Let’s Talk About Service Dogs

•  Fred has a babysitter today.  It’s too hot for him to be outside all day and I need to be outside most of the day.  I can’t leave him home alone for an entire day.  So, Fred has his first babysitter.  I’m sure he’ll enjoy it once I’m out the door.  (Have I ever mentioned he cries/whines when I leave him?)

•  Did you know it’s against the law to refuse access to a service dog?  Yesterday, I had someone tell me Fred would not be “allowed” access to where I was.  I didn’t even have Fred with me at the time.  I had mentioned I might be bringing him with me, in the future, once he’s completed his training.  I was told, “Don’t!”

I was floored.  

I was outraged.

And yes, that’s when I began reciting federal law:

Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.

•  I belong to a few service dog “communities.”  I’ve heard people express outrage at the way they’re sometimes treated.  I, honestly, didn’t expect I’d run into a “situation” before Fred has even completed his training.  In fact, I naively didn’t expect I’d run into a “situation” at all.  Clearly, people are more educated than that?

•  I realize there’s a problem with some people abusing the laws.  I’ve personally witnessed a woman, in a restaurant, with a dog on her lap.  She let the dog get on the table.  She confided in me “He’s not really a service dog.  I don’t like to leave him home.  I got a little vest for him on eBay.”  SHE TOLD ME THAT!!  Do some people do things like this?  Yes, they do.  Some people will ALWAYS abuse “the system.”  They’re called narcissists.  They don’t care about anyone or anything except themselves.

•  MOST people, however, do the right thing.

•  Not all disabilities are visible.  Don’t judge.  You don’t walk in anyone’s shoes but your own.  That person over there … the one who has a service dog with them, but looks (to you) fine physically?  He/she might be suffering from PTSD.  He/she might have a seizure condition the dog “alerts” to.  YOU DON’T KNOW, DO YOU?

I “look” perfectly fine to most people also.  My physical scars are covered 99% of the time.  An astute doctor, or physical therapist, would notice I don’t use my upper body normally.  Can I get by without a service dog?  I have so far.  It isn’t easy.  The point of a service dog, is to make life easier/more manageable for people with very real challenges.

•  Please ask permission before you pet a service dog.  Please don’t be offended, if the answer is no.  Most people do not want their service dogs pet.  Petting distracts the dog from what it’s supposed to be doing.  You (hopefully) wouldn’t go up and grab a person’s wheelchair, right?  So, why would it be okay to go up and pet/squeeze/hug a dog who is in the process of helping its owner?  Everyone, and every situation, is different.  One person might be okay with petting.  Another person might be okay with it at certain times, but not at others.  If you feel like you just have to pet the service dog, please ASK PERMISSION FIRST.

It shouldn’t be difficult.

It’s all common sense.

3 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Service Dogs”

  1. Missy Stalcup

    In property management we see this all the time with residents. They don’t want to be responsible for deposits and pet rent so they bring a note from their doctor. A “comfort” animal isn’t a service animal. If that were the case every pet would be classified as a comfort animal! A service dog is in a separate class altogether and people try and buy vests and certificates online. Our legal department now has to approve all documentation. People!

    • Suzanne

      A note from their doctor?
      I don’t understand … how would the doctor know if the dog was trained to be a service animal?
      That doesn’t make sense.

      I also don’t know what documentation your legal department wants? There is no “documentation” required by California or Federal law. There is actually no legal “certificate” either. Some training facilities give them as graduation gifts, but they hold no legal merit. MOST training facilities know this and don’t even give them. Within the community, they’re seen as a scam. Companies charge disabled people for “service dog certificates” which mean absolutely nothing and have no legal merit … whether the animal has been through training or not. I would think requiring documentation would just open up a can of worms for potential lawsuits. (Although, I do see how the property owner could be taken advantage of those abusing the system also.)

      • Missy Stalcup

        So now we are requiring the resident to complete paperwork and it needs to be verified by a third party, such as a doctor, without specifically addressing the medical need the animal services. Then the paperwork is reviewed by our legal department. Yes, the scam certificates became a real issue for our company so each case is now reviewed on an individual basis. It’s just like the little dog with the vest purchased on eBay! Viola, service dog!

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