She told Ryan Tubridy on last week’s Late Late Show that she had bought a fake service-dog vest on Amazon and pretended to need an assistance animal because of a disability.
The Cork-born comic said she used the ploy to bring her dog, Shadow, on a transatlantic flight last Christmas in order to avoid red tape and charges.
“I got my own row on the airplane,” she said.
Her admission has attracted criticism from disability charities and campaigners on social media who expressed outrage and disappointment at a ruse that was “insulting” to people with disabilities.
My Canine Companion, an Irish charity that provides highly trained animals to people with disabilities, said it was outraged that Ms Higgins was “having a laugh over faking a service dog”.
“A mockery has now been made of people who genuinely use a service dog for everyday life and travel,” it said.
“Faking a service dog is not funny.”
Outraged and disappointed to see on @RTELateLateShow Ryan and @maevehiggins having a laugh over "faking a service dog". A mockery has now been made for people who genuinely use a service dog for everyday life and travel.#dontmakefunofmyjob #latelate pic.twitter.com/HYL245MsdH— My Canine Companion (@mycaninecompani) March 31, 2018
Nicole Duggan, author of My Boy Blue blog and mother of a child with autism who uses a service dog, was also highly critical of the comedian’s comments.
“Ryan Tubridy laughed and joked with a woman who was insulting every person who has a service dog in this country. Every person that has a disability,” she wrote.
“They joked about Maeve Higgins bringing a dog, who is not a service dog, on a plane with her, pretending that she was, in fact, a working dog… They joked about how she got her pet to come on holidays with her for free by pretending she was a service dog and forging documents. I am disgusted.” she added.
“My little boy is four years old. His ‘My Canine Companion’ autism service dog Willow is going to keep him safe. She is going to give my little boy his independence back. She is going to help him walk independently.
“Willow helps Riley every day in hard situations. She helps him cope. She calms him down… How dare RTÉ make a mockery of service dogs.”
Higgins tweeted after the show that she was “unbothered in advance about the comments”, but later apologised following the torrent of criticism.
“Big apologies to anyone hurt or offended by my emotional support dog bit on [the Late Late Show]… Much love and respect for people who need, fundraise for, and train service dogs and thank you for the information! Will do better!” she said.
Efforts to reach Maeve Higgins for comment through her publicist were unsuccessful.