Thursday, November 13, 2008

News:Trimet Board Member Suggests Punishing all Service Dogs Over the Actions of a Fraud

Trimet Board Member Lynn Lehrback suggests that Trimet require all dogs on transit to be muzzled. While I agree with Lehrback what happened to that Pomeranian was horrific, people with legitimate service dogs should not pay for the sins of people pretending their dogs are service dogs. A muzzle may seem like an easy and simple guarantee that something like this will never happen on Trimet again; however, a muzzle would effective render many service dogs partnered with people with physical disabilities useless. The tasks of retrieving dropped items, opening/closing doors, carrying items, helping people adjust their bodies and more require a service dog to have full use of their mouths. Furthermore, the process of putting on and removing a muzzle would be impossible for people whose disabilities affect hand function. Many of the modifications made to gear for such people would make a muzzle and easily removed puzzle for these smart, problem solving dogs. Trimet and its managers seem to be unaware of the power they have to expose people passing off their pets as service dogs by simply asking three questions according to the DOJ Business Brief:
1. Are you a person with a disability? (though they may not enquire as to the exact nature of the disability)
2. Is that a service animal?
3. What tasks has the animal been trained to perform?

Even if an animal is a legitimate service dog it may be denied access if (1) the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

Before taking people's independence and punishing innocent dogs, I encourage Trimet and its board to educate their employees about the questions they can and should ask. I also encourage service dog partners to answer these questions as a matter of course and think of it as keeping yourself and your partner safe and able to work freely without worry if that dog is going to attack your service dog.

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