This is a great article about the fraudulent practices people pursue to try to take advantage of rules about service animals that help people with true disabilities to bring their pets with them everywhere. This kind of crap strikes me as being in the same category as folks who used to hire disabled kids to go to Disneyworld with them so they could skip the lines (a practice, by the way, that led to Disney giving fewer special privileges to handicapped kids because of the abuse).
I will say from personal experience that the pressure on service businesses to succumb to this sort of service animal fraud is immense, especially in places like California where the financial penalties for even tiny well-meaning infractions of bewildering ADA rules are substantial. My employees once felt they had to allow a woman to bring her horse (!) into the park because she had letters like the ones in this article saying she required the horse for emotional support.
This week I was at a conference where a featured speaker was an executive of the Forest Service named Joe Meade who happens to be blind. I say "happens to" because Joe is one of the best, and best-loved, executives in that organization and what makes him great has little or nothing to do with his disability. But I watched him work his way through a hotel with his service dog -- a casino hotel I got lost in about 4 times and I could read the signs -- and the skills that dog had are simply amazing. Service dogs like that get deference from service businesses for a reason. It infuriates me that people are trying to counterfeit that kind of credential so they don't have to pay an extra airplane fare for their cat. And the only way they get away with it is because of our screwed up tort system that leaves service businesses at the mercy of even the most outrageous claims. Because we businesses have given up on, particularly in places like California, ever getting real justice.