Heroes Among Us

Learn how you can help keep service animals safe

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The Gunner Project

Service animals are a vital part of our society. They help people with disablilties live full and rewarding lives. Emotional and Therapy Support animals are not the same as a service animals. The current laws do not adequately protect legitimate service animals.

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Be an Advocate

You can make the difference.

Be Aware

Know how to spot legitimage service animals. They are well behaved, attentive to their handler, and do not cause a disturbance unless they are alerting to a problem.

Speak Up

Speak up when it is obvious a person has a fake service animal. Fake service animals make it hard for legitimate service animals to work and keep their handler safe.

Learn Local Laws

Each state has their own laws about service animals. Be aware of what they are because many states lack adiquete laws to protect service animals and their handlers from fake service animals.

Be Courtious

Know how to act around service animals. More advice on this can be found in the interaction section below.

History of Service Animals3

The Egyptians were first known to domesticate dogs. The Chinese have records of dogs acting as helpers. As far back as the 1700s dogs were used during times of war to track wounded soldiers and carry messages. Today, service dogs are used for a number of different jobs: helping the blind cross a busy street, retrieving items for the physically impaired, detecting a drop in glucose levels for diabetics, and much more. Service animals are vital.

Know the Difference2

Service, Emotional, and Therapy animals are Not trained the same. Here are the differences.

Service Animals

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Therapy Animals

Therapy dogs are trained to give affection to strangers such as in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, and times of natural disaster.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. Emotional support animals are used for individuals in their homes.

By the Training2

The requirements for training are not the same.

Know How to Interact

It is important for the public to interact appropriatly with service animals.

Show Courtesy

Give plenty of personal space when it’s available.

Do Not Distract

Please do not try to distract a service animal on duty. This includes petting them as well as talking to them or trying to get their attention in any way. Service animals are like well-trained medical devices. It would be the same as if you asked a person in a wheelchair to borrow their wheelchair for a ride around the building. Don’t do it.

Always Ask First

If you are not sure what to do around a service animal, ask their handler.

Be Alert

If a dog in a service vest comes up to you, they are probably trying to get help for their handler, Pay attention and see what you can do to help!

Disability Visibility

Please know that not all disabilities are visible. Some people use service animals to detect glucose levels, or the onset of a seizure, or disassociation in crowded spaces. If someone without a visible disability has a service animal, it does not mean they are “faking it”. Their disability could be non-visual.

Graph it

By the Map

Hover over a state to see the fines given for Service Animal Fraud.

This is in no way legal advise.
All information was taken from the two sites below.
If you have any questions, please seek professional legal councel.

Animal Legal and Historical Center
23 States with Fake Service Dog Laws Blog

By the Public

Over 100 people were surveyed "Do you think laws should be in place for people who bring fake service animals into businesses or public areas?" (Google form survey found in footer)

By the Numbers

Based on 85 service dog & handler partnerships made by Next Step Service Dogs(NSSD) here are the numbers for types of disabilities.

By the Teams

Based on 85 service dog & handler partnerships made by Next Step Service Dogs(NSSD) here are the numbers for where the handler of the team is from.

By the Survey

Over 100 people were surveyed "What type of animal can be a service animal?" (Google form survey found in footer)

ADA Service Animal Laws2

According to the ADA, “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go.”

“In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the Department’s ADA regulations have a separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

Team Gunner

  • Gunner

    Service Animal

    Committed to excellence in serving

  • David

    Gunner’s Handler

    War Veteran


Gunner is a black lab retriever. He has been a loyal service animal for over 4 years. He was trained by the great staff at Next Step Service Dogs.

You can find out more about them here: Next Step Service Dogs
Jonathon Andrew

Jonathon Andrew

June 22, 2020

My cousin has a service animal. It is better to just leave the service animal alone. People who bring an animal into a business claiming their animal is a service animal and then their dog goes crazy clearly shows that the animal is not a service animal. This makes it hard for others with a service animal to be taken seriously. This is a serious issue.

Mark Dinn

Mark Dinn

March 26, 2020

My brother has a seeing eye dog. He spent a month at the training center where he learned how to work with his dog. His dog has given him back his independence. Fake support animals who misbehave anger me. Fake service animals cause other people to be less willing to accommodate my brother. It makes me angry.

Karly Mathers

Karly Mathers

June 2, 2020

My life with Paxton, my service dog, is night and day. Paxton does several things for me. He is a PTSD dog; he helps herd me through crowds, which is a challenging event for me. He picks items up for me when I need mobility help. In addition, he is currently being further trained to be a medical alert dog watching out for seizures and medicine alerts.

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