Service animals are trained to provide a wide array of functions. And not all of them are big dogs harnessed to help a blind person.
There are service miniature horses and monkeys for people with mobility issues and dogs in a variety of sizes to aid the deaf and to alert people with seizure disorders or alleviate PTSD to name a few of the lesser known types of service animals.
These animals all have extensive training to perform specific tasks to help their handler. But service animals in public are running into problems—including being attacked—by untrained animals whose owners lied to be able to bring their pet everywhere with them.
But who should police such abuses? A young person faced that very question and turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for moral clarity.
Redditor pastel_devil_ asked:
“AITA for calling out a fake service dog?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“So, another service dog related post by me, but just bare with me.”
“So I’m in Walmart, (I hate Walmart oml) and we’re near the end of our trip. My service dog in training is next to me, doing what he was supposed to do.”
“We’re at the check out when I see a little [Shih Tzu] in a shopping cart. Now, as most probably know, it is against the LAW to have a dog in a shopping cart, because it’s a health risk.”
In an update the OP corrected their mistake about dogs in shopping carts which, it turned out, is not against any laws in their state.
“I was wrong, it is not against the law to place a dog in a cart.“
In their original post, they continued:
“My dog DID notice the dog, and stared at it for a few seconds. That’s why I noticed it.”
“I corrected him, then was originally just going to let it go. But, I eventually had a mental war with myself and decided, you know what, if I don’t say something no one likely will.”
“So, I walked just a bit closer. I’m not entirely confident in my dog’s behavior around unfamiliar dogs yet. (he has a lot of trouble focusing around them, we’re working on this).”
“In my most polite voice possible, I said ‘Ma’am, is that a service dog?'”
“Her response, was not exactly not what I expected. She looked at me like I was crazy, then finally said ‘Uh. Yes’.”
“I then asked the other legal question, ‘what task is it trained to perform?'”
“She seemed defensive. ‘Oh uh. Just comfort.’ (I’m not exaggerating those are the exact words she said).”
“I then said, as polite as possible, ‘Oh, that’s fine, but please don’t put them in a cart, and emotional support animals are not service animals and do not have public access rights’.”
“She scoffed, said ‘Okay’ then left hurriedly.”
“I thought I was very nice about it, but as soon as we were in the car my mother scolded me, saying I’m ‘not the authority’ and I need to stop ‘policing everyone’.”
“Was I in the wrong?”
“Should I not have said something or been nicer about it?”
Redditors were asked to pass judgment by voting:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Overall, Redditors decided the OP was not the a**hole, but it was far from a unanimous decision.
All of the comments that received the most upvotes identified the OP as an a**hole.
“I did not read through every answer, but I have a small service dog, he’s a diabetic alert dog, he is well behaved and does not wear a service animal vest, usually he wears a shirt or sweater depending on the weather and holiday/season.”
“My dog needs to ride in a shopping cart, or be carried by myself in order to monitor the smell of my breath (as this is how he was trained). I have been approached several times, both politely and rudely with questions about the legitimacy of my service animal.”
“Yes, it’s frustrating to see people with misbehaving dogs posing as service animals, but in general, unless the animal is being disruptive or unruly, please don’t approach people with your opinions.”
“I’ve even been reported to the management of a store because I would not allow their little princess to pet my dog. Also, no public establishment employee or representative are allowed to approach you and ask for any kind of proof of certification that your animal has been trained and/or licensed as a service animal, so yeah YTA.”
In a separate comment this Redditor clarified public employees can ask if the animal is a service animal and what tasks it performs.
“Stop trying to police everyone that you do not deem worthy of a service animal, you have no idea what people are going through.” ~ Boo-n-BeansMom
“So after reading through the responses, here’s what sticks out. You know exactly what questions can be asked of someone with a service animal and you dislike being asked yourself.”
“YTA. I’ve been part of some FB groups that were filled with younger people with service animals, the one thing I noticed constantly in those groups was, they all thought they knew everything about service animals and who should have them, how they should behave, where they should go and they also all thought they should police anyone they see with an animal same as you did.”
“My advice, leave people alone! Their life, their service animal and their disabilities are none of your business.”
“It doesn’t matter that you know what questions you can legally ask, asking a stranger makes you a rude, nosy busy body. If you see something illegal, unhygienic or against store policy happening, contact someone in a position of authority and go about your day.”
“If I had to guess based off of what I’ve seen of younger people with service animals, given your story, I’d guess you have a service animal for something related to depression or anxiety and its much less about having a support animal versus having an animal that you can take anywhere, is yours, no one can touch and no one can argue with you, but also leads to you getting into arguments when people try to say no or a kid wants to touch them leading to you trying to teach people and act superior.”
“My assumption is based off the way you speak (e.g. I corrected him) the fact your comfortable approaching total strangers to pester them and your mother’s reaction.” ~ RainCastle7
The OP verified they were in their teens and their own self-trained service animal was partly for anxiety and depression.
“You don’t want to give out your medical info, but you feel entitled to demand it of others.”
“You don’t want anyone questioning your self-trained/self-identified service dog, but you feel entitled to question others.”
“The fact you fail to see your abundant hypocrisy is another reason YTA.” ~ LakotaGrl
“ESH. First, let me say that my husband has a service dog. He is task trained and does public access.”
“I found this dog’s breeder, I did all the foundation work, and specialized task training for this dog since he was a pup. I taught my husband how to be a handler. I spend an incredible amount of time with that team.”
“YTA for TWO reasons:”
“1) It isn’t your place to tell off people for their fake service dogs. It is 100% up to the store for handling this.”
“2) your [Service Dog In Training] (SDIT) was NO WHERE NEAR READY to be in Walmart if you are still working on having them focus on you around other dogs and you were not entirely sure of your dog’s behavior!!!”
“If your SDIT had reacted you just made a really bad example out of yourselves that will effect everyone who saw’s opinion on [Service Dog] (SD) teams. Making it that much more difficult for other bona-fide teams.”
“Look. I’ve been there. I’ve had to back track on training for public access when the pup’s went through their rebellious teenage stages.”
“If you are unsure how your SDIT will react around other dogs/people/a million other things it should not be in non-pet friendly spaces until you are!!!” ~ BotanicalBrunchSkunk
“YTA. [OP said:] ‘I’m not entirely confident in my dog’s behavior around unfamiliar dogs yet’.”
“And yet, you walked over there anyway just to inflate your own ego and self importance by ‘exposing’ her. You admittedly did NOT know how your dog in training would react.”
“Your dog, her dog, an innocent bystander all could have been hurt if something happened but you chose to be the high and mighty ‘service dog in cart’ gatekeeper.”
“If it bothered you so much, you should have approached an employee with your concern. Instead, you needed to preen your ego. Call it for what it was.” ~ corpusdelectable
“Next time OP might be harassing someone whose service dog is legit. OP had no real reason to think this dog wasn’t til the owner gave her response.”
“Which is why I went with ESH.” ~ Rivka333
“Strangers aren’t required to answer those questions. They are for companies/businesses.”
“She should mind her own business. The questions aren’t designed to be asked by private citizens from one to another, they are specifically designed to help need-to-know communication regarding service animals happen legally and ethically.”
“No one has any right to demand answers to those questions from a stranger.” ~ CheatersNevrrProsper
“The way I see it, the woman and her responses are irrelevant.”
“OP walked up to a stranger and engaged a conversation with the intent of enforcing rules that are not her responsibility to enforce.”
“That’s rude and a**holish.” ~ scamp41
“YTA. You are what we call a ‘moral busybody’. The type of person who goes around telling strangers what they can and can’t do with no authority to do so.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s not a service animal, maybe she brought the dog inside so another moral busybody wouldn’t bust the window of her car if they saw the dog.”
“It doesn’t affect you. At all. You didn’t give the benefit of the doubt or even ask why the animal was in the store, you just quizzed and lectured a stranger to feel self-righteous.”
“Next time, [mind your own business] (MYOB), or tell a store manager if it’s a big deal.” ~ voqtak1
“YTA. One, for asking questions as if you were a store employee. It is 100% none of your business, as a random customer, what task the dog performs.”
“And two, for making comments about the law when you obviously have no clue what you are talking about.”
“It isn’t against the law [for a dog to be in a cart], it is against store policy and possibly the local health code but not the law. No one is going to get cited, arrested, etc… for having a dog in a cart.”
“And it is up to the store to decide which store policies they want to enforce.”
“Additionally, you listed several things your dog needs to work on. One could argue that your dog doesn’t belong in WalMart because the dog is not trained and cannot yet perform tasks.”
“Your dog can’t even be trusted around other dogs. So in this situation, which dog was a bigger threat?”
“The dog in the cart minding it’s own business or your untrained, potentially problematic dog?” ~ sheramom4
“YTA. Even if it was against store policy, its none of your business. You even risked chaos when you said that you’re not confident with your dog around other dogs.”
“It’s the employees who are supposed to do that. Not you.”
“And even if you were trying to be polite, asking about someone’s service dog is seen as snotty to many people. Like someone who’s trying to enforce rules they don’t need to, and acting ‘high and mighty’ because they read a 4 sentence article on the onion about it.”
“I’m not saying that’s how you’re acting, but that’s how it looks from an outside perspective. You should have just minded your own business.” ~ Cr1msonFoxx
For those who said the OP was not the a**hole, they still cited it was not the OP’s business to question another customer as that customer was leaving the store.
However they were more bothered by the customer with a pet in the store.
“It wasn’t really your business, but then again these people with their fake service animals cause enough problems to be a detriment to people and their legit service animals.”
“And you were polite. So I’m going with ‘Yay you’. NTA.” ~ SugarGlitterkiss
“NTA. People piss me off with their fake service animals.” ~ LenaDontLoveYou
The OP may have gotten the validation of being declared NTA, but the overall feedback they received suggested they mind their own business in the future.