Ten Things People Believe About Service Dogs (That Simply Are Not True)

Aug 23, 2014 by

Ten Things People Believe About Service Dogs (That Simply Are Not True)

In general people understand the concept of a service dog. If you’re only ever heard of service dogs, you probably imagine a dog, most likely a Golden Retriever or German Shepherd Dog, wearing a vest and guide handle, guiding a blind man through busy intersections in New York City. While this image is most likely applicable to some service dog handlers, it certainly is not a depiction of all handlers.

Service dogs and their handlers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and disabilities. This is why ILRDB is proud to present Ten Things People Believe About Service Dogs (That Simply Are Not True).

 

1) Service dogs are legally required to be registered in the United States

 

Service Dog Certificate

Possibly the most common misconception about service dogs is that registration or licensing is required by law. There are a number of registration companies that provide a place for handlers to pay to register their dogs. These companies are for-profit and registering with them is both optional and strongly discouraged by many service dog handlers.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, while it is not illegal to provide documentation, it is illegal for businesses to request documentation for a handler to gain access to a facility. “Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.” (ADA)

The important distinction here is that a handler may provide documentation if they choose to do so, but businesses are not supposed to expect it. Therefore the registries that provide documentation for a nominal fee to service dog handlers are not technically breaking the law. However, they are making things more difficult for other service dog handlers.

 
If Handler A walks into a business with his service dog and presents identification in the form of a certificate from a for-profit registry, the business might expect the same behavior from Handler B when she visits with her service dog. The event that inevitably follows is what handlers call an “access challenge”. This is when a business breaks the law and refuses access to a handler because they are using a service dog. Under the ADA, federal law, this is discrimination. As service dog handlers are well aware, however, there are many businesses that remain ignorant of the law. While we do our best to educate those businesses, trying to explain why the first handler they saw presented registration while we do not have registration is a long stressful process that could have been prevented.

It is important to mention that there are proponents of requiring identification or registration. This is discrimination. If able-bodied persons are permitted to gain access to a facility without identifying themselves, disabled handlers should be afforded the same privilege.

 

2) Service dogs are required to wear a vest

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Octane (vested) on the job! Photo by his handler, Brittany Love

Similar to the registration, service dogs are not required to wear a vest while they are working. The only requirement is that they are harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless any of those devices prevents the dog from performing its task.

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.” (ADA)

It is important to note that handlers who choose to work their dog without a vest may have a very good reason for doing so. The vest could interfere with the dog’s task, it might be too hot out for the dog to wear a vest, or the handler may have lost or forgotten the vest.

Since it is the dog, and not the vest, that performs the task to mitigate the handler’s disability, the vest is simply considered a courtesy to inform the general public that a dog is a service dog. Therefore a business cannot ask a handler to leave because they have failed to mark their dog as a service dog.

So the next logical question is, what can a business do to make sure the dog in their store is a service dog? The ADA addresses this as well.

When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions:

(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and

(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.”

The two questions signify a verbal agreement between the business owner and the handler that the dog is, in fact, a service dog. Furthermore, if a dog is being disruptive and its handler makes little to no attempt to bring their dog under control, the ADA states that the business may ask that person to leave the facility.

 

3) All service dogs are trained and sold by a specialized training program.

Another common misconception about service dogs is that anyone with a service dog is training it for a program. The general public might arrive at this conclusion if a handler is not obviously disabled.

The ADA makes absolutely no stipulations about who trains a service dog. The concept of owner training is growing in popularity as more people realize the benefit of having a service dog. Because a service dog from a program can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000, many handlers turn to private trainers and dog training books to produce their own service dog.

When you see a service dog in public, even if the handler looks healthy, this does not necessarily mean the dog is being trained for a program. Many handlers prefer to mark dogs that are in training as such. If it is not obvious, don’t assume that the dog is not assisting the handler. Remember that some disabilities are invisible!

 

4) Service dogs never make mistakes.

 

ScreenshotEdit

 

I see this conversation happen far too often, and it usually starts with somebody who believes that service dogs are infallible.

My service dog is very well trained, but no amount of training can prevent an event like the time he vomited in a grocery store. Anyone who works with the general public will tell you that people have accidents. Dogs do as well. While we would like to always have control over our bodies, that isn’t actually the case.

Service dogs can have accidents for a number of reasons. The accident may involve a bodily function that is barely voluntary, such as diarrhea or vomiting, or it might appear as a lapse in training: a dog that barks once or twice while working, or tries to greet somebody that doesn’t want to be greeted.

The ADA addresses situations like this, stating that “a person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken.” (ADA)

This means that mistakes are acceptable so long as the handler is able to bring the dog back under control.
 

5) Service dogs never get to play.

This just isn’t true. Off-duty service dogs act like normal dogs.

MacCloud

Macleod working and Macleod playing. Macleod is a normal dog. Photos by his handler, Dani Woodson

 

6) Service dogs can only be a certain breed.

 

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Slider comforts his handler, Jhenna. Photo by Jhenna Pacelli

While most people associate Goldens, Labs, and Shepherds with service dogs, the truth is that the ADA places no restriction on a service dog’s breed. Anything from a Chihuahua, to a Great Dane, to a Pit Bull, to a Poodle can be a service dog.

This is rather controversial for some breeds such as the Caucasian Ovcharka and other livestock guardian breeds because of their protective nature. However, there are always exceptions. Evaluating the temperament of an individual dog is much more important than evaluating the breed as a whole when considering that dog for service dog work.

An important note about small dogs: Not many people are aware that small dogs can be service dogs too! Service dogs can work to mitigate all types of disabilities- there is no rule about how big or small a service dog can be as long as that dog has a trained task!

 

7) Service dogs are always rehomed when they retire.

To be completely fair, this point is not wrong. Some service dogs are rehomed when they retire.

While this may seem cruel for a dog to be given up after working with their handler for so many years, handlers are forced to make this decision for a number of reasons.

The most obvious reason is disability. Some handlers are not able to care for more than one dog at a time, so the space they have in their life for a dog must be reserved for an active service dog.

However, there is also the issue of housing. The FHA permits a handler to have a service dog in housing that is not pet friendly, but a retired service dog would not qualify under the FHA. Therefore the handler, for whom moving might not be an option, is forced to give up their service dog when they retire.

Finances are another concern. Dogs are expensive and, as a general rule, people living on disability are not rolling in money. For this reason, it is often more humane to rehome the dog as it ages so that somebody who does have the funds required to properly care for the aging dog can do so.

It is important to note that this is NOT applicable to all service dogs. Many handlers opt to keep their retired service dogs because they have grown very attached to them. Those who are able to do so are very fortunate to be in a position to make that decision.

All of that being said, please don’t feel sorry for the service dogs that are rehomed! There is actually quite a demand for older well-trained dogs, and many families are more than happy to love and cherish a retired service dog through its senior years.

 

8) A service dog is an invitation to ask about a person’s disability.

 

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Geronimo, a Beauceron, posing for his handler, Alysianne DeSha.

Having a service dog is NOT an invitation to ask a handler about their disability.

Mention this one, and you are sure to hear the groan from service dog handlers around the world.

Regardless of where you are or what you are doing, if you have a service dog with you, you can almost expect this conversation to come up at some point during your day:

Them: “Oh, is that a service dog? He’s so cute!”
You: “Thank you.”
Them: “What does he do?”
You: “He helps me with my disability.”
Them: “Oh…what’s wrong with you?”

 
Here is one of the most important messages that I want absolutely everyone who reads this to hear: Unless you are a doctor or judge, it is NEVER okay to ask about a stranger’s disability. Can you imagine walking up to somebody in a wheelchair and asking them why they can’t walk? No? The same rule applies to service dog handlers.

I know this question stems from the fact that many people are ignorant of what tasks service dogs can perform for somebody who appears to be physically well. These tasks can range from seizure detection, alerting to dissociative or manic states, mitigating symptoms of PTSD or anxiety through the utilization of blocking or deep pressure therapy, and so on and so forth. The possibilities are too many to list. Just understand that a person’s disability might not be obvious and it is never okay to ask them about it.

 

9) Some disabled people are more deserving of service dogs than others.

While not all disabilities are created equal, only a handler knows how much their disability affects their lifestyle.

The only person who can tell a handler that they don’t deserve a service dog is a judge.

 

10) Service dog handlers should look sick.

As I have mentioned a few times, there are a variety of invisible disabilities that a person who appears healthy may have. Somebody who doesn’t look sick could very well be disabled.

It is best to not assume you know a person’s medical history simply by looking at them, and as I discussed in point number eight, asking about their medical problems is very rude. Accept that you aren’t going to know what is wrong with them and move on.

 

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The author of this article working with Pilot (service dog) and Iver (service dog in training) at Target.

For more information on service dogs, please view the following links:

American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) on Service Dogs: http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

Please Don’t Pet Me (information on buying or training a service dog as well as networking with other handlers): http://pleasedontpetme.com

 

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85 Comments

  1. Amy

    Good article. Under section two, however, you forgot to include that while a service dog may be excluded for being disruptive, the handler cannot. The handler must be allowed to obtain goods/services without the service dog. :)

    • Chad

      That is an important clarification to be remembered. Thank you, Amy.

    • Farm Dog

      Very true Amy. An important distinction. Thank you!

  2. Don

    Good article, what it leaves out is the battle to try and get a service dog.
    5 years now and still trying to get a stability service dog. Seems all places its money money money.
    Being that my friend were trying to get one for is disabled has no income yet it always comes down
    To money. I’ve even paid the application fee for her to be told years long wait.
    Probably the hardest battle yet. she has given up at this point.
    And honestly there isn’t much hope on my end anymore either of getting her a service dog.

    • Farm Dog

      Hi Don,
      Very true- unfortunately there was only so much we could cover in this blog post (which is already the longest post we’ve ever published- you can’t make it TOO long or people won’t read it). That being said, we would be happy to highlight the issues you mention in another post.

      I hope your friend is able to find a service dog soon. Have you looked at private trainers? If you send me an email at admin@ilrdb.com I might be able to point you in the right direction. One of our admin is working on starting a service dog program. Though she is mostly working with veterans, I know she is producing dogs that could be used for mobility.

      Thank you for your comment!

    • karen willinger

      Don that is very sad and very common. I was lucky enough to volunteer for years at ADAI in Toledo Ohio. They are amazing because they raise money and the handler only has to pay a $100 application fee. If they cannot afford that they even help them out with that. The training is more than $15000.

      • Don

        I understand, and just seems we get either the multi year wait, or somehow its fallen through many many groups and emails applications. Were not hard to work with! lol. But we are in california. and yea, even willing to fund raise etc. Hopefully something can work out. She has honestly given up hope on it, and yet would benefit so much!

    • It will get better. The Service Dog “industry” is still very much in it’s infancy, which is one of the reasons there are so few guidelines, laws, regulations on it FOR NOW. That will change, as people keep commiting fraud and puting service dog vests on untrained pets and these fraudulent dogs bite people and damage property, eventually the laws will catch up regulating the industry. When that happens any greedy person with half an idea about how to train a dog wont be charged $20K+ for dogs. There ARE public training facilities that are starting programs where you can sign up for the progressive classes that will take a dog from an untrained animal into a fully trained, tested and proven Service Dog and you can go through them with any dog of the right age with the right kind of temperament. I have trained Service Dogs for over 10 years now, and I have some tough requirements for any dog entering my program, but I’ve developed those after years of experience. My own program and a few others I know of are not prohibitively expensive, instead they are designed to make these dogs accessible to the people who need them. There are groups growing trying to help with that, like Operation IV, K9s for Warriors etc. If you’re having trouble getting a service dog, contact the Professional Dog Trainers Association and ask for refferals to trainers in your area that may be willing to work with you.

      • Don

        Heather, I will have to look into that as well. Thank you for the information, and We are in California if anyone else is wondering. But Yea, sadly Its become so common for the average owner and their average mutt try to play the service dog role. and we are seeing the results for people who have a real need. Disheartening the way society is going..

    • Deb

      Not all service dog training organizations charge for the dogs. Some work with donors. Where is your friend located? Maybe someone here can suggest such a group that covers her geographic area.

    • Rose

      Plenty of shelters and rescue groups have dogs that would could do service dog work. From there you can home train and use private trainers to achieve your goal. My SD didn’t come from an over priced place. We found him when he was 6 weeks old, a neighbor was throwing him away like trash. Now he’s a SD, spoiled and well loved. He’s helped me in so many ways I doubt he will ever realize.

      • Don

        Its a combo package. Need to inspect body temperament, and its would be a stability dog, not always needing to support much, but if she starts to go down able to support etc. What state you in? We Are in the Los Angeles California area.

    • Karen Brockett

      Once your friend gets a service dog will she be able to afford to take care of it? Unfortunately money is involved with owning a service dog and it is not just the acquisition of one. I have a service dog so I know. Food, vaccines and regular veterinary care are necessary expenses in owning any dog. Service dog organizations which do not charge for their dogs cannot afford to also pay for all the usual expenses of dog ownership once the dogs are placed. Some will not place a dog if the applicant cannot show they have finances available to cover the cost of having a dog. Perhaps you can help by setting up a source of funding for those who need a service dog but cannot afford maintaining one. There may be some organizations that are doing that now. Time for some researching.

      • Don

        Karen, She will have no problem what so ever, A Very good friend of mine actually owns his own animal hospital and has agreed to be the dedicated Vet for any and all needs. I would still be in the Animal industry my self if knee surgery didn’t cause me my job.
        He will have the best care and all needs very well taken care of.
        I’ve worked side by side with him. Worked for him, heck Id trust him to work on me! LOL!
        As of now getting a dog and training and a place who also follows through is just part of the struggle haven’t made it through in 5 years

    • mary

      I have to agree, its all about money money.. some places charge up to $30,000 for a service dog..I have been trying to get a service dog now for the last couple of months or even on a list for one. there is a place that has a dog ready to go for me but its that who has $17,000 to blow on a dog? I sure dont.. they are great to have but really expensive.

      • Don

        Part of why we are 5 years down the road, and no where closer. Willing to fund raise etc do what we can, but so far seems all we have run into is Money issues, or groups whom selectively help a specific group,(and thats not said as a complaint) Or just a few groups go silent fail to return calls. or say their backlog is multiple years long

    • Don, In Southern Illinois, there is a not for profit organization whose sole purpose is to provide service dog training to veterans and their canines. To fund this endeavor, civilians (like me) pay a nominal fee for training which serves a dual purpose, I get training for my service dog and myself for substantially less than the going rate and the veterans get assistance as well. Unfortunately, if you don’t live in the area you would be unable to attend classes. I know of no other program like ours, but if you would like to find out more go to yourwillingpartners.com and “sniff” us out. Best of luck to you.

      • Don

        Theresa, I wish we were there as of now.
        She is a disabled at birth daughter of a Senior master Sargent,E8
        But understandably the few vet groups I have contacted have been busy with Active service Medical discharged etc. If you happen to hear of a california based group please feel free to send info this way.

    • Alex

      Hi Don – have you and your friend considered checking shelters for dogs that might be suitable? I got my SD from a shelter. He was, at the time, a one year old Pit Bull who didn’t even know how to walk on a leash. Today he is three and a half and a fully functioning working dog. I paid $105 for him from the shelter and trained him myself. I realize though that not everyone has the knowledge to train their own dog, so I can understand the hurdle there if that’s the case. Maybe there is a trainer somewhere in your area? Depending on the disability, it can sometimes be more beneficial for the handler to work one on one with a trainer so that the dog can be trained to help with very specific, individual needs (which is a big part of why I opted to train my own dog, as I need him for highly personalized purposes).

      Sorry if this isn’t a feasible option, or you’ve already tried – just thought I’d toss it out there as an idea. Good luck – no one should have to wait years to get the help they need.

      • Don

        Alex, Yes, We have no Problems where the dog comes from. I am former shelter worker, now medically out, but suitable dog and training just beyond where have my experience. Kinda specialized, but not to much, mainly walking stability, if she takes a spill help getting up. possibly door handle or two if needed, but I have to admit, this is beyond my Animal Hospital and shelter experience, and yes, I agree no one should have to wait years but were about at 5 now.

    • Rita Peralta

      Check out Service Dog Project in Mass.

    • Don

      Thank you all for your comments, and I tried to reply to all tonight. my apologies for highjacking this comments section but I feel a reply is due to each and thank you for taking time to read offer input help etc! Thank you all

  3. Michelle

    Excellent article!! I’m printing it out to keep with me for those hard-headed individuals I sometimes come across. Thank goodness there aren’t too many, most folks have been good about my non-labrador ESA.

    • Michelle

      (PTSD)

    • Farm Dog

      Hi Michelle,
      We love to hear that you plan on passing this around!

    • Sue

      Michelle, you described your dog as an ESA (Emotional Support Animal). That is an important distinction since, while these dogs are recognized when it comes to air travel (Air Carrier Access Act) and housing (Fair Housing Act) issues, they are not recognized under the ADA and cannot be taken into places of public accommodation. Please see http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
      “Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

      • Farm Dog

        The distinction is in whether the dog performs a task. If Michelle’s dog has been trained to do a task to mitigate her disability, the dog is a service dog and not an ESA.

        • service dogs in general help with physical disabilities along with hidden disabilities such as seizures, blood sugar levels etc. those dogs who help with emotional disabilities are thought of as therapy dogs…

          • Farm Dog

            Hi Rebecca,
            You are actually incorrect. The difference between a therapy dog and a service dog is that a therapy dog is trained to provide comfort to other people (such as in hospital or nursing home) while a service dog is trained to mitigate a handler’s mental OR physical disability through the use of a trained task. In other words, dogs that assist people with mental disabilities are still service dogs so long as they are task trained.

  4. Rebecca

    GREAT Education Article. Keep up the good work!

  5. Very nice I don’t mind when young people ask questions about my dog it is adult that ask them that bugs me there is so many people out there that want to touch him talk to him stop me like I don’t have anything better to do with my time to ask a million and one question PLEASE it is hard enough to be on my feet let alone answer you question it’s so hard not to be rude sometime

    • Farm Dog

      Hi Monda,
      I’m with you- sometimes it amazes me how adults can be so rude!

      • Lady Annandale

        I have only asked because I saw an Akita as a Service Dog and was absolutely fascinated. I made sure to be respectful and polite and only asked her while we were riding on the bus, not while she was busy with a task. I -DID NOT- ask to pet her dog or interfere with the dog. I love learning about teams and I literally tear up because seeing the human/dog bond is a beautiful thing.

  6. Carolyn Messina-Yauchzy

    This article is one I would like to copy, laminate, and carry with me. However, it raises the question of whether some (maybe many) people will take the time to read it. An incident comes to mind when I was telling a store manager his right to ask someone with an unruly “service dog” to remove the dog. (Arguably, there is a good chance that a constantly out-of-control dog may not, in fact, be a service dog at all). He looked at the ceiling, tapped his fingers… Sheesh! I thought I was doing him a favor, telling him he could legally request a disruptive dog to be removed from his store. Never mind. There is,however, a sentence that exudes a less enlightened level of thinking: “Accept that you aren’t going to know what is wrong with them and move on.” Maybe the author’s idea was to write in the vernacular, i.e. the words someone might use to intrude on another’s privacy would probably not be very sensitively chosen. Still, as one who struggles to accept a newly diagnosed disability, I am trying to frame things in terms of my intrinsic value and worth,look at my disability as a challenge my service dog helps to mitigate, and not dwell on my unfortunate circumstance. My disability: a challenge? Absolutely yes. “What’s wrong with me?” Ouch. But anyhow, I’ll definitely send this to my sister. She knows there’s nothing “wrong” with me.

    • Farm Dog

      Hi Carolyn,
      You are more than welcome to hand it out. This post serves to educate and it can only do that if it gets passed around!

      You bring up a good point about using the word “wrong” to describe somebody who has been diagnosed (or otherwise) with a disabling condition. This was, as you put it, intended to cater to the vernacular commonly used by persons without disabilities. But very very valid point.

  7. jeff

    I had a Southwest ticket agent who asked me what my service dog was for, when I informed it that was against the law he said, if your going to fly on our plane you are going to answer my question, I had no choice, it was either miss my flight or get into a argument I couldn’t win.

    • Sue

      Jeff, that agent certainly could have been more courteous. The ACAA does not specify the two questions that the ADA allows,( 1) “Is this your pet (or service dog)?” and 2) “What tasks has the dog been trained to do?”), but it does state “(d) As evidence that an animal is a service animal, you must accept identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses, tags, or the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal.” See http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=1ee30cabc88fff1b591f3d17fa1ff583&node=se14.4.382_1117&rgn=div8

      In my experience, airline employees seem to utilize the ADA questions to obtain credible assurance, probably because PWDs are generally used to responding to them.

      That said, I have had airline employees who have pushed the limit. One in particular approached me in a gate area where I was waiting for a flight with my service dog. He said “I know I cannot require you to provide any ID or documentation for your service dog, but if you have some I’d really like to see it.” I politely declined, and he continued to rephrase his request several more times. I explained why he needed to either drop the subject or call the CRO (Complaint Resolution Officer) on duty. He got up and left, and I made a note of his name, date, time, location, and the details of the conversation so I could contact the airline. The response I received from the airline was entirely positive and indicated that they would follow my suggestion that he receive additional training.

  8. Great information. Thank you for clarifying these points, especially those specific to the ADA that most people aren’t familiar with.

  9. Jan barber

    I live in Florida…I have a little dog who weighs 4 pounds…if I stop at a store to pick something up I CANNOT bring my tiny dog in….WALMART is very stricked about this.. Yet the WALMART in St. Augustine will NOT LET ME IN THE STORE with her…

    Let me mention they do let some woman come in with 5 Capuchin monkeys sitting in her store cart.. She goes thru the fresh fruit and vegetable section AND all the isles…. When I complained to the manager, he said the monkeys are service animals… During the holidays. She dresses them up in cute little outfits…and sells the cute little things…

    Does anyone realize how filthy a monkey is? Response ?

    • Farm Dog

      Oh ouch Jan! If your dog isn’t a service dog, the store does not need to allow it into the store. But those monkeys are NOT federally considered service animals. I would complain to corporate. That is both unsanitary and dangerous.

    • Joe and Toki

      Walmart drives me absolutely crazy. I was at a Walmart here in Phoenix with my service dog Toki when I noticed an other “service dog” team. The problem that I had with this other team was that the woman was dragging her Pomeranian behind her and the dog was trying to do whatever it wanted. As me and Toki were passing this “team” to get to another isle, her Pom noticed Toki spun around and started to try and nip at him and started barking at him. Toki actually put himself in his “block” position to where he was in between me and the little monster. When this lady turned around to see what her dog was doing she saw Toki, all 150 lbs of brindle English Mastiff proudly wearing his earned service dog vest, and said “Oh shit!”. Needless to say she got as far from us as she could. Toki did exactly as trained and focus on me and stayed poised. I wanted to follow her and ask her about her dog but I didn’t want to cause another scene, so I went to make a complaint about an unruly dog. The store manager told me that it is company policy that they are only allowed to ask 1 ADA question “Is that a service dog?” because a guy with a pot belly pig sued Walmart for $50 million for denying him access to the store because of the service pig. When I was done filling out an incident statement this woman came through check out with her dog in the cart and the service dog vet was gone. Now as of March 15th 2011 according to the department of justice, dogs are the only acceptable service animals, with the exception of miniature horses. It irritates me seeing people take their pets into places where they shouldn’t, service dogs go through a lot of training to be out in public places.

    • Susan

      Jan, The ADA has rewritten the definition of a service animal to ONLY include dogs and guide horses. No other animal is accepted under ADA. You may want to print a copy of the ADA requirements and give it to your local Walmart.

  10. Judith Barbuto

    This might be worth mentioning in a subsequent article. It is a crime in every state to claim your dog is a service dog when it is not. Remember that the first step in having a service dog is that the handler must be disabled. People forget that all the time. I’ve had people say to me that they want to take their dog everywhere, just like I do. I try to be gentle, but I always ask them to tell me about the nature of their disability so we can talk about what type of dog would be best suited to their needs. Every single time the person has said, “Oh, no. I am not disabled. I just want to take my dog with me.” Sheesh. Know the law. Don’t lie about your dog, or you. It makes it so hard for those of us who have invisible disabilities.
    Thanks for writing about this.

    • Karen Brockett

      Judith it is not a crime in Oregon to falsely represent a pet dog as a service dog. There are no penalties for false representation. By the way Oregon is not the only state that has no laws on the books regarding misrepresentation of a service dog. Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and there are more on this long list of states with no laws regarding fake service dogs. There is no reason for states to introduce such laws because there is not legal need to prove a dog is a service dog as stated in the federal law. The ADA does not require certification or proof of it. How can you prove a service dog is a fake if no proof is required to determine a legitimate service dog. It’s a real Catch 22!

  11. Ann

    I have diabetes and used to have a service dog who alerted me to low blood sugar in time to treat it, before I got into trouble. He was a small schnoodle, about 11 pounds. I took him everywhere with me for several years, and he was a big help to me.

    I did have a little bit of trouble with people who did not believe a small dog could really be a service dog. But I found a few things that helped a lot. First, I had a vest for him with patches that said “Service Dog: Do Not Pet”, and that helped some. But what helped the most was that I bought some cards, sort of like folded-over business cards, that said “I am a service dog” with some brief relevant bits of the ADA printed in them. These were very inexpensive. I think I bought them from SitStay.com. Those cards helped so much!!!! Store owners, airline personnel, restaurant staff, etc. — they all apologized and backed down when I gave then a business card from my dog with the ADA in it. It was like magic.

  12. Little Miz Spoonie Sue

    Here in the UK and Europe the rules are much stricter. An assistance dog has to receive training from a qualified trainer via one of the six registered charities. They are assessed stringently, and only when deemed suitable do they gain the status of qualified assistance dog. We receive a license, which we must produce if asked and they must wear the coat provided by the charity that trained them. The dog is re-assessed annually to ensure it is still up to standard, and must re-train if deemed necessary.

    • Karen Brockett

      I really wish the U.S. would do something along those lines. Because the U.S service dog law does not require certification the fake service dog problem we have is well known in other countries. I was visiting in BC Canada and had an extremely unpleasant encounter regarding access with my service dog. The business owner literally was yelling at me about the U.S. and their fake service dogs and that my ID was fake (It was not my dog is from one of those recognized and well established service dog organizations.) because we can buy certification papers on the Internet.

      For some reason the service dog community is loath to push for certification but seem to prefer complain about all the fakes instead. Some in the service dog community I should say, because I am one of those who would love to see Feds require certification and then let the states determine how.

  13. Merrianne Furlong

    Since it is my understanding that Service Dogs are allowed in any place that the person to whom it is providing service chooses to go (and other dogs may not be able to go) what is the objection to providing clarification that this in fact is a service dog. I would think it would be less stress for the disabled person and would make everyone’s life easier. I am very concerned that service dog and therapy dog vests can be purchased by anyone and this seems to “grease the path” for many untrained dogs to be considered service dogs. Just because it is illegal to do so, if no one is allowed to question the validity of the dog, then what’s to stop everyone from bringing their dog in places it should not be.

    • Buddy

      Merrianne, businesses ARE allowed to inquire.

      If a person with vision impairment walks through the doors of a store, with their guide dog guiding the way, it’s pretty clear what service that dog is providing. There should be no need to question that, because it’s clear the dog is doing a job.

      When I walk through the doors of a store with my dog – with or without his working gear and service dog patches – it’s not clear what his job is, because my disability is largely invisible. In that instance, staff of the establishment has every right to stop me and ask the 2 questions allowed by law – 1) is this a service dog required because of a disability and 2) what tasks or work is the dog trained to perform.

      That opens the door for me to reply. I’m not certain if other handlers do this or not, but when I’m questioned, I try to tailor my reply to what my dog will be doing while we’re in a particular place, that way the staff knows something they can expect to see my dog actually doing. If I’m in a grocery store, I might reply – yes, he is a service dog and he is trained to retrieve items that are outside my safe reach.

      The problem with people who engage in fraud to “grease the path,” as you put it, isn’t the availability of the vests. The ADA says when the purpose isn’t clear, limited inquiry is allowed. Nowhere in the law does it say business owners have to accept ANY answer. They don’t.

      If I were to walk into a store with my dog in a vest and tell the store operator “he makes me feel better,” they can and should boot my butt right out the door and onto the curb. The ADA specifically excludes companionship and emotional support as a task or work.

      The same for “he makes me less anxious.” Yes, anxiety can reach a point where it becomes a disabling condition, and yes, there are dogs trained to perform tasks that mitigate that particular disability. If you can’t answer a question as simple as “what tasks does your dog perform” then you obviously don’t have one of those dogs. If you did, you’d be able to describe what he’s trained to do for you.

      The people who get turned away for not providing an acceptable answer can yell and scream and kick and throw all the temper they want at the world – it doesn’t change the fact that they’re fakers and they don’t not meet the standard set by the ADA. If they feel like they were treated unfairly and wrongly excluded from a location, they have a TON of options, up to and including filing a complaint with the Department of Justice.

      People who are faking can throw fits and make a spectacle of themselves, but when it comes down to it, fakers know they’re faking. They can threaten all they want, but they’re not going file a complaint, because they’re fakers. If they can’t pass their dog off as a service dog to a low level gatekeeper at the grocery store, they don’t stand a chance with people who are actually allowed to ask for detailed information about the nature of their disability and their dogs training.

      The solution to the problem isn’t to make it harder for people with disabilities, who use legitimately trained service dogs to live normally, by forcing us to present some form of ID just to go about our normal life. The solution is for businesses to enforce their rights under. If businesses started calling fakers out on their BS, and showing them out the door, things would be a lot easier for all of us.

      • K9 trainer

        Buddy, what a great post.

        I approached a faker in a grocery store and asked the two legal questions even though I could have asked anything as I was a patron and not employee. She could not answer the questions and kept claiming the dog was a “therapy” dog. I reported the faker to the manager who said he could do nothing. I contacted the county health department (CA) and was told there was nothing they could do, the store has the option to allow such fakers in their facilities. ???!!!!

        I would love to see more service dog handlers openly answer questions about their dogs. I think it would help build more awareness and respect for what service dogs do. If one is sensitive about their disability a simplified answer such as “My dog alerts me to when I need to get medical treatment for my condition” or “My dog picks up dropped items that I cannot pick up” should be a sufficient without revealing sensitive details.

        I will continue to respect and defend those of you who need and use service dogs. I hope you will do the same by educating people and speaking out against the fakers.

        • vandalI have a min. poodle that I trained to pick things up , get my cell phone , shoes and other things and when asked what he does I usually have him pick something up and give it to me. This satifies people usually.

        • Wendy

          K9 trainer, while I appreciate your concern, I’d like to caution the general public against asking people with possible service dogs any of these questions, because while there’s no law against it, if you are not in the position of being an owner or manager of the business, frankly, you don’t have any *right* to ask such personal, prying questions, and it’s really rude.

          The “legal” questions are only “legal” for allowing a business to determine whether or not it has to allow a particular animal access to its location. That doesn’t mean they create open season for everyone and their cousin to go around challenging others when there is no “need” or “right” to know like a business owner or manager may have.

          I would suggest that if you believe there is a fake, you alert the management, including educating them as to what responses would be appropriate if need be, and then let *them* handle it ;-)

          Many of us do answer questions often, but I have to tell you, by the time you see us, it’s likely we’ve had a long day and been asked by a dozen other people. Aside from the fact that such inquiries often really interfere in our getting the things done we are trying to do, frankly, it’s just rude to ask *anyone* what’s wrong with them, why they use any sort of assistive device, etc, especially if you’ve never met, and God forbid, that’s the first thing you ask, without even establishing any sort of rapport like you would with any other person you wanted to strike up a conversation with. Truthfully, it really gets old, and it can be incredibly offensive to be confronted all day long by such rudeness.

          I mean, for God’s sake, if you’ve *got* to ask such a personal question of a total stranger, at least have the decency of saying hello first! And asking if they would be *willing* to discuss what their dog does for them.

      • Wendy

        I’d add only that it has to be a *trained* task, not just something dogs naturally do because they are dogs. In the case of anxiety, that means it can’t be he just snuggles and your blood pressure goes down because of the well-recognized connection between petting an animal and blood pressure or anxiety control, but there must be some actual thing the dog does in response. This could be an alert that is shaped to be consistent to let you know you’re spiralling downward or something to interrupt the attack, including deep pressure therapy, getting meds, getting help, etc. Just snuggling doesn’t cut it.

        Which I know that you know; I’m just clarifying for the rest of the readers who might not.

        I agree about wanting to see businesses start to call out the fakes appropriately – including being willing to call the cops on them if need be. This is only an issue *because* of the fakers, so why should those of us who are disabled bear the brunt of the solution in any way?

        Let the people who are violating the law be held responsible themselves – and most importantly, let’s keep on educating businesses that they *do* have rights, what they are, and how to protect themselves when they need to question or reject someone.

        They aren’t doing it because they’re understandably afraid of being sued if they do the wrong thing, but it’s not that common for anyone to let them know what their rights actually are. I find that most are *very* grateful when I take the time to fill them in on this – and very relieved to learn that they *do* have recourse if a particular animal is causing a problem.

  14. Ryan donkersley

    Nice article! I am directing a documentary called DOGTAGGED: A Documentary on veterans with PTSD and their service dogs. You can look it up on facebook. After that documentary I plan on creating another about service dogs and what they face going into business’s might have to use this article to help out with what people are facing!

  15. Amanda

    Love the article! My first husband had a service dog. While his disability was very visible, he was in a wheelchair, we never had a problem taking “Morgan” (his first service dog) or “Monty” (his second) anywhere. His dogs came from a wonderful training agency in MA called NEADS. These dogs are raised by puppy foster homes & training begins right away. They also use rescue dogs & utilize a local women’s prison for training. There is a lot of time & training that is put into making these dogs become the service dogs they will be. This is also an expensive process & not every dog is able to pass. For me, after living with a person who was disabled & having 2 service dogs in our home before my husband passed away in 2005, is I get very angry with people who try and pass off their dog as a service animal. NEADS provided a photo ID & certification in case there was ever an issue. With all of the self processed “dog trainers” out there, I personally see a need for service dogs not just to be registered, but for them to come from reputable agencies like NEADS & the Seeing Eye. I have seen many “service dogs” in public that have definately not been trained properly, if at all. These people just want to be able to take their dogs into public places where dogs are not usually allowed. These people are giving service dogs & disabled people a bad wrap! While it is not legal to ask someone about their disability, I do not see an issue with there being a law to come into play that service dogs be from a reputable agency & that there be some kind of identification developed to prove these service dogs are what they are meant to be. Uncertified dogs put not only the public, but other service dogs at risk.

    • Laura

      I am a puppy raiser for an established agency. I get my puppy at 7 weeks and start their training at once. Taking them out in public is part of their training. The discrimination I have encountered is unreal. These puppies/dogs who will be service dogs are not born knowing how to be service dogs, they have to be trained, which means they have to go into stores, churches, etc.. My puppies act better than most children when sitting in a restaurant. I have been told from store owners that they do not have to admit me because i do not have a disability. I try to educate most people but because of so many people trying to push off their “pets” as SD it has made my job so much harder.

      • Shoshana ThunderHeart

        The store does NOT have to admit you with a service dog. You are not disabled and that is a requirement to allow access to your service dog. You must be disabled and the dog must be trained to assist YOU in your disability.

  16. Mary

    How does one address “fake certifications”? I have been made aware that one can purchase a vest and “certification” for about $29.99 online. However, this certification requires no testing of the animal and when requesting the certification, it asks what you feel you need the service animal to help you with. This frustrates me because even though I am a dog lover and would love to be able to take them with me all the time, I have no disability nor are my dogs disciplined/trained enough to behave in the manner of a service dog and I believe only these fake certifications devalue actual service animals. My friend’s husband has been trying to get a service dog to help with PTSD (former Marine); however, they cannot afford one.

    I even had a co-worker offer to buy one of the vests so I could take my smaller dog with me every where. But I completely disagree with that idea!

    I work in food service and we have a couple of guests who bring their “service” dog. We all have our doubts of the validity of the certification of this service animal but no one questions it because we know we cannot discriminate. The main reason we question the validity is because this is a “purse dog”, more of an accessory than a pet or service animal. It’s not the size that makes us question it but the way it’s in a bag and “spoiled”.

    I like Merrianne Furlong am very concerned

    • Kym-Berly Blevins Barrera

      These purse dogs could very well be Diabetic or Seizure Dogs. They have bonded with their owner enough that they alert the owner when blood sugar gets too low, or that a Seizure is Imminent. The dog can go a year with never needing to warn the owner. But you can be sure that when it does need to warn the owner, you will be glad it was present! In the case of a Seizure alert dog, the person gets a few precious minutes to alert a Loved one and nearby people that they will be having a seizure any minute. They can then lay on the floor away from things that can be dumped on them, IE Merchandise or Boiling hot soup.

      Im not saying all these purse dogs do this. But some do. Some also alert a hearing impaired driver that someone has honked at them, or that they hear something out of the ordinary.

    • When i take Romeo into a place where i eat he is trained to get under a table or chair and stay put quitly until we leave and no begging!

  17. Patty Sargent

    In my role as a school psychologist, I have frequently encounteted administrators who refuse to allow student’s service animals in school. What are the legalities of these dogs in school. ADA and IDEA seem vague.

  18. Teresa

    LOVE the article and the follow up comments. Thank you for posting. The only thing I found conflicting is the registration certificate you used as an illustration. Unless things have changed since I registered my dog 2010, the United States Service Dog Registry does not charge for registration. (They DO charge for the certificate, I believe.) When you register with them, you get a registration #, expiration date, etc. at no charge. It’s the only organization I could find that did not charge for registration.

  19. fallconsmate

    i have a service dog. she’s a wee black poodle, rides about in a dog sling when we’re in public. (she’s under 7 pounds, it’s for her safety!) she alerts when my blood sugar drops too low…i’m a diabetic. she’s my Shadow. :)

    and i have gotten verbal abuse, i have been asked to leave restaurants, i have been given grief after grief about her, because people are NOT aware that there are dogs other than those who assist the blind. therefore, as much as i LOATHE having to do it, i tell people what she does, and how many OTHER sorts of service animals there are, so that they pull their heads out of unenlightened times and get with the NOW.

    i have other invisible disabilities also, and bringing the wee dog with me is physically painful…yet, that ease of worry she brings me is worth it.

  20. shardé

    I had a business refuse me service until I provided documentation that my dog, while wearing his service vest with the words clearly marked “service dog”. My question is what can I do to have them reprimanded or notified that this is against the law!

    • Alex

      You can file a complaint with the DOJ. I think there’s a link from the ADA service dog page from which you can do so. I think that’s how I did it – I filed a complaint a few months back after being verbally harassed, mocked, and denied entry because of my SD. Anyway, you can file a complaint online, you just need to have as much of the business’s info as possible (address, ph. #, names of persons involved,etc).

    • Wendy

      You can also file a complaint with management, call the police, alert the media, and/or file a lawsuit against the company.

      The police *should* be able to help you, but aren’t always that well-informed themselves. I’ve found that patience and being able to cite state law about service dogs as well as the ADA has been useful, and of course educating the responding officer and whole department when it’s appropriate. If the responding officer can’t or won’t help you, request a supervisor to respond, who is more likely to better understand the law. If that fails, then you’ll have to deal with educating the cops later – and then name *them* in your complaints and suits as well.

  21. Evi Lambert

    I am doing my dissertation on AAT for PTSD in connection with service dogs in the workplace. Does anyone has any info on this that could help me?

  22. GREAT article – we reposted to our social networks. Thanks for helping with the long road to educating the general public about service animals. http://www.accessanything.net

  23. Don

    Wow, many replies. Yes I will email you. Greatly appreciated.
    Karen yes, and some of the best care possible a friend of mine owns his
    Own animal hospital and clinic. And I might be missing a few other messages
    Will read rest in detail when I’m not getting ready for work lol.

  24. Karen

    I can certainly understand the frustration people who have service dogs may have when people want to pet or ask questions about the dog. Keep in mind though, someone who may have never encountered a service dog may not be aware of the manners needed. I was in college the first time I saw one, and fortunately the gentleman was extremely polite in explaining why I couldn’t pet the dog and educated me a little about service animals (yes, I was ignorant. Fortunately I always ask EVERY pet owner if I may pet their animal.) I don’t think it’s fair to be so judgemental about this issue because people just don’t know until they’re taught.

  25. Alex

    This is an excellent article. I too intend to print it out. I’ve been being harassed since March by a complete stranger who’s been accusing me of being a “faker” and a “felon” (??? I’ve never even been arrested and am certainly not a felon!). He’s carried on endlessly about how my dog is “fake” *because* “you can buy those vests all over the internet” (this was the reasoning he gave to a business manager – someone who knows me lol – that my dog was “fake”). He also claimed that he too was disabled – he’s allergic to dogs! lol Sorry, all I can do is laugh at that if he thinks they’re dumb enough to think that’s a legitimate disability (and I’ve had other people pull that – they’re “allergic”, therefore the business should make me leave… lol illegal). But curiously, this same person who is “allergic” also tells people that because I exercise my dog at the dog park, that means he’s “fake” (no, he’s really a dog, I checked). If he’s so “allergic”, how is it he’s seen me at the dog park? I now no longer go there alone because of this guy, because he’s essentially been stalking me and is actually quite threatening (I have a police report for the last incident he pulled). He’s also had his friends come around to harass me (because he managed to get himself banned from the primary location where he’d been harassing me).

    He also saw a friend of mine pet my dog a few times. So obviously he’s “fake”. He seems to have no idea what service dogs actually are or what their handlers choose to do or not do with them. My primary disability is very much invisible – until I’m triggered… that’s where my dog comes in. Unfortunately, my very first encounter with my harasser landed me in the hospital since I was so triggered not even my dog could stop it entirely (plus I was re-triggered later the same day by someone who did so unintentionally – but she ran toward me squealing about my dog and it scared the crap out of me. Please don’t go running up to people who are handling working dogs… it could end poorly for all involved.

    I’ll say though… I’ve gotten almost nothing but grief from the general public since having my dog in public. He is very clearly marked to not distract, talk to, touch, etc… and they do it anyway because they “just can’t resist”. It’s turned me in to an unpleasant person, and that isn’t my nature… but I’m so fed up with these entitled spoiled brats (who are almost exclusively adults) that I can’t help but just snarl at them or comment how sorry I am about their illiteracy problems. What’s odd is that 95% of the children I encounter are extremely polite, know to ASK before touching, and accept no as an answer (though usually I’ll let polite young children give him a pat). I have no idea where they’re learning this proper behavior… it certainly isn’t from adults, lol.

    Sorry, I ramble, but I’m just happy to see an accurate and informative article about SDs. Now, if we can just get the know-it-alls to read it…

  26. Trisha

    Interesting article, but I have two questions. With all the stress on the rights of the disabled person to have the service dog, and the protections for their needs, where is the responsibility to respect the rights of others as well? There are many people who are extremely allergic to dogs, and they deserve respect for their health condition as equally as the person who requires the service dog. What provisions are there to ensure the dog handler shows the same respect for others as they expect in return?

    Also, if a license or proof of the dog’s purpose is not required, and asking for proof is somehow disrespectful and seen as discrimination on the part of the business owner, what is stopping someone who wants to bring their dog along with them everywhere from claiming they have an invisible disability, and this is their service dog? Should the business owner be expected to blindly accept someone’s house pet into their business, because they claim the dog is a service dog and proof is voluntary?

    • I think you will find pets that are passed off as service animals do not behave as a service animal that has had training ; it takes a lot of time to train a service animal not only to do tasks but on proper behavior also.

    • Wendy

      Trisha, if someone really does have disabling allergies, first, they ought to be taking shots or medication already to help control them because being out in the world at all is hazardous for many such people. It is entirely reasonable if a patron in a restaurant, say, claims allergies, for the hostess to seat the two parties as far apart as possible within the bounds of available space. This issue was actually addressed by the court regarding two patrons on a ferry, one with a truly disabling allergy to dogs and the other with an SD, and the court told the ferry company that they simply have to find a way to make sure these two people can ride in separate parts of the boat, but that they still *had* to allow the dog on.

      The average person claiming allergies to SDs, however, is at most going to be dealing with a few sniffles and the like, none of which rises to the level where it would be considered legally disabling, and hence, they have *no* rights to accommodations under the ADA. The law is not intended to address everyone’s comfort, but to ensure that those who have truly serious and disabling conditions have a level playing field.

      And part of the way you can tell that most of these people are just being cranks is by watching them. I was in a cafe one day and had been sitting there for several hours with my dog silently at my feet. As I got up to leave, some jerk came over and *got right in my face*, screaming at me for having my dog in there, and oh, how terribly allergic to dogs he was. He had literally come all the way across a large room just to do that. No one who was *really* that seriously allergic would have come near us. Leaving aside the fact that my dog is a Standard Poodle, and the incidence of people who are allergic to poodles is way beyond small, even if they are reactive to other breeds.

      And when you watch these same people while they are eating, you won’t even see most of them sniffle or sneeze, let alone show any sign whatsoever of respiratory distress – and it’s that “substantial interference” with breathing that *might* give them disability claiming rights for their allergies.

    • Wendy

      What *should* stop them, Trisha, is if the business asks the two questions they are legally allowed to ask – and in the way they are phrased. They are a) Is that a service dog *required because of a disability*? and b) What tasks is the dog trained to do to help mitigate that disability?

      The second question should only be asked if for some reason the business has reason to disbelieve the answer to the first.

      The tasks *must* be *trained* tasks, not just things a dog naturally does because he’s a dog, and they *must* relate to a disability. Thus just being trained to sit, beg, down, heel, etc. don’t count, nor does general snuggling, “making me feel better”, etc.

      When push comes to shove, most of the fakers won’t be able to answer these questions in anywhere near a reasonable, believable manner. They can and should be asked to remove the dog.

      And if a faker does convince someone? Well, the reality is we *are* going to see fakers who figure out how to do that believably. But as long as the dog is well-behaved and not causing a disturbance, who really cares? It very well *could* be an actual SD and nothing about its presence if it’s a fake whose owner got the questions right is going to be any different from a legitimate SD – *unless* the dog is out of control and the owner doesn’t take effective steps to control it. But even obviously legitimate SDs can be ejected if they are not under control. It is also not uncommon for groups of people with SDs to gather for a meal or outting so it’s really not at all unusual that there might be multiple dogs present.

      So, bottom line, the focus needs to be on the behavior of the animal. If it’s well-behaved, it’s not interfering with anything any more than any legitimate SD would be.

      Yes, some fakers will get through, but we need to leave it to them to sort out the reasons they feel the need to pretend to be disabled, and not allow *their* mental problems to interfere with the legitimate rights of others ;-)

    • Shoshana ThunderHeart

      From the US Dept of Justice, Civil Rights Division:
      Regarding Part 1 of your inquiry:
      “Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.”
      Regarding Part 2 of your inquiry:
      “When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”
      I hope that helps.

  27. Mary Beth McDonald

    Great article. There seem to be so many instances of discrimination against service dogs and their handlers lately. There needs to be better education of the public regarding the ADA; businesses have no excuse-they should know the law. So many stereotypes. My deaf son attends the Illinois School for the Deaf, where many of the staff are deaf also. Some of them have service dogs who tend to be the smaller breeds. Too many people only see the GSD or Lab as a service dog. These little dogs are absolutely awesome in alerting their handlers to a wide variety of sounds and bringing them to the source! Simple observation would lead one to believe that this little dog was merely a pet. Never assume.

  28. Sarah

    Thank you so much for writing and posting this article!!!! I am planning on printing out copies and keeping them in my service dog’s packs so that the next time I get the stubborn person who keeps asking ” You can walk and you aren’t blind, so why do YOU get to bring your dog into the store?” Wendigo( the service dog) can pass a copy out!

  29. Echo

    i really hope i don’t get flamed for this.

    please let me start out by saying, that i think service animals, not just dogs, are awesome and that they do provide a huge needed service!

    but….. i honestly feel that there should be some kind of documentation or registration for service animals. yes i totally understand that there are many, many hidden disabilities, and that service animals truly help. but there have been so many stories and article of people (by both animal owners & businesses) causing problems. of ‘sue’ next door or ‘harold’ on the other side of town who madly love their dog, take to calling them service animals so that they can take them where ever they want.

    the ADA needs to come up with a registration process and card that can be carried to ID a service animal. it really would not be all that hard to do. someone could get their “doctor” to basically write something like a prescription stating that the dog is genuinely needed. and it shouldn’t cost an an arm and a leg to do this. it wouldn’t stop everyone from getting their loveable pet from getting registered but it would put a stop to a lot of them who simply lie about it.

  30. Pedro M Tellez

    Very good informative article.. I just hope those who own pets understand the Difference.. Just because you may have a strong bond with your pet..don’t flood the animal or service animal side with fictitious service animals that do not help with disabilities or service work..
    Thanks..

  31. Wendy

    Terrific article, and thanks! I’m also going to bookmark it and probably make copies to hand out. I’m getting a rash of strangers asking me what’s wrong with me lately (not to mention the usual general access challenges), and it’s gotten really, really old.

  32. Shoshana ThunderHeart

    On July 26, 1990, on the South Lawn of the White House, President George H W Bush signed “the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities.” The Americans with Disabilities Act made the U.S. the international leader on this civil rights issue. In this speech, Bush said that despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people with disabilities were still victims of segregation and discrimination. He closed his remarks by invoking the Declaration of Independence when he said, “Today’s legislation brings us closer to that day when no Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantees of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
    It became a matter of law, irrefutable, that service animals were an extension of the disabled person, and had full access to all places of business open to the public.
    In 2011 the term “service animal” was changed to “service dog” and included mental and emotional disabilities, like PTSD, as grounds to have a full access service dog.
    I don’t want the nation to go backwards regarding disabilities. I don’t want to have to register as a disabled person with some government agency, register my service dog to prove he is a service dog, nor do I want to carry ID that I am disabled anymore than I want to wear a sign around my neck notifying the public that I am disabled and that I am different, because with my service dog I am able bodied again, and have the same rights as any other American.
    Shame on anyone who would try to take my rights away for any reason.