The Widder Curry Asks: ‘What’s a Service Dog?’

by on July 3, 2017 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach, The Widder Curry

“I Love My Dog, but….”

Let’s get one thing straight.  I LOVE MY DOG, SHADOW.  And I love his playmate  “Rolle”.  I love Shadow’s cousin “Toby”.  There have only been two dogs in my lifetime that I did not love – the German Shepard that bit me when I was 5 years old, and the Pit Bull that attacked Shadow two years ago causing me to break my leg in three places, as well as my ankle and the cheek bone.

Other than those two dogs, I cannot think of any dog I don’t go “gaga” over.  So when I received a note from a neighbor – Barb – saying that there is a lot of discussion about “service dogs” and other animals being brought EVERYWHERE, I decided to do some investigation and see what I could find out.

I said it at the beginning of this rant: I love my dog, but I just cannot see bringing him to some of the places I have seen dogs brought to lately.  For example:  Last year, while shopping at Vons, I saw a male dog lift his leg on the bottom row of a display of items packed in cardboard boxes.  (I don’t think I have purchased ANYTHING on the bottom row since then!)  Was that dog a “service dog?”  I doubt it. But what defines a service dog?

Rolle.

A service dog is defined as

“ . . . a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities, such as visual impairment, hearing impairments, mental illnesses (such as PTSD), seizure disorder, mobility impairment, and diabetes.” 

They are –

“individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.  Service dogs must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devises.”

An interesting part of the law states that –

“when it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Two questions can be asked:  ‘Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? And what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?’  Staff is NOT allowed to ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, or ask to see the dog demonstrate its ability to perform that task.”

OK – Accepted.  BUT, as Barb points out, “ . . . I sometimes see filthy dogs , in grocery stores and shopping carts; in the meat sections as well as fresh fruit and veggie sections.”

I know that I have seen dogs being carried around by owners – cute dogs – dogs that I want to stop and pet.  They are no more “service dogs” than Shadow is, and he is not.

So why, Barb asks “if cars need license plates or stickers documenting the need for a disabled parking spot, why is there nothing for the dogs and other animals? Why aren’t owners of service dogs required to have special tags indicating the necessity and verifying the need to have this animal.”

Just to see how valid her point is, I went on-line to see if I could purchase a service dog vest without Shadow going through the necessary training to become a service dog.  Much to my chagrin I found twelve listings for a “FREE” service vest for my dog – and that was just on the first page. (There are more than 10 pages listed!)   All it takes is just a few sheckles.  The dog needs no special training to obtain one of these vests.  They start at about $40 and even designate on the vest what they are for – “emotional support” , for example.

Barb is right.  Why isn’t there a tag issued – like the microchip or dog license – for these service animals.  The legitimate animals do such a fantastic job for disabled people.  The abuse of this system is overwhelming.  I would hope that registration of the service dog would be a priority before the law changes back to where it was and no dog will be allowed in an eating establishment.  And, by the way, I am not talking about the restaurants that have outdoor patios and are “dog friendly.”  I am talking about those establishments that have bottom rows of food wrapped in cardboard boxes!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar nostalgic July 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

In addition to service dogs, people have companion dogs and therapy dogs. These have owners who claim a variety of legal rights and privileges. Anybody know the difference ? (I don’t).

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avatar judi July 3, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Here is what I found: A service dog must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the handler’s disability, while a therapy and emotional support dog merely provides comfort and coping assistance to an individual in some fashion. Therapy dogs are often the pets of the therapist or psychiatric personnel of the particular institution or hospital where they bring comfort. Therapy and emotional support dogs are allowed in housing under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), but are not permitted in public places as are service dogs.

Companion animals are not individually trained to perform any specific kind of task. Instead, the principal service that companion animals provide is simply that—companionship. While service animals are trained to behave flawlessly in public, companion animals may or may not be as well-behaved. As a result, companion animals are virtually indistinguishable from the family pet.

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avatar CamaroSD July 3, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Here is a brief explanation, if you have further questions don’t hesitate to ask. There are 3 type of working animals that people confuse the terminology. Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Therapy Dogs.

Service Animals are trained to perform a task to mitigate a person’s physical, sensory, or mental disability. Under the ADA they are allowed with few exceptions wherever their handler goes in public. The ADA limits service animals to dogs with a provision for miniature horses. They are also covered in housing under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), in air travel under the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) , and federal programs (such as postal service and veteran’s affairs) under the Rehabilition Act.

Emotional Support Animals mitigate a person’s disability through their presence, they are not trained to perform a task. They are not covered by the ADA for public access, but they are covered by the FHA and ACAA in housing and air travel. Both of those laws allow landlords and airlines to require specific documentation from a treating licensed medical professional.

Therapy Dogs are trained to be social in order to go to places like hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc to provide therapy to the people there. They are allowed to go only with the facilities permission. They are not covered under any of the federal disability laws.

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avatar CamaroSD July 3, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Here is a brief explanation, if you have further questions don’t hesitate to ask. There are 3 type of working animals that people confuse the terminology. Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Therapy Dogs.
Service Animals are trained to perform a task to mitigate a person’s physical, sensory, or mental disability. Under the ADA they are allowed with few exceptions wherever their handler goes in public. The ADA limits service animals to dogs with a provision for miniature horses. They are also covered in housing under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), in air travel under the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) , and federal programs (such as postal service and veteran’s affairs) under the Rehabilition Act.
Emotional Support Animals mitigate a person’s disability through their presence, they are not trained to perform a task. They are not covered by the ADA for public access, but they are covered by the FHA and ACAA in housing and air travel. Both of those laws allow landlords and airlines to require specific documentation from a treating licensed medical professional.
Therapy Dogs are trained to be social in order to go to places like hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc to provide therapy to the people there. They are allowed to go only with the facilities permission. They are not covered under any of the federal disability laws.

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avatar CamaroSD July 3, 2017 at 4:31 pm

“I know that I have seen dogs being carried around by owners – cute dogs – dogs that I want to stop and pet. They are no more “service dogs” than Shadow is, and he is not.”

How do you know they are not?? Small dogs can be excellent service dogs, many with diabetes have small dogs so they can carry them so that the dog is close to be able to smell their breath to alert to changes. How big does a dog have to be to alert a deaf person to noises, to detect seizures, or any number of other tasks?

“So why, Barb asks “if cars need license plates or stickers documenting the need for a disabled parking spot, why is there nothing for the dogs and other animals? Why aren’t owners of service dogs required to have special tags indicating the necessity and verifying the need to have this animal.”

Driving and therefore parking is a privilege gained once reaching appropriate age and passing proficiency tests and can be taken away for many reasons. Public access is a right and can only be removed by incarceration. They are not the same thing. Another way they are different is the handicap parking is limited, there are only some many spots available, parking in one prevents someone else from using it. Taking a service dog into a store does not prevent someone else from doing the same.

“All it takes is just a few sheckles. The dog needs no special training to obtain one of these vests.”

A vest means nothing. They are not required by law. I can buy scrubs online, that doesn’t make me a doctor.

“Why isn’t there a tag issued – like the microchip or dog license – for these service animals. ”

There are many many reasons why. Here are a couple basic ones. A law put in place to prevent discrimination against those with disabilities cannot do so by discriminating against those with disabilities. No one else has to show anything to walk into a grocery store, requiring those of us with service dogs to do so is discriminatory. Another reason is who issues the tag? It is widely estimated that half of the legitimate service dogs in the US are owner trained. There is no easy or good answer to that question. Also I have never understood those that use the example of handicap parking, what sense is there in saying it should be like that when handicap parking is just as abused if not more so.

“I would hope that registration of the service dog would be a priority before the law changes back to where it was and no dog will be allowed in an eating establishment.”

It is not a priority, in fact the US Department of Justice who regulates the ADA has repeatedly said it is against it. Here is a quote from the “section by section analyses” portion of the most recent 2010 regulations. “Accordingly, the Department has concluded that a documentation requirement of this kind would be unnecessary, burdensome, and contrary to the spirit, intent, and mandates of the ADA.”

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avatar Middle Daughter July 3, 2017 at 6:47 pm

“Service Animals” are recognized by the ADA and have a fairly high standard in terms of training and purpose. “Emotional Support Animals” are not recognized by the ADA and don’t require much of anything (a note from a doctor/therapist/etc. saying the individual would benefit from the emotional support provided by the animal). While not recognized by the ADA, they are recognized by the Fair Housing Authority and sometimes are used to get around the “no pets allowed” rule. Unfortunately (although fortunately depending on your perspective), a person isn’t allowed to ask much about the animal and the rationale for it. Also, you can buy the vest online and no one will know the difference because questions can’t be asked. I suspect that most of the “service animals” you’re seeing are actually emotional support animals – which basically is any animal where the owner hasn’t gotten that letter. (Service animals are animals like seeing eye dogs, seizure alert animals, etc.).

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avatar Lilah July 4, 2017 at 2:06 am

Actually the difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog is the dog’s training to perform tasks for the benefit of the individual, the disability can range from diabetes, seizures, mental illness, etc.

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avatar Guide dog user July 3, 2017 at 8:01 pm

The reason why there is no ‘paperwork’, ‘tag’, or ‘ID’ is simple: We are not second class citizens who must beg the government for permission to enter a business. Since no other free citizen has to show ‘ID’ to be present in the public venue, neither do we. We have the exact same civil rights you do.
The difference between disability accessible parking and being able to walk into a business like the non disabled do is that accessible parking is not a civil right, whereas being able to enter a business without having to show ‘paperwork’ is a civil right.

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avatar Middle Daughter July 3, 2017 at 8:41 pm

oops, “has gotten that letter,” not “hasn’t.”

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avatar nostalgic July 4, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Dog Story: I went into an OB Bank, and sat down in a chair (as directed) to wait for service at one of the desks. A man came in and put his dog in the other chair. After a minute or two, the dog jumped over the chair arm and sat in my lap. I patted his head until I was called, and then I put him back in the other chair. When I got to the desk, I got told “You can’t leave your dog alone over there!” I said, “That’s not my dog.” She answered, “I don’t care whose dog it is, you can’t leave him there.” I was getting the idea, so I said the owner was somewhere in line. She dropped it and I dropped it. Before I was finished, the owner came back and scooped him/her up. Point to the story: If I had not been lectured, I would have forgotten about sitting in a chair in a bank and having a dog jump in my lap. Do we have more of those dogs in OB than in other communities? And do they have to be on leashes? They are often carried.

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avatar Geoff Page July 5, 2017 at 10:33 am

I agree that the system is being abused. I was on a plane to San Diego from the east coast and there was a nice young couple sitting across the aisle with a beautiful white golden retriever. During the conversation I learned they lived in OB. The man had driven across country with the dog but decided to fly back. In order to bring the dog on the plane, instead of paying to have it ride in the hold, they got an ESD vest for the dog. It was very clear that neither of these pleasant young people needed an ESD dog, it was simply a way to get the dog on the plane with them. Luckily for everyone, the dog was very well behaved. But, this was still an obvious instance of the system being used for purposes it was not intended for. I think this whole thing needs a closer look.

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avatar HaveAsthma July 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm

This is one reason I have not been on an airplane in 8 years and may never get on one again.

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avatar Judy Collier July 6, 2017 at 7:49 am

It’s a shame that manipulators screw up situations for the rest of us. I refuse to call my dog a companion or therapy animal, but I patronize businesses that are dog-friendly. I don’t go inside the OB Library as much as I might, because I’m afraid to leave my adorable small dog outside and I don’t like to lie. I was carrying my dog through a local food store until a cashier told me it was okay for her to walk on the floor. I make a special effort to shop there.

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