Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trained Service Dogs versus Fake Service Dogs

Service dogs are like any other dog cute and adorable, most of us want to just go up and pet them.  However, you can’t or shouldn’t.  A service dog is working for their handler and should not be disturbed.  Any petting or distracting of a service dog could potentially put his owner in danger.  Distracting a service dog could prevent the service dog from recognizing signs or behaviors from their handler that could be life-saving. The service dog's attention could be drawn with just a hand wave or just say a word to them which could cause them to miss a trigger or scent their owner.  It is important to remember that a service dog is not a pet but rather a medical necessity and has a responsibility and loyalty to his handler to keep him safe and secure.
Each service dog’s training is specific to the handler’s needs; hearing the door knock, when someone is calling them, when the fire alarm is going off, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack and etcetera.  Pending what the service dog is being training for there are diabetic service dogs, seizure service dogs, seeing-eye dogs, mobility service dogs and so one.  Each will be trained for the specific condition of their handler.  
If you are to come around or in contact with a service dog it is best to:
Communicate eye to eye with the handler, not their dog.   Do not just approach the dog and pet without requesting, however, it is best just not to pet the dog even though it is hard to resist.    Please if possible allow the service dog to pass with room; even though the disability may not be visible there is a disability there.  If you are uncomfortable or their dog is in the way, please let the handler know so they can adjust their service dog. 
It is best no to do the following when a service dog is present:
Again, do not pet without permission.  Do not distract the service dog in any matter.  Do not feed the service dog.  Do not ask questions about the handler’s disability it may be an uncomfortable situation for them to discuss. 
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that prevents discrimination against people with disabilities and their service animals in public and private places. Even though ADA does not require you to register your service dog, the state laws may vary and have further regulations for you and your service dog, so it is best to research for your specific state or a state you will be visiting so that you and your service dog will be in regulation.

The ADA provides protections for you and your service dog, but does not require you to register or to certify your dog as a service animal. This federal law states that you can bring your dog with you into a business, including restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores, hotels and taxicabs. These businesses cannot exclude you or your service dog or be able to treat you differently than any other customer.  However, business owners can ask you: If your dog is a service animal required because of a disability and what tasks the service dog is trained to perform for you.  However, a business owner cannot ask you to describe the nature of your disability, demand proof that your dog is a service animal, ask for medical documentation of your disability, or request that your service dog performs a task.    If you are traveling with a service dog there are other specifications that may be requested such as: asking you for proof of your disability or for proof that your service dog is a trained service dog under the ADA and the Air Carrier Access Act.  Some of the documents that are acceptable are: proof of your disability and requirement for a service dog with a doctor's letter.  Obtain documentation from the training organization such as the certification or identification card from where you obtained your service dog from.  Before traveling on any public transportation it is best to review their requirements on their website as well as call the airline, train, bus and etcetera to let them know a service dog will be with you. 

Service dogs can be any dog that passes the requirements to be a service dog and the training.  Service dogs are not breed specific so it can be a pug, pit bull, Rottweiler, German shepherd, Labrador retriever, Boston terrier and etcetera.  When you see a service dog with the service dog vest on be open minded and realize that dog and handler when through a lot of training hours to achieve that vest and privilege to have the security to be able to go out shopping, fly, eat at a restaurant, and so on. 

If you were to witness a ‘service dog’ that is out of control and the handler is not doing or cannot do anything about the dog is most likely not a trained service dog.  Other signs of a non-trained service dog are if the dog is not housebroken and urinates or defecates inappropriately.  The dog is whining, barking, growling, or making other noises.  Picking up or stealing food, unless tasked for by handler’s requirements.  The dog is pulling on their leash/harness unless the dog is performing a mobility task for their handler.  The dog is wandering away from their handler.  The dog breaks from a stay position or is anxious, agitated or aggressive.  If the dog is ungroomed, smells or appears uncleaned.  The dog is easily distracted, jumping, scratching or engaging with other dogs, children or people.  The dog is in a stroller or shopping cart, the dog is not able to perform their duties being restricted and not being at their handler’s side. 

Not to say these dogs are bad dogs they are just not service dogs and should not be passed as one because of the repercussions of what could happen if an improperly trained is approached and reacts.  There is a law to protects those who really need the service dog.  A lot of time, training from the handlers and trainers are put into each of these service dogs.  Each service dog is required to be re-certified each year to maintain their certification.  Being a service dog is a lot of responsibility taken on the part of the handler, trainers, training facilities and service dogs not to be under minded but those who just want to have their dogs with them.  Be respectful to those who truly have the disability, whether the disability is scene or not, if your dog is not a certified service dog by the appropriate training facilities take the time to get them trained or leave them at home.  Hopefully, within time there will be a national registry in which legit service dogs will be easier to be identified and handlers of fake service dogs will be held accountable.   It is sad and upsetting when a legit service dog and handler are handled rudely and disrespectful because of the few that abuse the law.  Please be more respectful.  Thank you.  

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