Today’s Service Dogs: Abuse Of The System Is On The Rise

Our canine companions have a rich history, especially as service dogs, dating back to before the beginning history itself.


Our canine companions have a rich history, especially as service dogs, dating back to before the beginning history itself. In one recorded case, back in 300 BC, the Greek King of Epirus, Pyrrhus used dogs to determine the killer of its master. In the 14th century, King Louis XI was said to be the first person who used them as guard dogs and warn his majesty of “stranger danger.”

While today we may envision a service dog in the form of a stereotypical German Shepherd being used primarily by the police or military, but there’s a growing number of them assisting the disabled. In either event, they’ve still come a long way from being guardians during the middle ages. Today’s service dog can be found performing a multitude of tasks all around the world, but abuse of this system is on the rise.


There’s More Than Fido Flying

There’s a growing problem with this important part of the working animal population, people passing off pets as service animals, and some pretty unusual ones at that. In a recent article featured on Today, former flight attendant Hollis Gillespie laments, “You get on an aircraft and the cabin looks like a barnyard.”

Gillespie also stated she’s seen snakes, birds and pigs all flying aboard jumbo jets at no charge. She continues to offer, “Often it’s about the money, because one way travel with a pet on some airlines can be up to $600, depending on the size of the animal.”

Fraudulent Flyers

Apparently, all you need for an animal to fly for free is an official looking service vest for your critter and a letter from a qualified, mental health professional. But there’s plenty of online venues where you can obtain both of these by simply filling out a questionnaire and paying a fee.

Today’s investigative correspondent, Jeff Rossen, did just that and was emailed an official looking document from a real, existing mental health professional without even meeting with him. Armed with his letter, Rossen took two flights with his dog Rory, who sat in his lap the entire time, no crate required. What’s even worse, no one bothered or offered to check his paperwork or questioned the dog’s authenticity as an official service animal.

No Harm, No Fowl

Many people might be thinking, so what’s the big deal, no one’s really getting hurt and people have just found a creative way of beating the system and saving a buck. But according to Laurel Van Horn, a disability expert from The Open Doors Organization, it’s a huge concern.

“When you try to pass off your animal as a service animal or an emotional support animal and it’s not, what you’re really doing is you’re passing yourself off as a person with a disability, and it can have real consequences for those who actually need these animals”, stated Van Horn.


According to statistics from the University of Arizona, only 0.9% of truly disabled people are paired with a service animal, which totals around 387,000 of these animals in the US. Compare that to over 43 million disabled Americans and then it becomes extremely unfair when you consider the “snakes on a plane” concept.

Shopping With Schnauzers

Increasingly more and more shoppers are bringing their small dogs into grocery stores and other retail outlets and no one seems to care. For example, while this topic was on my mind, just the other day I was getting in line at a home improvement store, when a dog on a leash passed in front of my cart.

The clerk snapped at me and told me to be mindful of the dog so that I wouldn’t strike it with my cart. I assumed from her remark that animals were allowed in the store since it wasn’t wearing a service vest. Upon exiting the building, I saw a clearly marked sign at the entrance that stated “No Dogs Allowed,” followed by the typical verbiage about service dogs being exempt from this rule.

Canines In Carts

The next day, I decided to do some investigative work of my own and went to a large, nation-wide retail grocery store and questioned one of the head clerks about non-credentialed dogs entering the store. “Judy” (who wished to remain anonymous) told me that customers bring their pets into the store “all the time” and that it’s a “daily occurrence,” especially smaller dogs they put into the grocery cart where children are often seated.

I asked if she ever requested a customer leave the store with their undocumented, unvested pet since animals aren’t allowed inside and she replied, “Corporate doesn’t want us to alienate the customers over this violation,” even though she completely disagrees with their ruling.


A Clear Health Code Violation

Judy went on to complain, “Imagine putting your groceries or even your kid onto a surface that could be contaminated with a dog’s saliva, hair, dander, urine or fecal matter through casual contact, it’s disgusting how many potential diseases they could be spreading.”

Judy continued, “Although service animals are welcome in the store, at least they’re confined on a leash and are walking on concrete floors, which are swept and mopped regularly, unlike the shopping carts, which are only cleaned monthly.”

These are just two of the many ways humans are abusing the service animal system and it’s becoming more problematic. Whether it’s frequent flyers trying to save a buck or pampered pooches in our retail outlets, it’s still an abuse of what service animals are supposed to represent and belittles the practice altogether.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Is this really no big deal or a growing problem?


Written by Amber Kingsley


Thank You Las Patronas!

This year TLCAD is a gracious beneficiary of a Las Patronas grant

This year TLCAD is a gracious beneficiary of a Las Patronas grant to support our Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles & Creating Hope (POOCH) program. Thanks to Las Patronas, TLCAD will obtain materials needed to train service dogs, helping to make the program a success!


“The POOCH Service Dog Program is the perfect nexus of benefiting the local San Diego community by providing service dogs for wounded warriors and children with autism, saving dogs from euthanasia, giving our staff the opportunity to become a volunteer for the program and providing incentives and rehabilitation opportunities for our inmate population.” – Warden Daniel Paramo

Learn more about our POOCH program

Petco Foundation Invests in TLCAD’s Service Animals

Petco Foundation Invests in Tender Loving Canine Assistance Dog’s Service Animals
Grant of $10,000 will extend efforts to help pets and people in San Diego, California live their best lives

Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs of San Diego, California, today announced it has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Petco Foundation to support its ability to have more shelter dogs in their programs.

Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs is a nonprofit organization that provides the gift of independence to wounded warriors and individuals with autism by building a dedicated community of service dog trainers and volunteers. Since 1998, Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs has worked to satisfy an unfulfilled need for Assistance Dogs in San Diego County, California. Today, the two main areas of focus are the Leash‐On‐Life Program that was developed to assist children and families who have been impacted by autism and the At Ease Program that was created to serve the needs of our country’s Wounded Warriors.

The grant was made possible through the Petco Foundation’s annual Helping Heroes fundraising campaign, in partnership with Natural Balance Pet Foods. During the campaign each October, customers are invited to donate in Petco stores across the country to support service and therapy animals and organizations.

The Petco Foundation investment will help Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs to assess and train more shelter dogs to become service dogs to help wounded warriors or children with autism.

“We are so grateful for this recognition of our programs and for these funds that will help us to increase the number of shelter dogs we are able to train as service dogs to serve the members of our community,”

said Karen Shulz, president, executive director and trainer at Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs.

The Petco Foundation has served as a voice for companion animals across the country since 1999. Today, with more than 8,000 local animal welfare partners across the country, the Petco Foundation donates approximately $15 million a year to make a difference in the lives of millions of animals. The organization is funded through donations raised during fundraisers conducted in Petco’s more than 1,300 stores across the country, as well as from Petco associates, vendors and corporate contributions. Money raised helps fund animal welfare organizations, spay and neuter efforts, animal‐assisted therapy programs and humane education. The majority of the funds raised remain in the communities where they were raised, as well as animal welfare efforts nationwide.

For more information about Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs or the Petco Foundation, visit or  Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or by using the hashtag #PetcoFoundation.

About Petco & the Petco Foundation

logo_foundation_1155x354.jpgPetco is a leading pet specialty retailer that focuses on nurturing the powerful relationship between people and pets. We do this by providing the products, services, advice and experiences that keep pets physically fit, mentally alert, socially engaged and emotionally happy. Everything we do is guided by our vision for Healthier Pets. Happier People. Better World. We operate more than 1,300 Petco locations across the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico, including more than 100 Unleashed by Petco locations, a smaller format neighborhood shop; nine Pooch Hoteldestinations for pet daycare, boarding and spa services; and Petco Foundation,an independent nonprofit organization, has raised more than $125 million since it was created in 1999 to help promote and improve the welfare of companion animals. In conjunction with the Foundation, we work with and support thousands of local animal welfare groups across the country and, through in‐store adoption events, help find homes for more than 350,000 animals every year.

3rd Annual Stand Up Ride and BBQ

3rd annual Stand Up Ride and BBQ

TLCAD would like to thank the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, CA 33-1 for being part of their 3rd annual Stand Up Ride and BBQ event held on March 28th! Staff, Volunteers and our At Ease client Marlene Krpata and Service Dog Dante, enjoyed festivities, great food, and live music by the Jim Allen band.


First Annual Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon to Support TLCAD!

First annual College Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon, featuring guest speaker Bob Knight

Presentation of Flag

TLCAD board member, Colonel Marianne Waldrop, USMC Retired and Captain Chuck Schroeder, USN Retired,
presented Coach Bob Knight with an honorary flag flown in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs, Inc. (TLCAD) held its first annual College Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon, featuring guest speaker Bob Knight, at the Officers’ Club at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on October 28th. 300 basketball fans and military supporters came together to attend this exciting event. Coaches Steve Fisher of San Diego State and Bill Grier of the University of San Diego were honored speakers who spoke to the audience about their teams upcoming basketball seasons.

Before the event, Bob Knight personally spoke with 40 Marines in a lively and candid question and answer session, where he signed basketballs and took photos with the troops.  After lunch, Coach Knight captivated guests with his theory of basketball, relating lessons of the game to lessons in life. He graciously accepted the flag flown over the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan on September 5th, 2014 in appreciation by ARCENT Afghanistan Transition Team (A2T2), stating it was one of the most memorable gifts he had ever received. TLCAD President, Karen Shultz, then took the stage and explained TLCAD’s At Ease program and the impact custom-trained Service Dogs have on the lives of Wounded Warriors. She also announced TLCAD’s brand new partnership with the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, where inmates will be given the opportunity to better themselves and the community by learning to train Service Dogs for individuals with autism and Wounded Warriors.

Captain and Gracie

Captain, U.S.Army (Ret) and At Ease Service Dog Gracie

The audience was then mesmerized by Captain, U.S.Army (Retired), Marlene Krpata’s unforgettable speech, telling her story of service, her visible and invisible wounds of war (being injured during her service in Iraq) and how her TLCAD Service Dog, Gracie, has transformed and continues to positively impact her life on her long journey toward healing.

The fundraiser was a tremendous success and brought in over $40,000 for TLCAD’s programs that will produce more custom trained service dogs for individuals with autism and Wounded Warriors.

Jane Sobel Klonsky Photographs TLCAD

Project Unconditional: the special bond between people and dogs

Some of our TLCAD Service Dog recipients had the wonderfully unique opportunity of collaborating with professional photographer, Jane Sobel Klonsky, who is putting together a photography project that focuses on the special bond between people and dogs. Jane brilliantly captured the strong bond between our Service Dogs and their handlers. Not only are the photographs stunning, the photo shoot sessions with Jane created memorable experiences for our clients as well as a provided them with the chance to celebrate the special bond they share with their dog. TLCAD expresses great gratitude to Jane for sharing her talents to highlight our wonderful Service Dog teams.

To learn more about Jane’s work and Project Unconditional, please visit her website:

Follow Jane on Facebook » 
Follow Jane on Instagram »

Facility Service Dog, Dottie, Helps in Cocos Fire

TLCAD would like to send out positive thoughts to all those who were and still are affected by the fires that swept San Diego County during the week of May 11th, 2014. TLCAD’s Facility Dog, Dottie, worked with firefighters at the Cocos Fire in San Marcos, CA and can be seen below.