Saturday, June 20, 2009

News: Service with a Snarl

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.


Becky said...

Agree - this article was very concerning - doesn't help anyone with a service animal. They need to be well behaved.

LetRVoiceBHeard said...

I have seen several articles like this one and they are quite concerning.

Unfortunately many people think that they could have any animal as long as they have a prescription from a doctor then nobody has the right to deny them. Except that these individuals are mislead and usually from the medical field.

People with disabilities wanting a service animal must comprehend that there is more to it then having a dog go with you. Having rights comes responsibility. One must be and take on the responsibility of their service animal.

People also need to read the rest of the laws which does indeed protect the business from aggressiveness unruly service animals, which most aren't except for these types of articles. They have the right to ask that the animal be removed if their dog would have threaten somebody and not much one could do if your dog is acting up. Service dogs are not pets and therefore we should be keeping those highest standards.

Carolyn said...

I'd heard about this article - we live in the SF Bay area - and was equally disturbed. I guess the lesson is that those with legitimate service animals really need to be extraordinary ambassadors so that the general public can get a true sense of the role of a service dog (as opposed to a selfish owner with a pet.)

Melissa Mitchell said...

Sorry I haven't responded earlier, my Internet at home is down (gasp). What scares me is the making a mountain out of a mole hill affect this could have on legitimate, responsible handlers and owner trainers.

Heather Gerquest said...

Perhaps we might want to remind everyone that it is NOT the service dog that has the public access, but it is the person with the disability that has public access. If our service dogs are not behaving appropriately, we can LEGALLY be asked to remove them from the public place. Hopefully we would have already identified the dogs' inappropriate behavior and removed him/her before being asked.

Melissa Mitchell said...

Dear Heather,
I would further add to your comments not only can we be asked to removed a service dog who is for whatever reason behaving inappropriately, but we are expected to do so. Our service dogs wonderful as they usually are are susceptible as all living things to influence on their behavior including he environment, other living beings and their own health, and these influences may sometimes cause dogs to behave in ways that make it impossible for them to assist us as we need.