The second half of The New York Post's intrepid investigation into phony service dogs dropped today, showing us that if the spirit moves you to go through the trouble of obtaining a fake vest and ID tag to make your dog look like a service animal, you can indeed take your canine to any restaurant you want, provided you have no moral qualms about doing so.
That's what the Post discovered when it sent a reporter into fancy restaurants — the legendary Le Cirque among them, "where waiters even brought a bowl with water and ice cubes" — with a dog that wasn't there to help with any disability. The lovable pup just came along because, you know, dogs are fun to have around. And it sucks that there's a law against pets in restaurants, right? Turns out that law is actually pretty easy to subvert.
"Hampton — showing off his phony 'service dog' patch we had specially embroidered — happily slobbered as he wolfed down an 8-ounce salmon filet," reads an investigative report from the Post's Tara Palmeri, who explains that current laws prevent the restaurant from verifying if Hampton was a real service dog:
[T]he maitre d’ couldn’t ask, because the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits businesses from demanding a canine’s credentials. It also doesn’t allow managers to ask its human companions about their 'disability.'
The scheme isn't all that new. Famed "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan's blog noted this growing trend back in 2012, pointing out how the Internet was inundated with fake service dog kits. And SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi looked at this disturbing trend all the way back in 2009:
Without ever laying eyes on the creature in question, Animal Control staff is legally mandated to grant the service tags to anyone who brings in a note on the letterhead of a doctor or therapist and then signs an affidavit stating he or she is not committing fraud
So what's the harm in having Fido enjoy the tasting menu at Per Se? Other than potential annoyance to other patrons, these non-service dogs sully the reputation of real service dogs, who are taught to be submissive, calm, and respectful to others.
"People with legitimate service dogs are being questioned more than ever, and their fear is that they will have to carry around identification stating their disability," an expert told Cesar Millan's blog.
Diana Taylor, girlfriend of Mayor Bloomberg and New York's first lady, told the Post, "It’s unfair for people to take advantage of a system put in place to really help those who need it." Amen to that. Just get a dog-sitter for the night.