Dear Porky and Buddy,
I was in a grocery store the other day and there was another shopper there with a big shepherd mix dog with a SERVICE DOG vest on.
The dog was completely out of control, lunging at other shoppers, dragging its handler up and down the aisles. At one point I saw it snatch some bread from a low shelf.
I am all for service dogs and know how much they can help people, but aren’t they supposed to be trained?
How do you know if a dog is really a service dog?
According to federal regulations under the Americans With Disabilities Act, “service animal” means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual´s disability.
So the only two criteria for a “real” service dog are that (1) he is trained to perform a specific task for (2) the benefit of a person with a disability.
In the United States, there is no such thing as official “certification” of service dog status.
Would you know a fake service dog if you saw one?
The only bona fide way to identify fake service dogs is by their behavior—in our opinion the dog in the grocery store had clearly not been trained as a service dog or he would not have been putting his handler and others in danger.
A growing number of people buy fake service dog credentials, vests, and equipment online so that they can take their pets into public places where only service dogs are allowed.
We personally think such behavior is disgraceful, but business owners are, understandably, sometimes hesitant to question a dog’s status for fear of negative publicity and lawsuits.
Each time a dog misrepresented as a service dog behaves badly in public, it makes life harder for the people who rely on real service dogs.
They already face scrutiny and discrimination almost everywhere they go, which can limit them in their day-to-day life.
The bad behavior of fake service dogs leads to legitimate service dog teams being denied access unlawfully.
When fake service dogs are poorly controlled they may distract a legitimate service dog from his work.
Depending upon the situation, this could put the handler in danger or even cause injury to the dog or handler.
Service dog teams are well-disciplined and are constantly working in collaboration when out in public.
Anything that makes this process harder is not only frustrating but dangerous.
Some disability advocacy groups are exploring ways to make the identification of legitimate service animals less subjective and complicated, but it’s a tricky business that also involves the privacy rights of the disabled.
We will keep you informed of these efforts, but, in the meantime, remember that a dog lover’s desire to go everywhere with his pet does not justify faking either disability or training.
Next week, we’ll tell you the difference between service and therapy animals, another important topic.
And speaking of “therapy” animals in a non-technical way, maybe you can find one at the Home 4 the Holidays Pet Adoption Celebration and Holiday Bazaar on December 6 from noon to 3 p.m. at the YMCA/Armory at 265 W. First St., Oswego.
It’s free and fun with lots of things to do and buy to benefit the animals.
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County.
Located at 110 W. Second St., Oswego, NY.
Phone: (315) 207-1070.
Email: [email protected]
Because People and Pets Are Good for Each Other.