Service Dogs and Public Access

I don’t often cross-post things, but I recently replied to a Tumblr “rant” about service dogs in restaurants and I really wanted to share it here. Plus, it’s International Assistance Dog Week!

The original post, titled “A disservice to service dogs” begins:

Look, I get it. People around here love their dogs, more than children it seems. But do you know what? I do not enjoy dining where your furry friends have been joining you at the table. I mean it’s different if they’re chilling on the ground in the patio being well behaved, that’s different.

Just the other day I answered an ask that is very appropriate to this poster’s feelings about dogs in restaurants. It was about the time I got thrown out of a liquor store because, essentially, the owner didn’t want a dog in his shop despite my rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As I noted in my response on Tumblr, the personal feelings of whether or not a service dog should be in a public place are entirely irrelevant. In my original reply, I used the comparison example of having to share space on public transportation with others who perhaps don’t bathe themselves well enough. Unfortunately, I have to deal with it because they have just as much right to occupy space on a CDTA bus as I do.

The post continues:

Just the other day I was a popular San Clemente restaurant where dogs aren’t allowed, and all of a sudden I hear barking from several tables away! “That’s weird” we thought. The barking continued. We complained to the hostess. But because the dog had a “service dog” tag, they said they couldn’t do anything about it. First off, I could put a raccoon on a leash and it would be better trained than this dog. Second, what a tiny yorkie going to do for you? I  kinda get the idea of an emotional support animal but on a cool morning you could probably take your buddy out to the car if it’s acting up.

The 2010 revision of the ADA included a new definition for “service animals” and it is very clear on public access rights. Service animals are permitted wherever the public is and that includes inside restaurants. However, it is expected that the animal be under control of the handler at all times. Anyone who has ever eaten with me at a restaurant knows that my absolute favorite thing is when we get up to leave and I recall my guide dog from under the table to the surprise of staff and patrons. Why? Because that’s exactly what should happen; it proves she was doing her job the whole time and remained entirely unnoticed by everyone but me.

The service dog referenced was obviously not behaving properly and was causing a disruption to the other patrons. The hostess was incorrect in saying that the staff had to ignore the issues because it was a service dog and in fact they could and should have requested the handler leave.1

The rant continues:

Who am I kidding here; you and I both know this was no service dog. For just 79 dollars you can register any animal as a service animal and get to take your buddy anywhere you want, and those mean people who hate dogs can’t do anything about it. If you don’t want to “register” your dog, you can just buy a service dog ID on Amazon for $15.  It’s stuff like this that gives real service animals a bad name. This is what’s going to get the government to regulate service animals, making life difficult for people who really need them.  Knock it off people.

Actually, what makes it difficult for service animal handlers is misinformation about the law. There is no mandatory registration! And there is also no legal need to have an ID or other certification that your partner is in fact a service animal. Yes, that opens the door for people to waltz fake service animals through the doors of any public place, but if that dog is behaving itself like a real service animal then it’s hardly causing an issue for future handlers.

Additionally, there are many types of disabilities that are not readily apparent to the casual observer. Even as a blind person, which you might think would be terribly obvious to the public, I am constantly queried about what my guide dog does and how she specifically aids me. Likewise there are also many different tasks that service dogs perform. Perhaps this dog was trained to alert to an epileptic seizure or diabetic shock.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was a fake service dog. It’s honestly difficult to prove. And the law is fairly specific as to what is considered an acceptable line of questioning. However, that said, in my personal experience as a handler I find we’re generally pretty tolerant of being asked about our partners. If you aren’t rude or accusatory, you’ll likely have similar results.

  1. The law also stipulates that in such cases, the same goods and services should be provided in the absence of the service animal.

International Assistance Dog Week

Today through the 11th is International Assistance Dog Week (IADW), which is sponsored through Assistance Dogs International (ADI). In recognition of “all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability related limitations” I present to you a collage of my guide dogs:

Collage of various photos of my three guide dogs

AD Links

To round out the end of International Assistance Dog Week I thought I’d provide some links to a few of my favorite assistance dog bloggers:

Who Invented Dark is the blog of my friend Nancy. We met way back in 1998 when I returned to GEB to finish training with my first guide dog. Her blog is a full of wonderful anecdotes of her life and is a terrific representation of the great person she is.

Kim has a somewhat eclectic roster of topics upon which she blogs about at Dog Days of Kimberfus, including book reviews and crocheting! Much of her daily life as a guide dog handler is chronicled and it says a lot that what is essentially routine to me still seems fascinating and interesting when she writes about it!

The talented Katrin has some of the most insightful posts at her blog By My Side where she highlights each of her past and present guide/service dogs that she’s been partnered with. Her artwork is nothing short of amazing, too.

Admittedly one of the most fascinating people I’ve had the privilege of randomly meeting on the internet is Rox’E who blogs at The Doghouse. Her informative posts about her life as an owner-trainer guide dog handler and a deaf-blind person are always insightful and fully of her charming dry wit. And with her houseful of dogs there’s always something interesting going on! Oh, and she and her husband also run Pawpower Creations where they custom-make guide dog equipment and a range of aromatherapy (or “smelly stuff” as Rox’E calls it) items.

And last but certainly not least is Laura who maintains Dog’s Eye View; I’ve mentioned her quite a bit this week due to her guide dog sponsorship auction, which ends tomorrow! At first glance the main draw is probably her amazing photography, but there’s more than pretty pictures here. Most notably are her excellent and thought-provoking posts on specific issues and topics relating to guide dogs and disability in general.

There are many more wonderful assistance dog related blogs out there that I could link, but I think this is a great sampling to start off with. Also, I don’t have endless amounts of time to link each and every blog I read — and there are tons more that I’m sure I don’t even know about! Not to mention I need to whip this house into some semblance of clean and organized for tomorrow so that my li’l bro can make his monster cupcakes to show off to the whole of the intarwebs!

Fourth AD Carnival

What better time than smack-dab in the middle of Assistance Dog Week for the fourth Assistance Dog Blog Carnival to be put up! This time the theme was “Difference” and there are many wonderful posts from all aspects of the assistance dog world, including my submission about transitioning between my guide dogs. I highly recommend clicking over and reading some, if not all of the contributions to this ADBC and if you are so inclined please pass along the link! The Carnival runs quarterly and more information is available here.

Also, my friend Laura’s auction is still going on. Many of the items donated are one-of-a-kind and/or handmade and there have been a few additions since the auction started Monday morning. Remember all the proceeds go towards sponsoring a potential guide dog puppy!

International Assistance Dog Week

Fidelco isn’t a member of Assistance Dogs International, Inc.,1 but it’s worth noting that they are sponsoring International Assistance Dog Week. IADW was created to recognize of all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations. ADI lists the goals of IADW as:

  • Recognize and honor the hardworking and selfless assistance dogs
  • Raise awareness and educate the public about how these specially trained animals are aiding so many people in our communities
  • Honor the puppy raisers and trainers of assistance dogs
  • Recognize heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs in our communities

One way in which you can participate in IADW is through my friend Laura‘s Guide Dog Puppy Sponsorship Auction. Along with several others, I donated a bunch of items, including cupcakes, for her to auction off in her fundraising efforts to sponsor a potential guide dog puppy for Guide Dogs of America. There is a terrific variety of items available for dogs, cats and humans alike, so please browse around and consider bidding in support of her project.

That’s all for now.

  1. I can only speculate as to why, but it wouldn’t surprise me if part of it had to do with the fact that ADI very obviously promotes feeding food they would not approve of.