"If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went"~Will Rogers

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Service Dogs

From Jewel Jade:
The first thing that bothers me about the photos(of a person on a train with a pitbull wearing a service dog vest) is that the dog is staring at another rider and not even paying attention to its handler. A service dog is a service dog, for whatever reason, but it's purpose is to care for/serve its handler. How is it going to serve its handler, when its busy staring at other riders on the train. It isn't even paying attention to what's going on with its handler. Another thing...yes, a service dog will sit when its handler sits usually, unless for some reason it knows it's not supposed to. That's rare. Yes, it should at least be sitting either sideways where it can see its handler peripherally or sit facing its handler, or lying down, with handler in its view. (peripherally works) Unless the dog is for PTSD specifically and it's "protecting" its handler, meaning letting the handler know when someone is getting too close.  Speaking of mental handicaps, there are some that a service dog can assist with. PTSD is one, but the dog MUST be individually trained to PERFORM SPECIFIC TASKS, not just make you feel good. Some are trained to lick its handler's face to break the handler out of a flashback, or put their paws on the handlers chest, etc. A service dog can also find the door and take the handler to it, in case of a panic attack etc. But no, a service dog is not a service dog if it's just there to make the handler feel good. That's an emotional support animal, not the same thing, and not afforded the same public access rights.
As far as the vest goes....my service dog always wears a vest, or her harness (for mobility purposes) when out in public with me. It just makes good sense to avoid confrontations about access rights. No the dog does NOT have to have any type of i.d. card or paperwork to prove its a service dog...the dog's behavior should speak for that. Most people can tell whether a service dog is a REAL service dog by the way it behaves, and whether its serving its handler or not. The ADA regs are not vague regarding what is and is not a service dog. I personally prefer that people DO NOT PET my service dog as that distracts her from doing her job. Most handlers feel the same; however, there are some people that feel it's okay if their service is pet, but they want people to ask first. I do let some people pet my dog, when she is not in her harness, and only wearing her vest. That's because she's not in the process of doing mobility work, because I'm in a scooter. When she wears her vest, she is doing only retrieving, and other work, not mobility. I prefer NO ONE pets her, but some people beg, and I feel bad, so I let them. Mostly children...while they pet, I educate them about service dogs. Some handlers do have vests that state,"Ask before petting," but I disagree with that whole thing. It should be noted, that regardless of what any of the vests say, people tend to pet your service dog anyway, most times without asking. I HATE THAT!!!
Having said all that, although the ADA does NOT have any breed specific regulations on what can/cannot be a service dog, I WISH THEY DID! I don't personally believe that pit bulls make good service dogs, as they are completely unpredictable. One thing I'd worry about with this woman and her "service dog" on the train....what if another person with their service dog came on also. How would this pit bull react? That's extremely important, as their are other service dog teams out there.
And, lastly, yes, there are a lot of invisible disabilities. I know it's hard, but it's important to really try not to discriminate against someone with a disability that you cannot see. I realize that's not easy, but it's important. This dog could be a diabetes service dog, or a seizure response dog. But...if that were the case, IT'D BE AT LEAST PAYING ATTENTION TO ITS HANDLER. Also, the vest should have the logo, or patch of the organization that trained the dog, if it was trained by an organization. It's crucial to represent the organization and give them credit for training your dog.
Any business owner or manager has EVERY right to ask a handler to remove their service dog if it is being a nuisance or being aggressive, etc. A restaurant owner can ask a handler to remove their service dog if it's sniffing customers or their food, begging for food, etc. Business owners really need to understand that this is their RIGHT! They DO have the right to ask a service dog to leave, BUT they must allow the handler back in to finish their business without the dog. 
I think if business owners and managers knew or understood this RIGHT that they have, there'd be a lot less problems. They don't have to determine whether the dog is a REAL service dog or not, they CAN ask it to leave if it's bothering people, barking, etc. 
One comment here talked about a service dog lunging, barking, snarling etc, and the manager refused to put the dog out. That's CRAZY!!! There is absolutely NO reason that manager couldn't have asked that dog to leave. Business owners have rights too, and they need to use them. They need to be educated on that.
*****So you may see dogs wearing a service dog vest that are not in essence a true service dog. No more than a GSD who lives with a cop is a K9 cop.