Increasingly, people are bringing "service" dogs into the restaurant where I work. I have my doubts, but I'm told it's an Americans With Disabilities Act violation to ask if the dog is a service animal. How do we kick out the poseurs? —Cathleen A.
I used to work at a pizza place where people would sometimes order a gluten-free pizza with, say, seitan chorizo. I would stop them and say, "Just so you know, seitan is basically made out of gluten."
"Oh, that's fine," they'd inevitably reply. Not once did I hear, "Oh! Thanks for warning me!" or even, "Can you make it without?" (To be clear, people who really have celiac disease shouldn't have any gluten, and have my sympathy.) Just, "Oh, that's fine."
Anytime a special accommodation is made, dietary or bestial, folks who don't actually need it will try to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, their incessant cries of "Wolf!" can keep genuine sufferers from being taken seriously.
I say this in hopes of shaming your dog-fakers into giving up their devious ways, since you're basically right—if someone is dead set on being a dick about this, there's not a ton you can do.
You can ask, "Is this a trained service animal?" Sometimes they'll blurt out, "Yes, he's my emotional support animal," mistaking you for someone who gives a shit. If so, you've got them: "Emotional support," "companionship," "soothing presence," etc., are (legally!) characteristics of pets, not service animals.
You can also ask, "What task has this animal been trained to perform?" Don't take any bullshit like, "He comforts me in my hour of darkness"; the answer should be a specific, physical activity, like, "He puts his body between my head and the floor if I have a seizure."
But that's it; you can't ask for proof. If someone is willing to stand there and lie to your face, they're going to get the benefit of the doubt.
However, even service animals can be removed if they cause trouble—snapping, barking or bothering customers. (You know, those things that real service animals never do.)
Finally, only dogs can legally be service animals in Oregon. (And in rare cases, miniature horses—but in that case, just let it in, because, come on, miniature horse!)
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