Service with a Snarl appeared in this week's San Francisco Weekly. I was horrified to read of a person with a dog who has been designated as vicious and dangerous animal in public. The article has generated such a buzz as to have picked up by the area public radio (listen here, sorry no transcript yet but I am asking).
Some things that bother me about this whole situation are:
-the attempt to pit members of the disability community against one another i.e. I need a service animal and you don't.
-the mistaken idea that vicious and ill-behaved animals are covered by the laws
-the, again, mistaken belief, that the owner simply having a disability makes the animal a service animal
The program does take an upswing with regard to encouraging people to train their animals to a high standard. The writer of the original article does also bring up a good point about the laws being too open to fraudulent use. These articles are taking about San Francisco specifically but I think it needs watch since several large well known, well respected service dog institutions are based in California. These organizations, and rightly so, want to keep their dogs and teams above reproach of any kind. Just because we don't live in a place doesn't mean how California and the service dog community choose to react or not won't affect the national service dog community. As handlers and ongoing trainers of our dogs, whether owner or program trained, it behooves us all to make sure that our service animals and those of people we see are above reproach. The decision that a dog needs to retire or was never a good candidate for service dog work is not an easy one. As a community we need to be educating each other about what is and isn't acceptable dog behavior, and supporting people making the brave but had decisions to retire or career change a dog.