Animal Health Foundation Blog

Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

Bogus ‘Service Animal Certifications’ Increasingly Being Sold Online

Thursday, September 19th, 2019
  • Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have made it possible for people with disabilities to live independently, but now, there are websites advertising bogus certification for support animals
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says support animals don’t have the same federal protections as service animals, and business owners may ask someone with a disability only two questions regarding their service animal
  • Some people purchase vests or certification to identify their animals as needed support without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label — in some cases simply to bring their favorite animal with them into public places
  • It’s often obvious when an animal is a bona fide service dog, such as when they’re guiding someone who is unable to see, is in a wheelchair or has trouble with stability or balance, but other times, disabilities aren’t evident
  • According to the ADA, there are regulations in place regarding service dogs, such as what to do if someone is afraid of or allergic to service animals, whether restaurants or theaters are exempt, and whether extra fees are allowed

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have transformed the lives of scores of people, as they make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently. Since new laws have sanctioned the public appearance of service animals, the lives of their humans are far easier and less stressful, as Katherine Moore, who is legally blind, can attest.

“When you have a service animal it’s like you are one. When I put my hand on his harness it’s like an extension of my arm … That’s like putting a value on your freedom. How do you do that? How do you say what your freedom is worth? It’s worth everything.”1

Training for service animals is wide-ranging and extensive, which is why Moore says she’s able to live a full life, including working and commuting, just as she did before she lost her ability to see. One of the few organizations in Tennessee that specializes in service dog training, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs (SMSD),2 focuses on training dogs that will be used by wounded veterans. Mike Kitchens, chairman of SMSD, explains:

“Every dog that we have we will take to Harley Davidson and have them start up the motorcycles. We will take them to the baggage area at the airport. Revolving doors. They have to be so environmentally stable because the intent is for that dog to be able to accompany that veteran wherever he goes.”3

Other animals may provide emotional comfort, but they don’t necessarily fall under the same federal protections as service animals. In fact, Dr. Zenithson Ng from the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s College of Veterinary Medicine contends that emotional support animals are pets. They may alleviate symptoms of conditions their humans have, and even be designated by mental health professionals, but still, they’re not considered service animals. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

“While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.”4

Bogus Service Dog Certifications: ‘There’s No Such Thing’

Where there’s a service, privilege or right, especially when it comes to animals, it seems there’s always people willing to bend the rules. It usually involves money, and selling so-called “service dog certification” to designate animals with qualifications they don’t actually have are no exception. Needless to say, the types of service and support animals are vast and can be confusing. Here’s a chart that summarizes all of the categories.

“It’s major issue for us because we see it all. We really do,” Kitchens says. “You can Google ‘service dog access’ and you will come up with multiple organizations that for $69.95 we will send you a service dog certification. Well, there is no such thing.”5 There’s also no national registry for animals who are designated helpers for humans, Ng says.

For a fee, there are dozens of websites that offer vests for dogs to wear that “certify” them as certified service, emotional support or therapy animals. There’s another reason why some people are willing to purchase vests without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label. notes that for some, it’s also a way to bring their favorite animal with them into public places.

Ng, who’s a member of the steering committee on human-animal interaction with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), says the problem is a hot topic among personnel responsible for governing the situation due to what he terms as an “onslaught” of problems the AVMA has run into recently. He also notes:

“We are so lucky in this society to have this term of emotional support animal and … we really should designate that for the people who need them and the animals that are well behaved in public settings. So when people are taking advantage of the system that’s really hard, it’s disappointing.”6

Service Animals: Training to Perform Their True Function

The ADA acknowledges that it’s often fairly obvious when an animal is merely accompanying someone in a public place as a pet, or if it’s a bona fide service animal; you’ll know the latter is the case if a dog is guiding someone who is either blind or unable to see clearly, or helping someone who has trouble with stability or balance or is in a wheelchair. However, sometimes disabilities are not always visible to bystanders. The ADA, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, states:

“When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”7

Further, service animals are limited to dogs under Title II and III of the ADA, as of March 15, 2011.8 Local laws prohibiting specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.

The ADA states that a “service animal” refers to any dog individually trained to do what is necessary to help someone with a disability, whether it’s physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or mental. It makes clear, however, that emotional support animals, comfort animals and therapy dogs are not in the same category: They’re not service animals. Similarly, the work service animals perform must be related directly to their human’s disability. In addition:

“It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.”9

ADA Facts Regarding Service Animals

An animal may or may not be wearing a special collar or harness. Some, but not all, are certified, licensed and/or have identification papers stating as such; however, they may not be carrying those papers with them. Most service dogs perform jobs most are familiar with, such as Seeing Eye dogs, seizure response dogs and those who alert people with hearing impairments.10

It’s important to note, though, that some local and state governments have special rules for people entering businesses or public places with support animals aside from service dogs, such as emotional support animals, so it’s best to check with these agencies to find out if such ordinances exist. From a page on the ADA’s website, facts regarding service dogs in businesses include:11

A service animal must be permitted to accompany an individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go and must not be segregated from other customers.

Even if an establishment has “no pets” signs posted, service animals, again, are not pets. Further, the ADA requires proprietors of “restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities” to change the wording in such postings to accommodate service animals needed by people with disabilities.

ADA rules supersede local and state laws stating that only guide dogs are admitted to enter a business to assist individuals with disabilities — so refusing to allow other types of service animals violates the ADA. That said, service animals must be under control, and they must be housebroken.

Businesses are not allowed to charge customers with service animals any maintenance, deposits or cleaning fees, even if such charges are in place for pets. However, if a service dog does damage in, say, a hotel, proprietors can charge the customer with the disability, but only if the hotel’s policy is to charge non-disabled guests for similar damage.

Taxi companies may object to a service dog accompanying a disabled person getting into their cabs, but refusing to pick someone up for this reason is also a violation, even if the taxi company is privately owned, and they can’t raise the fare.

Service Animals: Sometimes Other Rules Apply

There are dozens of situations regarding service animals in public places, and probably just as many exceptions. For instance, the care and conduct of service animals is the responsibility of the disabled person they’re with — the animal’s owner. Business owners aren’t required to provide food, care or a special location for the animal.

Arguably one of the greatest concerns people have about service animals relates to fear of the animal becoming a threat to themselves or their customers. But fear of animals, dogs included, or allergies to animals are not good enough reasons to refuse service. The business or government entity is expected to find solutions if employees, other customers or travelers are afraid of or allergic to dogs, such as allowing more or even a separated space.12

As for air travel, the rules are different. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) says airlines must allow both service and emotional support animals to travel in the cabin with the people they’re helping. True, the rules for the latter are getting more strict in light of a number of unfortunate animal incidents on flights.

For that reason, WATE News notes, people who want to travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may be required to supply specific documentation, including proof of their disability and why their animal is necessary, well before their trip.

People with disabilities who want more information regarding special circumstances, including air travel, may also want to check the provisions made under the Fair Housing Act, which can be found on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development site,13 as it includes specifications for service and emotional support animals.

Stages of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019


Don’t Shave Dogs in Summer

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

When Is the Right Time for Euthanasia?

Monday, August 19th, 2019


My sister and her husband have a really old Schnauzer-mix named Beau. He might even be a real Schnauzer. He’s so old, it’s hard to tell! They took in Beau when a friend in distress couldn’t keep him. The friend had gotten Beau as a puppy when her son was 10 years old, and that son is in his late twenties now, so… Beau is old. He has limited vision, limited hearing, has had several strokes and can’t walk a straight line, and is growing increasingly incontinent. On his bad days, it seems almost cruel that he is being kept alive. He may stagger or not be able to get up, he acts like he doesn’t know where he is and is anxious, and he may just suddenly completely empty his bladder on the carpet while standing still, seemingly unaware he is doing so.

But on his good days, he runs up the hall with the rest of his housemates, eats with gusto, goes outside through the dog door and potties without assistance or a reminder to do so, and enjoys his time on the sofa and in bed with his human and canine housemates. So they are very much afraid that if they call the vet to make a euthanasia appointment on one of his bad days, and he’s having a good day on the day of the appointment, the vet may decline to euthanize, or the staff may make them feel like creeps! In fact, they feel sort of pre-emptively guilty about even just talking about “Beau’s time.” My sister and brother-in-law love Beau and want him to have a good end. But when is the right time?

Chaco and Lena

There is Chaco, one of my former foster dogs. She’s younger than Otto, but has two failing knees and severe arthritis, and her owner lacks the health insurance or budget to pay for two knee surgeries. Her declining mobility has contributed, it seems, to weight gain, which compounds her problems.

Another friend is in a similar position with Lena, Otto’s very first playmate and friend. She has had one ACL surgically repaired, and underwent “conservative management” when the second one tore; her veterinarian says her hips, too, are quite dysplastic, and would have benefitted from surgery. Both hips and both knees, too? Her very devoted owner, my friend, could not have possibly paid for four surgeries – nor could she have gotten or afforded insurance after the first knee injury and x-rays showed the hip problems. Lena is maintained on daily pain medication and various joint supplements, and my friend takes her for frequent drives to places where she can take short, gentle walks. My friend has also been shopping for some sort of wagon or cart she could use to take the 70-pound dog on walks, so she at least can enjoy the changing scenery and odors. Lena, like Chaco, is getting fairly crippled, but is in otherwise good health and appetite. How long can my friends maintain them in this condition?

How to know when to let them go

Super dedicated owners can provide hospice care for dogs, if they are physically and emotionally able and have an appropriate home and time to do so. We ran a great article about this in 2010; it holds up well today. But not everyone has a schedule and home that would permit, as just one example, helping a large non-ambulatory dog outside to potty several times a day.

Not unrelated: Between all my dog-loving friends, I am aware of exactly ONE DOG who died peacefully in his sleep.

I just went looking; here are some links for information on how to know when “the time” is right for euthanasia:


When it is getting close to time to make an appointment for euthanasia, we have some other helpful articles to read. This one is by a long-time contributor to WDJ, trainer Lisa Rodier.

Also, trainer Jill Breitner’s article on what to ask before making an appointment for euthanasia and the companion piece to that article by Dr. Sally J. Foote are excellent sources of information about what you should know in advance.

Which Dog Is Relaxed?

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Hilarious Guide To Dog Breeds That Will Help You Choose Your Next Dog

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

From:  BoredPanda

“I’ve been drawing comics since I was a kid,” Grace told Bored Panda. “I absolutely love animals, so that’s usually my focus! I worked as a supervisor at a doggy daycare for years and got to meet lots of dogs. The cartoon dogs featured in this guide are the breeds I met the most of.”

The artist has divided the series into three parts – big, medium, and small dog breeds, so no k9s are left behind. Great Danes? Check. Border Collies, Yorkshire Terriers? Yep. Pugs, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds? Yup. “Sadly, I haven’t met every dog in the word yet so that I couldn’t write about them all,” Grace said. “Although I stereotype them, all dogs are wonderful individuals, so I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite breed!”

Among the animals Gogarty owns, there’s one pooch as well. “His Name is Huey, and he is an enigma. We have no idea what kind of breeds he’s comprised of!” Scroll down to meet the dog memes, and remember – even if some traits sound better than others, every dog deserves a to be a pet. Even if it pees all over your new rug.

More info: Instagram | Tumblr





The Yellow Dog Project — Giving dogs their much-needed space

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

The Yellow Dog Project — Giving dogs their much-needed space

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
  • If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon tied to her collar, do not approach her, pet her or otherwise bother her in any way
  • The Yellow Dog Project (TYDP) is a global movement trying to popularize the use of yellow ribbons as a way to educate and alert people about dogs who need their space
  • Dogs wearing yellow ribbons may be rescue or shelter dogs who have behavioral problems, dogs in pain from recent surgery, service dogs in training or dogs who are fearful and anxious
  • If your dog is aggressive, a yellow ribbon is not enough of a warning or a substitute for proper training
  • Avoid approaching any dog you don’t know without first asking the owner’s permission — whether she’s wearing a yellow ribbon or not

If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon tied to her collar, do not approach her, pet her or otherwise bother her in any way. While it’s a good idea to take this stance with any dog you’re not familiar with, The Yellow Dog Project (TYDP) is a global movement trying to popularize the use of yellow ribbons as a way to educate and alert people about dogs who need their space.

Yellow Dogs are not necessarily aggressive or dangerous, but might have issues with fear or be in pain due to recent surgery. If approached, such a dog could snap, growl or become anxious and stressed, which is what the yellow ribbon is intended to prevent.

The Yellow Dog Project identifies dogs who need space

The Yellow Dog Project was founded by Tara Palardy, a graduate of Animal Behavior College, in 2013 to support dogs who are anxious and may display reactive behaviors if approached. The color yellow was chosen for ribbons because it’s widely understood as a cautionary color.1

In addition to dogs who may be fearful or in pain, dogs wearing yellow ribbons may be rescue or shelter dogs who have behavioral problems they haven’t yet overcome. They may also be dogs in training to be work or service dogs. According to the not-for-profit Yellow Dog Project:2

The Yellow Dog Project seeks to educate appropriate ways to approach or make contact with a dog with permission of a dog owner only, whether or not a dog is a ‘yellow dog.’ They also seek to promote the use of yellow ribbons to identify yellow dogs needing extra space.”

The Project makes it clear that putting a yellow ribbon on your dog is not a way to mark her as a bad dog or a confession that people must stay away or risk getting bitten. Some people may avoid using a yellow ribbon for their dog for this reason, but doing so shouldn’t bring about embarrassment.

“Wearing a yellow ribbon is NOT an admission of guilt,” TYDP notes. “Dogs can have space issues for a variety of reasons and you are not the only person with a yellow dog. There are most likely many people in your community who are ‘hiding’ their pet issues rather than working on them. Be proud of your furry family member and the work you are putting into him/her!”3

A yellow ribbon is not a substitute for proper training

As the word gets out about what a yellow ribbon on a dog’s collar means, it may become more common in public places. However, if your dog truly is aggressive, a yellow ribbon is not enough of a warning or a substitute for proper training.

“If you have an outright aggressive dog, you must seek proper training from a qualified professional. This organization promotes the awareness of dogs who need space, but it is not an excuse for lack of training,” TYDP explains.4 If your dog has been abused, has fear aggression or territorial aggression, basic obedience training is important, but so is evaluating the dog’s history and environment to determine what may be driving the problem behaviors.

Behavior problems in dogs can almost always be traced to their environment, past or present, and may include the food they eat, the way they spend their time, the bond they have with their owners, previous training (or lack thereof), training methods and many other factors. Reward-based training is one effective and compassionate way to change unwanted behaviors in dogs, including some forms of aggression.

Always ask before petting

TYDP is a great idea to alert passersby that they shouldn’t approach your shy, nervous or recuperating dog. Your dog is a good candidate for a yellow ribbon if she behaves aggressively or acts timid, shy or skittish when approached by strangers or other dogs.

If you feel your dog could benefit from wearing a yellow ribbon, be prepared to explain its meaning to strangers, and also talk with your veterinarian, a positive dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist to help your dog work through any undesirable behaviors. That being said, for some dogs, a yellow ribbon may always be recommended.

It’s a good idea, however, to simply assume that you shouldn’t approach any dog you don’t know without first asking the owner’s permission — whether she’s wearing a yellow ribbon or not.

Sometimes, it’s possible to easily observe a dog’s body language to understand whether it’s friendly, relaxed and open to being approached or frightened, stressed and not interested in interacting. Other times, a dog’s shyness or stress signals can be far more subtle and easy to miss. For instance, yawning and licking her lips are ways your dog may signal that she’s feeling stressed.

Further, many dogs dislike being petted on their heads, especially when it’s from a stranger. Yet, this is the way many strangers approach dogs they’re not familiar with. A far better option than approaching a dog in passing is to ask her owner if it’s OK to pet her. Even then, respect boundaries, let the dog initiate contact first and avoid invading her personal space.

California’s New Pet Medication Compliance Law

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

What California’s New Pet Medication Compliance Law Means for Your Practice

Champion Pet Food Lawsuit Amended to include DCM and other concerns

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Champion Pet Food Lawsuit Amended includes DCM and other concerns

The lawsuit doesn’t appear to be officially accusing Champion of causing DCM, but it appears to be opening the door for that potential in the future.

The original lawsuit against Champion Pet Food filed in March 2018 included claims of “negligent, reckless, and/or intentional practice of misrepresenting and failing to fully disclose the presence of heavy metals and toxins in their pet food “.

An amended complaint was filed in November 2018, adding “pentobarbital” risk to the lawsuit. Quoting the amended lawsuit against Champion: “It was recently revealed on information and belief that Defendants were knowingly, recklessly and/or negligently selling certain of the Contaminated Dog Foods from the DogStar Kitchens containing pentobarbital, a substance largely used to euthanize animals.”

And another amended complaint was filed in February 2019 challenging Champion Pet Food’s marketing claims of “regional” and “fresh” ingredients. This amended complaint stated: “It was recently revealed on information and belief that Defendants were knowingly, recklessly, and/or negligently selling certain of the Contaminated Dog Foods from the DogStar® Kitchens containing pentobarbital that was caused by cross-contamination that resulted from its supplier, MOPAC, an eastern Pennsylvania rendering facility belonging to JBS USA Holdings, Inc. (“JBS”), having accepted and processed euthanized horses in earlier production runs for other customers.”

This third amended complaint against Champion Pet Food includes the following two mentions of DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy):

“Additionally, on July 12, 2018, the FDA issued a warning that “dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients” were experiencing DCM, a heart muscle disease that results in an enlarged heart. “As the heart and its chambers become dilated, it becomes harder for the heart to pump, and heart valves may leak, leading to a buildup of fluids in the chest and abdomen. DCM often results in congestive heart failure.” Thereafter, on June 27, 2019, the FDA released a report of its investigation into DCM that disclosed Defendants’ brands account for 14.88 percent of reported cases of DCM in the past 5 years. Defendants were aware of the risk and the reported cases associated with the Contaminated Pet Foods from at least July 2018 and yet chose not to include any warning or link to the FDA investigation into DCM.”

“Yet, Defendants warrant, promise, represent, mislead, label, and/or advertise that the Contaminated Dog Foods are free of heavy metals, pentobarbital, toxins, BPA, and/or unnatural or other ingredients and would not pose a risk for pets developing Dilated Cardiomyopathy (“DCM”) by touting the Contaminated Dog Food as “Biologically Appropriate™” (a nutritional statement) and assuring the food represents an evolutionary diet that mirrors that of a wolf—free of anything “nature did not intend for your dog to eat.”

Other interesting issues of this amended lawsuit – but not fully explained in the complaint – are (item 166 found on page 76 – bold added):

“Defendants knew or should have known that the Contaminated Dog Foods did not have the ingredients, uses, and benefits described herein because:

They contain ingredients that are frozen, stored for years, and/or expired prior to manufacturing or composed of regrind kibble;

They are routinely manufactured with substitute ingredients not included in the Ingredient List, MeatMath®, or nutritional analysis;”

Lots of questions remain – unfortunately we’ll have to wait to see how this lawsuit unfolds for answers.

To read the full amended Champion Pet Food complaint, Click Here.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

Coconut oil: The “good” saturated fat

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Coconut oil: The “good” saturated fat