Buyer Beware: Steer Clear of Service Animal Card Mills

By now I’m sure you’ve all read about Daniel Green, the man with the service snake. Apparently the snake senses when Daniel is about to have a seizure and alerts him by hugging him. My colleague, Nancy Bartley of the Seattle Times, wrote an excellent article about the whole situation. And yes, she had permission to quote me.

Suffice it to say that walking around with a snake draped around your neck can be problematic. But aside from the debate of whether or not the snake is a legitimate service animal, I took something else away from this whole issue — a little consumer alert for my readers.

In many articles about the service snake, it’s noted that Daniel has some sort of picture identification stating that his snake is a service animal. And while some experts note that having this kind of identification can help alleviate potential problems, I take issue with some of the companies that provide this type of service. In fact many of them — those companies that will “register” your service animal and issue them a photo ID — are blatant consumer rip-offs.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot let me clarify that statement.

I did not say there is anything wrong with having some sort of ID or certificate for your service animal. Many legitimate training programs issue those. So how do you tell a legitimate program from a rip-off card mill? It’s easy. The folks who operate legitimate programs actually train and evaluate the animals. It’s a hands-on process and they see, touch and interact with the animals. The rip-off card mills merely ask folks to write a check and to self-certify that their animal is a service animal. They never even see the animals they are “certifying”.

In the end they charge some $50-$60 for an ID that is maybe worth $5. And some of these places even imply that folks will be able to “take their pets everywhere” with these IDs. So aside from overcharging consumers for a very basic service, they are also discrediting legitimate service animals.

It should also be noted that the ADA does not require service animals to be certified or registered, or to carry any type of ID.

The bottom line is, buyer beware. Why pay $60 for a piece of worthless plastic? You’re not only throwing your good money away, but you’re also keeping the card mills in business.

In many articles about the service snake, it’s noted that Daniel has some sort of picture identification stating that his snake is a service animal. And while some experts note that having this kind of identification can help alleviate potential problems, I take issue with some of the companies that provide this type of service. In fact many of them — those companies that will “register” your service animal and issue them a photo ID — are blatant consumer rip-offs.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot let me clarify that statement.

I did not say there is anything wrong with having some sort of ID or certificate for your service animal. Many legitimate training programs issue those. So how do you tell a legitimate program from a rip-off card mill? It’s easy. The folks who operate legitimate programs actually train and evaluate the animals. It’s a hands-on process and they see, touch and interact with the animals. The rip-off card mills merely ask folks to write a check and to self-certify that their animal is a service animal. They never even see the animals they are “certifying”.

In the end they charge some $50-$60 for an ID that is maybe worth $5. And some of these places even imply that folks will be able to “take their pets everywhere” with these IDs. So aside from overcharging consumers for a very basic service, they are also discrediting legitimate service animals.

It should also be noted that the ADA does not require service animals to be certified or registered, or to carry any type of ID.

The bottom line is, buyer beware. Why pay $60 for a piece of worthless plastic? You’re not only throwing your good money away, but you’re also keeping the card mills in business.