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SERVICE DOGS IN PLAIN ENGLISH

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SERVICE DOGS IN PLAIN ENGLISH SERVICE DOGS IN PLAIN ENGLISH
BY ERIK HOFFER

SUMMARY: All of the “legal” information is contained in this document available on the web….
https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_...al_qa.html
However….
The bottom line is simple… if an animal (typically a dog) is well trained and social and is able to provide medically diagnosed companionship, or provide a needed task to the owner, then the dog can be used as a service animal. Anyone can challenge the dog and owner team regarding the dog’s status, even if you are in a place that welcomes pets. If you take the dog into a place that clearly does not welcome pets, then it is incumbent on you to get permission from the owner of the facility to bring your dog. He can then challenge the validity of the classification or he can permit the dog to enter but the caveat is always proper behavior of the dog and the team to remain welcome.
If the animal is not able to interact with other dogs, people or is untrained, disruptive or a nuisance, it cannot, regardless of the task it supposedly does for the owner, be a recognized service animal. If the animal cannot interact in a public forum, then it cannot be considered a service animal. If the dog cannot provide a specific task for the owner, then it cannot be considered a service animal. The other supposed categories of what is loosely terms ‘service dogs’ are companion animals, therapy dogs and emotional support dogs. An emotional support animal does not have the same perceived status as a service dog and basically is no more than a personal pet.
A therapy dog is also a special type of ‘service’ animal. These dogs are tested by a qualified representatives of groups such as Pet Partners, Delta Society or TDI (therapy Dogs International) to specifically visit nursing homes, schools, libraries and hospitals, where permitted, to help patients and their families cope with their unique and often challenging physical circumstances. The skills they are tested on and the insurance they must carry meet the legal criteria of the facilities they visit. These dogs have no such status that would allow them to visit restaurants, malls or other public places uninvited.
I true service dog, such as used by the blind, is a category far above what people now call service dogs. These dogs are highly trained and are not just pets. It is not suggested you pet these dogs when you come in contact with them unless permitted by the owner. Remember they are working and are not just walking with their owner for no reason.
Don’t be fooled by ID cards and vests, if a dog cannot meet the ADA criteria it can be challenged and summarily excluded from the facility you have entered. You the owner is responsible, liable and obligated to remove the dog from the place if he or she is rejected. You, the owner is always responsible for the dog regardless of the circumstances. If your dog makes someone uncomfortable because of fear or an allergy, you need to remove yourself from their presence. If your dog is disruptive and causes a chaotic situation, then you are to blame and the dog needs to be removed. If your dog bites someone or another animal, you are personally liable. No classification can remove the liability you have in owning an animal. If your dog can’t interact with any and all domestic animals, kids and the elderly, disabled people in wheel chairs or who use external apparatus to get around, then your dog should not be considered suitable to be called a service animal. If your dog is clearly not in your control at all times and leashed or harnessed it should not be taken into a public place.
People tend to abuse rules that, like these on service dogs, are loosely defined and impossible to oversee. People who abuse these guidelines ruin things for people who really need their animal and cause far more harm than good.
My recommendation is to think long and hard before you classify your dog as anything but your best friend. Seek guidance from a qualified source who can evaluate your dog and tell you what they think he needs to do, learn or morph into in order to be that much more helpful to you and to be a canine good citizen when out in public representing the breed or the category of a service animal.
Training is essential for any animal when you first get him or her. Basic socialized obedience is a minimum requirement but advanced obedience, where you can control the dog off lead, is critical to creating a service dog. Once these courses are done then it is smart to get him a canine good citizen test. CGC tests are done by local dog clubs and will help you see the dog’s short comings and adjust the training to deal specifically with these issues. Refining behaviors, teaching new ones and reinforcing social skills is an ongoing effort. Never stop training or reinforcing the positive behaviors you seek in a service dog and he will not let you down.