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Better Ask Barry: What defines a “service animal?”

service dogs

SALINAS, Calif (KION/CNN) When David Keller saw a “service dog” pulling on its owner’s leash, he doubted the dog was really a service animal.

So, despite the fact that he doesn’t own any bees, he went online to register a picture of a beehive as a service animal.

"I was thinking that it's just too easy to get these animals to be – quote - service animals," Keller explained.

Keller used the website, one of many online certification websites.

"A lot of people thought it was hilarious and a lot of people were getting upset," he said.

While buzz-worthy, online certification doesn't amount to much.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that only dogs and small horses can be considered a service animal, and only if they're trained to perform a specific task.

"They can be mobility animals -- keeping a person upright -- they can be hearing alert, seizure alert, low blood pressure alert, blind assistance, they can do a number of marvelous activities," said Wendy Newman, a trainer/behavior consultant with the SPCA for Monterey County.

Airlines will allow service and support animals to fly for free in the cabin, but only under strict rules.

Keller's beehive certification would never fly.

He says he’s simply making a point that online registration sites are misleading.

"It's making people believe all animals are service animals when they're not. And there's a clear difference."

The SPCA’s Newman agrees and says the difference is proper training.

"Those dogs are usually very expensive,” she said, “because they are highly trained. It takes two or three years at least to train a good service dog."

Animals are helpful in medical therapy and emotional support, but unless they perform a specific act to help you, they are not considered a service animal.

You can pay for an online certification, but it won’t carry much weight.

Monterey County / Pets

Barry Brown

Barry Brown is an anchor and reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.


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