Barking: The Not so Service “Service Dog”

Before I go on “barking” I want to give some clarification.

First, I absolutely think that service animals are not only a necessity but a great partnership between human and canine.  When I was in high school I wanted nothing more than to work for Leader Dogs for the Blind and become a trainer.  Life takes you in funny places and that never became a reality.  However, I absolutely believe in the partnership between man and dog as well as their amazing healing powers of mind and spirit.  Dogs have been shown to help become the eyes and ears of those who need it.  They also can help with those daily activities that most of us take for granted; getting medicine, food, opening doors, or simply picking up a remote.  Dogs also have a calming effect and help with anxiety or even daily stresses.  They absolutely provide us with a service and should continue to do so.

However, and this is where my barking comes in, more and more people are claiming their dogs are service animals when in fact they are not.  People call their dogs “service” animals when they are in no way trained, certified or even prescribed to be a service animal.  People take their dogs everywhere with them; to the mall, the grocery store, or even places like Target and Home Depot.  The law doesn’t allow a shop owner or anyone else to ask to see papers that certify the dog as a service dog.  You can ask and you can ask what service they provide but you can go no further.  Law enforcement are the only ones who can actually demand to see papers but they very rarely if ever get involved.

The other problem is that it seems easier and easier to get a dog to be certified as a service dog.  Doctors can write prescriptions for people to let their dog be a service animal and this often comes with the doctor never meeting the dog or even interacting with them.

I have trained dogs for CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and TDI’s (Therapy Dog International) and they require certain skills and basic behavior to even make those certifications.  However, now it seems like anyone can have a service dog.

I witnessed a few acts of the abuse of calling your animal a “service dog” when in fact they are not.  First was an incident that occurred on a TriMet bus in the Portland area a few years back.  An individual took his large and untrained Rottweiler on the bus under the guise of being a service dog.  The driver had no recourse to not allow the dog on.  During a routine bus trip one day a woman was on the bus that had a small certified service companion that she used to help with anxiety being out of her home.  Unfortunately the Rottweiler attacked and severely injured the other dog while on the bus.   It was only at that point they were able to actually determine he wasn’t a real service dog.  The incident should have never happened.  The second incident was when I was flying home from a business trip.  I observed a woman with a dog in the seating area at the gate.  The dog was hyper, barking and lunging at nearby passengers. I thought to myself, “Surely this can’t be a ‘service’ dog”.  Imagine my anger and frustration when I was called up to the gate and bumped from the seat I paid extra to be in because the “service dog” needed the room.  I was so angry that I told the clerk, “If that’s a service dog then I’m the fucking Queen of France”.  I was lucky to still fly but the clerk said she saw the “papers”.  When I got home I looked into it and found out just how easy it was to get a “service” dog on an airplane; talk about being flabbergasted and frustrated.

While at the Dog Park yesterday there was an individual who had a “service dog”.  He even admitted to the dog not being trained in any way and commented on his inability to properly care for the dog due to the dog’s coat (a Poodle/Siberian husky mix).  This was a rather large dog with little to no manners.  He said he took the dog with him absolutely everywhere and I was confused as to how he handled the dog and what services were actually provided by the dog.  The worst part was another woman chimed in on how she was going to get her Chow/Husky mix certified just so she could take him into an apartment.

I can understand the love people have for their dogs and the desire to have them be a fully integrated part of their lives but going under the guise of “service dog” is doing a disservice to true service dogs.  I think we need stronger legislation and restrictions on certifying service dogs so that we can weed out those who really do provide a service and those who do not.  Something needs to be done before it is ruined for those who truly need it.

What do you think?  Weigh in on the topic!

 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Barking: The Not so Service “Service Dog”

  1. Wendy Mydlo

    Washington and oregon mmust have relad the rules, because they don’t have that here. They must have a coat identifing as service dog
    also on there collar they must have a badge and a picture of the dog stating I’m a service dog. A veteran cone back from the war and lost a leg, so he has a certified dog and on several occasions he has gone to a restraurant that told him we don’t allow dogs and threw him out. He called the police and the owner now knows the law on service dogs. The guy sued the restraurant and gave the money to the service dog association that trained his golden, another guy had a dog that kept his mind off the war, everytime he started to stare off the dog would start licking him and pawing him. He was a cerified dog by the physiological organization and theren took his to the restraurant are a lot of different tipes of servoce dog, but I’m of track. He was refused entry and called the organization that trained the dog, they sent 2 people and they tried to educate the owner and told him he was breaking the law. He threw them all out and the police were called. They educated him and gave him a hefty fine for breaking the law.

    • Interesting! I’ll have to edit my post to make it a Oregon/Washington thing. It would seem that here you aren’t required to wear a vest or anything to show it’s a service dog. As a matter of fact on the bus one day I hear a woman telling another woman where to purchase a service dog vest just so people wouldn’t question her even if her dog wasn’t really a service dog.

      The example you provide is an example of what I fear will happen if people who have so-called service dogs continue abusing the rights. It’s sad to see it tainted for those who really need it and should be allowed places without a hassle.

  2. According to the ADA service dogs DO NOT have to wear any identifying equipment, they are also not required to be “certified” or registered (federal trumps state when it is in favor of the disabled person). It is true that people abuse the system often, but the things put in place to protect the privacy of the disabled person are the same things that help people abuse system. The ADA being civil law also means that there are no repercussions until someone has been accused of fraud and had a trial. Basically a complaint has to be filed and investigated before action can actually be taken (at least this is how it has bee explained to me).

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