Like all the other Assistance Dog charities, IADA has a very necessary verification process. When filling out an application form, applicants must list the contact details of at least one medical professional (this is actually a more lenient standard than the other charities), and their veterinarian, if they have an existing dog.
Applicants must also sign and date data protection forms for their doctor(s) and veterinarian and return them with the application.
This is something required for us to do, by the international Assistance Dog bodies. But aside from that, it allows us to get a professional viewpoint of how we can help you, and your veterinarian’s guidance on whether it is in the best interests of your dog’s welfare for them to become an Assistance Dog, in terms of their health, behaviour, and whether you can provide the required care in terms of vaccinations, flea/ tick prevention, and worming, not only for your dog’s welfare but also for the safety of the general public who would encounter your dog while it is working.
The verification process also allows us to confirm an applicant’s disability. We have only had our charity number since May, but we’ve already had some fraudulent applicants to the pilot programme. These people at first behave like any other applicants; they list doctors and a vet and describe a disability.
But then when we write to the listed doctor, and often the vet as well, the other party denies all knowledge of the applicant, or says that the patient hasn’t been in for years, or that they are not really disabled in the way they have described. Vets often deny knowledge of the dog or state they have not seen it for years!
We have had people apply for Assistance Dog training for their child, but then not want us to meet the child at interview or to talk to the alleged child’s doctors.
Obviously, we cannot go ahead with an application unless we are able to verify a disability and the dog’s health.
There was a situation when, after an applicant’s listed doctor did not exist and the surgery denied knowledge of them, we decided to invite them to an interview anyway so that we could discuss it. The applicant reacted very badly to this (despite the fact they were still getting an interview) and began to send a lot of abusive messages to the charity, to the point that we needed to go to the police and have a prevention of harassment letter sent.
It is not the charity’s fault that the doctors they listed, pointed out that they were not a patient.
This sort of thing happens heartbreakingly often. As a disabled person in need of an Assistance Dog, and waiting to obtain my dog’s successor, I literally do not leave my house. I need to have somebody with me at all times, I need one of the trustees to meet me at my door and walk me to the location when we have a meeting. I truly have no life to speak of, because of my disabilities.
And so it is very stressful, to see such unscrupulous behaviour from members of the public. People who, for whatever reason, desire to be seen in public with a dog in a shop. People will go to unimaginable lengths for this, and I can’t fathom why. Needing to bring a dog with you everywhere is one of the most incredibly inconvenient positions you could possibly be in.
I knew a woman who actually faked blindness to try and obtain a guide dog. But during the residential training, the staff noticed that she had perfect sight and sent her home. Needless to say, I am no longer an acquaintance of this person.
Disability fakers do exist, and they are numerous. So the final, important purpose of the charity’s applicant verification process, is to stop them stealing the charity’s resources.