID that is required for service dogs. It’s making it so much harder for people who have legitimate service dogs to gain access with all the scammers. The letter did sound very fishy to me with the initial and annual charges.

  21. heatherwallace

    I have a friend who trains service animals for those with disabilities. So much love, work, and dedication goes into this and not every animal has the capacity to do what’s needed so she finds them amazing homes. I hate that there are people who try to buck the system. For what? There are so many dog-friendly places and regardless, it doesn’t hurt your pet to have a little down time without their human.

  22. Beth (@dailydogtag)

    I hope that company is shut down soon along with any other ESA scammers. I’ve read stories about people and their legitimate service dog being denied access to restaurants. I can’t help but think that the fake service animals are making life harder for the real ones and the people they help.

  23. Stephanie Seger

    Wow! Just wow! I knew fake credentials, badges and harnesses were out there for impostor service dogs, but I didn’t know about this service to provide letters for emotional support dogs over the internet. That sounds like such a complete and utter scam to me and it’s appauling they are getting away with it. I loved your question about how many people they turn down and refund their money. Of course it’s none, but I’m actually surprised they admitted it. I have a vest that I bought for Sulley when he was a puppy that says “Hi, My name is Sulley, Please Pet Me I’m Training to Be a Therapy Dog.” I only bought it because sometimes people are afraid of big dogs and I wanted Sulley to get as much exposure to friendly people as I could when he was young. When people asked I was always clear about him not being a trained service dog, but that my goal was that he would one day be a therapy dog for children.

  24. Irene McHugh

    People just blow my mind. How does someone rationalize gaming the system like this? I know the companies selling vests and certificates have no moral compass and game the system for financial gain. But the people buying those products and services? How do they justify their actions? The world needs more people like Atticus Finch.

  25. DashKitten

    Cats can’t be service animals? Why only dogs I have read of people having service cats?

    • Amy Shojai

      The legal definition of “service animals” only designates dogs and (as I said) some cases of mini-horses servicing blind partners. Cats do sometimes perform the same function, but they legally are not protected as service animals. *shrug* Not all dogs are considered service animals, either–therapy and ESAs are not considered service animals. They must be trained to perform a function necessary to the human partner.

  26. disabilitycenter

    Thank you for such an eloquent article on a touchy subject.

    • Amy Shojai

      …and I see that both you and “john smithinfo” posted the exact same comment, with a link back to a similar “fake” service. So I’ve removed your contact info and allowed the comment only to stand. SHAME ON YOU! Providing these “over the phone” paperwork for anyone interested in getting letters to “waive costly flight and pet deposits” is reprehensible.

  27. Wanda Dawn Miller

    I live in PA and the rules here for an ESA are very lax. Any scam artist could make a family pet into an ESA. I’m in an apartment building for individuals with ‘severe and pervasive’ mental illness. I live with with severe trauma and PTSD. When I moved into the apartment back in 2013, I asked for an ESA house bunny. I’ve had rabbits over the years and know how to properly care for them. I also had a letter from my psychiatrist, who I was seeing once a month. I was also doing therapy every week. My landlord gave me such a runaround about the rabbit that I eventually gave up. Apparently, the person before me owned a rabbit and didn’t care for it properly. Now, just about two weeks ago, a woman moved into the apartment above me with… wait for it… an emotional support pit bull. This dog hardly ever gets to go out and I constantly hear the woman yelling at the dog to ‘lie down’. This is making me furious. I wasn’t allowed a bunny, which would have been quiet and caged. I would only have allowed it out when I was there to supervise. Plus, I had a legitimate letter from a licensed psychiatrist. The pit bull was exempted from the size limits in our lease, because it’s an ’emotional support dog’. So, I was denied a bunny. But, this chick gets a friggin pit bull. I think this is discrimination and I’m not happy about it.

    • Amy Shojai

      Wow, I’m so sorry. That doesn’t sound fair at all. Could you revisit the issue? Good luck. Rabbits are lovely creatures.



  1. How to Travel With Pets: Vacationing with Cats & DogsAMY SHOJAI'S Bling, Bitches & Blood - […] includes the dog or cat. Different airlines have different policies. The rules for traveling with service animals (or emotional…

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Recent Posts

National Pet Wellness Month & How Cats And Dogs Impact Our Lives

October is National Pet Wellness Month which celebrates caring for our pets. That means you’ll want to:

👨‍⚕️ Schedule a visit with your veterinarian
🆘 Watch your pet’s weight
🥎 Don’t skip exercise
👌 Keep up-to-date with pet prevention
🐾 Invest in pet insurance

For those who adore cats and dogs or other critters, our animal companions impact us in so many ways we can’t imagine living in a world without them. That begs the questions, how (and why) pets are so important to us. I covered this a bit in what makes people happy, but wanted to go beyond that post.

The Love Connection

As social creatures, humans crave companionship. We are tactile beings, relishing contact with others. During the COVID pandemic, with opportunities for human contact curtailed, our pets became even more important. While we couldn’t reach out and touch each other, petting a beloved dog or cat, horse or hamster filled up our empty emotional tanks with the love we need to thrive and survive…


It’s Adopt A Dog Month! If a new fur-kid is in your future, remember that more goes into adopting a dog than picking the “prettiest” or just plopping food in a bowl. I’ve written about shelter adoptions before, but here are more specific tips. Follow these do’s and don’ts to ensure your furry love connection lasts past the honeymoon and endures for the lifetime of that pet.

10 DO’s & DON’Ts for Adopting a Dog (or Cat)

Don’t adopt too early. Kittens and puppies adopted too young bite and claw more than those corrected by Mom and siblings. Wait to adopt furry until they are at least 8-10 weeks old for pups and 12 to 16 weeks for kittens…

What Makes Humans Happy? And Where Do Pets Fit In?

When we look at the principles of Positive Psychology (the study of what human wellbeing and fulfillment is made of – including happiness) it’s easy to see why so many of us attribute our happiness and wellness to our pets! I’ve frequently written about how pets show love, and what dogs want out of life. So why not explore what makes humans happy, too?

Read on to learn about th 5 Elements of Human Well-being According to Positive Psychology…

How to Prepare for a Disaster: Pet Preparedness & Tips

With the latest hurricane and more on the way, it’s time to revisit your pet disaster plan. You do have one, right? After Katrina and Harvey, everyone should understand the importance of disaster preparation.

I posted this in June for National Pet Preparedness Month. September is Disaster Preparation Month. Hurricane Ian drives home the importance of having a disaster plan not only for yourself when Mother Nature throws a tantrum but also to keep your pets safe. Whether you must deal with tornadoes, floods, landslides, typhoons, wildfires, or other emergencies, there’s a rule that we must always PLAN FOR THE WORST.

And then pray it doesn’t happen. For those going through issues now, refer to these resources:

Florida Animal Shelter Emergency Response
Mobile Phone: 941-525-8035.
Office Phone: 863-577-4605.

Florida Animal Shelter Emergency Response

American Humane Red Star Disaster Response

American Red Cross

Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief (Government)

What Cats Want Out of Life & What Cats Need

Whether you share your pillow with a kitty, or care for feral, stray or community cats, always consider what cats want out of life. I’ve written about what makes humans happy, as well as what dogs want out of life, and it’s time for the cats. We love our cats all year long, but sometimes lose sight of what cats need out of life. It’s important to channel your “inner kitty” to learn how to keep the purrs rumbling 24/7 to provide what cats need.

Dark Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Books Galore! Booksweeps Giveaway, Emily Kimelman & More!

👀 I spy a steal…If you haven’t read my first September & Shadow Thriller, you can enter to win it on BookSweeps today — plus 55 exciting Dark Mysteries, Thrillers & Suspense books from a great collection of authors… AND a brand new eReader 😀

I’ve teamed up with fantastic authors to give away a huge collection of mysteries and suspense thrillers to 2 lucky winners!

Oh, and did I mention the Grand Prize winner gets a BRAND NEW eReader? 😁

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

September 19-25 is National Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week, founded by The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes.

This struck a chord with me, especially after living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?

What Is A Less Adoptable Pet

Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts! Read on…

Do Pets See In Color?

I love this question. What do you think? Today’s Ask Amy topic is Do dogs see in color? What about cats and dogs, do they see things differently?

Today, take a fun look at this YouTube video discussing the question. And weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments–does color matter to your fur kids?

How to Manage Fur Shedding

When dog shedding and cat shedding creates hairy tumbleweeds, it creates a fur-ocious mess you need to manage. At one time, our German Shepherd Magic’s fur shedding turned our cream carpet to gray. Today we live with two short-haired pets. But Karma-Kat’s silver fur and the Shadow-Pup’s undercoat become furry dust mice on the kitchen’s slate floor, float through the air, and cling to upholstery and clothing. Knowing what to do goes beyond keeping the house clean. Proper fur care can prevent skin problems and also help manage hairballs.

Exposure to sunlight or artificial light determines the timing and amount of shedding. “It is a normal process which can be accelerated under certain circumstances,” says Steven Melman, VMD, an internationally known expert on veterinary dermatology and the founder of In fact, indoor pets exposed to artificial light shed nonstop, even during triple-digit summer or frigid winter months.

Whatever time of year shedding occurs, it’s aggravating, and a nonstop cleaning challenge. Why do pets shed fur, and how can we manage the mess?

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

Several years ago when I wrote for the site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on, declaring September 11 as “Hug Your Hound Day.” Before you tar-and-feather me, read on to learn WHY hugging your dog can put you, and your dog, in danger…

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Amy Shojai CACB is an award winning author.  You can find all her publications and book her to speak via her website. 

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