Monday, June 29, 2009

Public Access for Service Animals

A Guid eDog resting underneath a table at a restaurant
People who use service animals enjoy the privilege of bringing their animals into stores, restaurants and on public transportation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Along with that privilege comes a responsibility to make sure the animal is well-behaved and under control. 

Some feel that there are people who are passing their pets off as service animals so that they can take their pets with them everywhere.

Others feel that only people whose dogs (or other animals) have been individually trained to assist them with a physical disability should enjoy public access. 

And still others feel that it is a primarily a question of public safety – dogs/animals that are not good public citizens should not be allowed in public.

What are your thoughts on these issues? 

Other resources: 


  1. Hmmm... What interesting questions! Personally, I do believe that service dogs are very important to the disabled in our communities, but I also think that some people are "working the system", so to speak. Too often I see people out shopping with a Chihuahua in their cart claiming that it is some sort of servide dog. This aggravates me to an extent, because it gives a bad name to those service dogs that really are needed. As for being trained by organizations, I think that it depends. For guide dogs, I definitely think you should go through a organization. But for disabilities that service animals haven't been devoloped for much yet, like forms of autism, sometimes private, proffesional trainers can do the job better. =]

    ~Taelor and Pilaf

  2. I have had some unfortunate run-ins with so called "service dogs". Some have been people whose dogs are trained for therapy work, some are obviously pets, and some are "emotional support" dogs. Some people just seem to be confused as to how the law applies to them, others just want to bring their dog everywhere. Even though the law provides for business establishments being able to have untrained/aggressive/out-of-control dogs removed from their store, many will not for the fear of ADA fines/lawsuits.
    I think that both school trained and owner trained service dogs have an important place in the disabled community. However, some form of regulation or training requirements would go a long way towards stopping people abusing the system for their own gain. Enforcement of laws already in place for people who impersonate service dogs would also send a message to the public that this will not be tolerated.

  3. Thank you for making this post. Before I got Trixie, I had no idea there were such people out there who work the system so. They and their disservice dogs as I not so affectionately call them are doing untold damage to people with legitimate service dogs. I don't care who trains the animal, I only care that it is well-trained and well-socialized. If you want to individually train a dog, know that it is not enough to simply train it to do tasks for you if you want to take it in public. You have to teach it proper behaviour, and from puppyhood! What we need is even more awareness so business owners do understand what is and isn't a good service dog.

  4. I have a self-trained service dog who accompanies me everywhere. She has made my life so much easier. The only problems we ever have is when others bring their (to quote Carin) disservice dogs and wreak havok on the good relations we have established with local businesses. A Dachshund in a small carrying crate is a service dog? A chihuahua in a ballet outfit? A gangly German Shepherd who barks at everything that moves? The guy in the wheelchair with the dog that eats food off the shelves in stores and tables in restaurants? They're everywhere. I am afraid, though, that the amount of abuse of the laws will lead to strict guidelines that will prevent me from training my own dog and force me to purchase a dog from an established school where the dogs are raised for free in prison programs and the trainers have less experience than me but the cost of a trained animal is well over fifteen thousand dollars. Unlike guide dog schools, most service dog schools charge thousands and thousands of dollars for a dog. I don't have that kind of money and if I can train the dog myself for nothing, I shouldn't be subject to a test administered by an established school to determine whether my dog can work in public. How many of those schools will be fair and not flunk my dog so I will have to fork over the money for one of theirs? But it's a tough decision that's going to have to be made because people are getting annoyed by the number of badly behaved dogs who are being paraded into public places under the guise of doing some sort of service for their handlers.

  5. What an interesting post! We have been barked at while working to the register to pay for my breakfast before. Hmmm, service dog, I think not. I was shocked by the information in the S.F. Weekly article. I have personally met one of the officers before. Even service dogs should be on a leash! They should not have to fear a lawsuit to get someone to comply with a simple thing such as that. I feel that poorly mannered dogs in public places do threaten our ability to freely go where they have been before us. I was also disappointed to find out how hands off animal control is regarding these issues. We both work hard keeping our skills as guide, and handler sharp. The obedience that we practice daily is probably more than some of these "teams" have ever done. Lets all hope that some changes will be made soon.

    Seth & Bamboo.

  6. This is a tough one. First of all, I don't have a problem with well behaved dogs (service or pet) in public places personally. There are countries in Europe where that's the norm, but it's also the norm for people in those countries to train their dogs which is not necessarily the case here. Please note, that doesn't mean I think it's right or fair for pet owners to game the system.

    As a first step, I think it would be reasonable to require that all service dogs have a CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certification. That way they'd at least have some certification of training, without restricting people from training their own service dog or making such people test at a, possibly, biased testing center. Even if some pet dogs get through they'd hopefully be well behaved.

    By the way, be aware that I know of 3 Papillion service dogs for people with mobility problems. One is fairly well known (Peek) and was the service dog for Debi Davis, who is a double amputee. In 1999, Peek was the first toy breed to win "National Service Dog of the Year" from the Delta Society. Debi trained a second Papillion after Peek was retired. The final one belongs to someone in a group that I'm in. In these cases, the big service these little dogs provide is being able to pick up things that have been dropped. Debi's dogs also helped put the sheets on the bed and do laundry (she has front loader washer and dryer). So please don't automatically assume that a toy dog is NOT a service dog. Feel free to assume a badly behaved dog isn't though.

  7. I wanted to follow up with another post. Yesterday we ran into Jessie from the Lighthouse in S.F. Actually, thanks to Bamboo we didn't actually run into her. Anyhow, I mentioned that I had listened to her on KQED radio via this blog. She mentioned that I contact her at the Lighthouse to get some info about where to send some letters, and I plan to do that. The size of the dog isn't the issue here. Unless someone, like two ladies that live in my building, let their dogs do things that are very inappropriate. For example, the last time I saw them at the coffee shop, both of their dogs were on the table at the coffee shop! One of these dogs always barks at us, and is NEVER corrected. She seems to find it cute, and says that her dog just wants to say hello. I have stopped short of curtly telling her that isn't how dogs sat hello. I have asked asked for some space, and asked her to try to quiet her pooch. My dog is able to deal with this very well, but what about someone who sits at that table for coffee, and a snack? Worse still, what if someone with an allergy problem sits there next? I have watched an episode of The Dog Whisperer where Cesar was helping a woman get her dog to behave for an evaluation by a trainer for service work. It doesn't seem like to much to ask for people to have to do something like that for the right to take their dogs with them everywhere. At the same time they could be educated as to where their dog should be. Like on the ground instead of in the grocery cart, or on the chair & table at the coffee shop! O.K., I guess I have rambled on enough...

    Seth & Bamboo.