A TikToker says she was seated on a flight next to a dog identified as a service animal—but its behavior led her to question the legitimacy of the dog’s training.
The viral video sparked a discussion of the regulation of service animals.
In a TikTok posted on Tuesday, @finnianthegoldie says she and her service dog Finnian were seated next to an alleged service dog on their flight.
The video shows Finnian sitting still at his owner’s feet while the other dog, who is wearing a vest that says “service dog,” sniffs him and then is pulled back by its owner who says the dog is “very friendly.”
Finnian’s owner describes him as a “multipurpose” service dog and documents their travels via Instagram and TikTok.
The TikToker included information about the regulation of service animals in the video’s caption alongside her own experiences.
“I am constantly on the lookout for ‘service dogs’ that might put Finnian at risk (or service dogs in training who are clearly not ready to fly and had little public access training),” Finnian’s owner said.
Their sentiment resonated: The TikTok video received almost 23 million views in just one day. (@finnianthegoldie did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment via email.)
@finnianthegoldie “Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and service dogs in training are not service animals” (US DoT) and are not covered by the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) We’ve had these kind of interactions with “service animals” too often since the law changed in 2020 and it’s really alarming (the # of ESAs that suddenly became PSAs with 0 training). Now every time we’re at the airport, I am constantly on the lookout for “service dogs” that might put Finnian at risk (or service dogs in training who are clearly not ready to fly and had little public access training) Recently saw a video of a 5 month old puppy flying as a fully trained “service dog” after the owner got an online certification from a scam website :( Faking a service dog definitely contributes to business’ and the public’s reluctant attitude towards real service dog teams (not to mention they’re breaking federal law) & puts real SD teams at risk 🐕🦺✈️ Most recent ruling: U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals (2020) • Emotional support animals are not considered service animals (meaning they are pets and you will need to follow the airline’s pet regulations and pay the pet fees to properly transport them) • Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to 2 service animals • Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft • Allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others #fakeservicedog #emotionalsupportanimal #emotionalsupportdog #servicedoglife #servicedog ♬ original sound – Finnian the Goldie
Service animals and trained to help people who have disabilities and currently work with over 80 million Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a service animal is “a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability,” including but not limited to physical disabilities.
Airlines are able to determine whether an animal is a service animal via “credible verbal assurances of an individual with a disability using the animal,” harnesses and tags on animals, observing animals’ behavior, and “requiring documentation.”
Emotional support and psychiatric service animals are separate from service animals, per the Department of Transportation. Airlines “may” require documentation provided by a licensed healthcare professional for these animals.
Finnian’s owner also mentioned that some dog owners are able to falsely certify service dogs using “scam website[s].” Laws in some states, including Colorado and Virginia, bar animals from being fraudulently identified as service animals, which the American Kennel Club calls “the epidemic of fake service animals.”
In an email to the Daily Dot, Finnian’s owner clarified that they were not alleging that the dog in their viral video had been certified off a scam website.
Commenters on the viral video shared their perspectives on the differences between Finnian and the more reactive dog.
“That’s how you know which one is a service dog and the other one is a pet,” @kristenrenee03 commented.
“Any ‘service dog’ barking, tugging, pulling, not healing, sitting etc is so obvious,” @user2164853300201 wrote.
“Until we start having to prove that we have service dogs that are certified and licensed it’ll keep happening,” @6422cjm added.