Service Dog Frauds: Rising Problem Could Jeopardize Safety Of Truly Dependent People
October 23, 2018
Dogs trained to perform specific tasks go through rigorous training. It takes two years before service dogs, like the German Shepherd guide dogs trained by Fidelco at its two centers — one in Bloomfield, the other in Wilton — are placed with clients. That’s 15,000 hours of training, “more instruction than our kids get in kindergarten through college,” says Russman, and $45,000 in direct costs. Therapy dogs such as the ones Quinn trains go through 2,000 hours of task training in addition to obedience training.
Eliot D. Russman, president and CEO of the national Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, sits with several German Shepherds at the training center in Bloomfield. (Brad Horrigan)On a recent Hartford-bound flight from Florida, a couple boarded with two vest-clad rare-breed small dogs. As they settled in their seats, they took the dogs’ vests off, unleashed them, and over the duration of the flight, as the human passengers dozed off, the dogs wandered up and down the aisle, even after flight attendants warned the couple to hold on to their pet companions.
It isn’t the first time Eliot D. Russman, a passenger on the flight and head of Bloomfield-based Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, has witnessed a spreading trend: dog owners taking their pets wherever they want, often under the ruse that the canines are emotional support animals, with online-purchased harnesses, vests and identification cards meant to prove it.
“There’s a growing sense of entitlement that people want what they want and they don’t care about anyone else,” says Russman, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization that breeds, trains and raises German Shepherds as guide dogs for the blind across North America. “It’s plain and simple selfishness.”
Service dogs have been assisting their owners for generations, not only guiding the blind, but also retrieving and helping stabilize their owners’ gait.
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