I am going out of my typical, tell you about my 48 states 44 national park’s trip with Indiana, to answer this persons question about service animals. Now this is a letter taken from Bradenton Hearld’s website from a man called H. Burmeister Parrish. This is what he had to say about service animals.
I have an issue that has been bothering me for some time. It is in reference to service animals. I am a pet lover and this in no way is a condemnation of pets in general.
I always felt that service animals were to perform some type of service: Seeing eye dogs, dogs that assist the hard-of-hearing by alerting the owner to telephone calls, door bells, fire alarms etc. and animals that provide therapy for mentally challenged individuals.
I don’t understand why animals with this designation have to ride around in grocery carts where people put their foods. Also, why do these animals have to be dragged into restaurants and, in some cases, fed on the floor or, worse yet, put on a chair and fed from the table? Why do these animals have to be dragged into congested areas with long retractable leashes that create a tripping hazard for other customers? I have witnessed animals licking food items while their owners shop and aren’t paying any attention to them. Do these animals have to be taken everywhere?
It seems that anyone can get this designation for their animal. If being a companion qualifies for a service animal, then any pet can be one. I don’t think this was the intent of the law.
H. BURMEISTER PARRISH
Dear H. Burmeister Parrish,
I am glad to see that you are openly trying to get answers about service animals. As a person with a service dog for 4 years I’d love to be that person to answer your questions or complaints you have addressed in your letter. While you are correct that service dogs preform a service for a person with a disability, I believe towards the end you got a little confused about the difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog. I’d really love it for you to check out my blog about the differences between service dogs, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs. With that said the ADA does require that a service dog to be trained to preform tasks based on the handlers/owners disability. Meaning the dog could be as you stated a seeing eye dog, an individual hard of hearing, as well as people with PTSD, seizures, diabetes, autism, loss of limbs, and the list goes on.
Now to the fun part.
“I don’t understand why animals with this designation have to ride around in grocery carts where people put their foods.”
Answer: They shouldn’t be! No trained service dog owner would do this to their dog. Granted I’m speaking for myself and others that I went to training with but regardless this shouldn’t be happening! If you’re seeing things like this then you have witnessed a fake service dog! Trained service dogs know to be by their handlers side while they push the cart. My service dog was trained to watch my back in lines so he very well couldn’t do that if he was sitting in the cart with my groceries. The image shown is how a proper trained service dog should be when it comes to shopping carts.
“Also, why do these animals have to be dragged into restaurants and, in some cases, fed on the floor or, worse yet, put on a chair and fed from the table?”
Answer: Restaurants cannot discriminate against service animals per the ADA. Just like a person who is allergic to a dog cannot claim that as a reason for refusal of service. With that said, I’m not sure what you’re talking about being fed on the floor. I will give my dog water whenever I go out to eat. Heck sometimes I’m bad and will give my dog a french fry or two. The thing you have to understand is it all comes down to the handler and the dogs training. My dog knows not to beg for food, unless my mom is around and then all bets are off, since the woman babies him like crazy! However, no matter how babied my dog is he’s not treated like a baby and put on a chair and spoon fed. Actually, I retract that last statement about been spoon fed since I just recalled I fed him some of my loaded fries from a fork in an outdoor festival that was dog friendly 3 days ago. Granted he didn’t have his vest on and he wasn’t in a chair but I hope you’re getting my awkward attempt to be humorous point. A trained service dog will lay on the floor. It will not bother other guests. It will not harass the staff. It will be trained, quiet, and obedient. The owner, if a good service dog owner, will clean up any mess the dog makes like water spills if necessary. A good service dog will have people questioning you as you leave the restaurant since they had no idea a dog was even in the restaurant to begin with.
“Why do these animals have to be dragged into congested areas with long retractable leashes that create a tripping hazard for other customers?”
Answer: Not all handlers/owners or even the ADA have strict rules or guidelines on what type of leash needs to be used to restrain your service dog. At most parks it usually states the leash cannot be longer than 6ft. It doesn’t mention anything about retractable leashes or typical nylon leashes. With that said I’m not sure of any service dog I’ve trained with or encountered would use a retractable leash. Those leashes honestly make it harder to control your dog, which to me defeats the purpose of owning or using one. Also when you talk about congested areas, service dogs can go anywhere the handler goes. Nothing is really off limits except hospital surgery rooms. However, if the dog is not under control and is becoming a tripping hazard for other customers well then you have another fake service dog. Again service dogs are trained dogs. Any trained dog or a good owner with a trained dog wouldn’t be doing these types of things. Do keep in mind though the type of leash the handler uses is up to them. I made my leash from hand using paracord so I could wrap it around my body and have enough room for my dog to lay down beside me. I did it so I could also hold things in both hands but still have control of my dog by use of verbal commands and him pretty much tied to me.
“I have witnessed animals licking food items while their owners shop and aren’t paying any attention to them.”
Response: While these are dogs and I’d hate to say it but dogs are animals, they might do something an animal would do. However, which is seriously my favorite word in this whole response letter, the handler should be aware of what their service dog is doing at all times. Some dogs are even trained to not feed into those primal animal instincts as a part of their service dog training, but you need to understand dogs are like children. Even the best well behaved child is going to have a bad day. Indiana had a bad day when I was traveling and pooped right in the middle of Eastern State Penitentiary while I was touring it. Even after I made sure to take him to the grass so he could do his business before we went in. What made it worse was because he went poop before I started my tour I didn’t grab a poop bag. I did manage to alert a staff member and get a ton of paper towels so I could pick it up and then clean up the area for the staff members and tourist not to step in. While extremely embarrassing and I did Facebook shame my dog, it’s just something that happens! Handlers just need to be aware of their service dog and if things like licking food items or pooping in penitentiary’s can be avoided they need to do what they can.
“Do these animals have to be taken everywhere?”
Answer: Yes and No. It’s truly dependent on the handler and their disability. For me personally with my PTSD, I would never take my dog to a club or a bar or a concert. That’s mostly because he’s a big black german shepherd, who when I would do those things would get stepped on, pet with 3 huge signs saying ‘DON’T PET’ on him, or I’d be stuck playing the game of 20 questions all night with strangers. So, when I go into those types of settings I find a friend that I trust just as much as my service dog to preform the tasks my dog was trained to do, while my service dog gets some R&R at doggy daycare. However, for some handlers what I do isn’t an option. They truly need their dog with them 24/7. I was like that when I first got Indiana my service dog. He worked on base with me, he went to the grocery store with me, he was my shadow. 4 years later I’ve gotten a little better in not always needing to use him but I still need a trusting friend to act as Indiana’s replacement. Some people might not have that option. Also to back track again. The ADA states the service animal can accompany their handler pretty much anywhere except surgery rooms. I’ve had mine in the hospital with me but when I had surgery a friend had to watch him.
“It seems that anyone can get this designation for their animal. If being a companion qualifies for a service animal, then any pet can be one. I don’t think this was the intent of the law.”
Again I think you miss the point of what the difference between a service dog, emotional support dog, or therapy dog is.
Please check out my blog to familiarize yourself with the differences, but to answer your statement that, “It seems that anyone can get this designation for their animal,” if you have a disability in which a dog or animal can be trained to preform a task to help mitigate the disability then yes it can become a service animal. Key word here is TRAINED when it comes to service animals. So your statement, “If being a companion qualifies for a service animal, than any pet can be one” is wrong since that’s not qualifies an animal to become a service animal. Being a companion is what qualifies an animal to become an Emotional support animal with a letter from your doctor. Again please please read my blog to know the differences because by then you’ll be able to tell fake service dogs from real ones and people who truly don’t know that an emotional support animal doesn’t have the same rights as a service animal.
Here’s where I struggled and well to be honest am still struggling with is the type of breed the dog should be to become a
service dog. While you never mentioned in your letter, never the less, I feel as though it’s also important to bring up. Now I’ve seen all types of service dogs, from the stereotypical labrador and golden retriever to a pitbull and a bernese mountain dog. The only thing that truly matters is that the dog is trainable to preform the task required by the handler based on their disability. Now you wouldn’t obviously be able to train a chihuahua to well do anything so seeing one as a service dog in my opinion is a red flag it’s a fake. With that said this is where a lot of breedism (racism based on breed of dog) comes into play. The only thing you and everyone else needs to understand is that if the dog can be trained to preform a task then it qualifies as a service dog.
I hope that I have answered all of your questions or any people reading this who had these same questions. Please feel free to leave me a message in the comment box and I will make sure to respond to you or create a new post answering your questions.