Fido, can I see an ID, please?


Whitney's Seeing Eye dog identification card

Last month my Seeing Eye dog Whitney was carded in the lobby of the Chicago high-rise where my doctor’s office is. Every human who walks in that building is required to show an ID card, but this is the first time they’ve asked for an ID to prove that the superbly-trained three-year-old Golden Retriever/Labrador Cross who guides me through a revolving door, into their lobby, around their desk and onto the elevator is legit.

Donna Smith, director of training for Easter Seals Project Action explained the regulations for service dogs in a post we published last February called Following the rules for service animals. She shared some of her personal experiences using a guide dog and pointed out that there is currently no national or universal certification process for trained service animals. It is not illegal for a person to ask for an ID card for a service dog, but a person using a service dog cannot be required to show any kind of certification or identification in order to have a service dog accompany them. Donna said this is one of the most misunderstood pieces of ADA regulation about service animals. The ADA allows business owners and the like to ask two, and only two, things when questioning whether a service dog is legit or not:

  • whether the animal is, in fact, a service animal, and
  • what tasks the animal is trained to perform.
Donna Smith and Farlow

Donna and her Seeing Eye dog Farlow

The building’s security guard didn’t know that, though. He told me they’d all been told to ask for certification when anyone comes into the building claiming the dog at their side is a service dog. “A lot of them fake it,” the guard said with a shrug. I wasn’t surprised. Let’s face it. It’s not hard to tie a vest on a dog, and it’s pretty easy to get fake certification for a dog as well. It’s not easy to live with a significant disability, however, and faking that you have one is an insult to everyone who really needs their dog, and to the airlines, hotels, restaurants and stores who are trying to do what’s right.

The Seeing Eye gives graduates like Donna Smith and me an ID card for our dogs, and while I do carry Whitney’s card with me, I’ve never had to use it before last month. It wasn’t much trouble to fetch Whitney’s ID out of my wallet, so I didn’t put up a fit or try educating the security guard about ADA legislation. I just showed the card, commanded Whitney to lead me forward, and proceeded to the elevator. I’m just sorry that fakers have brought us to the point where the managers at the building require security guards to ask for something they shouldn’t have to bother with.


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