Date of Award

Spring 2019

Call Number

RM931.D63 F474 2019

Document Type

USM Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth Goryunova PhD


assistance animals, service dogs, fake service dogs, ADA, disability, PTSD, Leadership and Organizational Studies


This qualitative research examined public awareness surrounding service dogs and the laws and protocols that protect the dog and the handler, collectively known as the service team. Recent trends using service dogs for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has increased the number of dogs now seen in public. The increasing trends for using service dogs foster questions about safety, training, the dog's purpose, and its legitimacy. Trends also suggest that some people are exploiting loopholes in the laws to fraudulently represent their own dogs as service dogs. The trend to misrepresent service dogs, referred to as "fake service dogs," has created additional concerns for businesses and legitimate service teams alike. This study explores the literature to understand how these loopholes are created and examines the public interactions between the service team and employees to assess the general level of awareness about service dogs. An ethnographic design allowed the investigator to act as the key instrument for data collection during normal daily public interactions using a personal service dog. The data collected from 87 interactions over a 12-week period suggests below average employee awareness indicating the need for improved employee training, and discussions for best practices concerning service dog training standards.


This thesis is restricted to USM access only.