Friday, March 12, 2010

Commentary: Disagreement Over Service Dog

I saw this story today Disagreement Over Service Dogs and was so stuck by how uninformed the handler seemed to be about what the laws does and does not say about a person with disabilities right to be accompanied by a service dog that I would like to point out and discuss them one by one.

"During lunch one of the dogs started barking.  "He let out a big woof cause he had to go out and go potty," said Jonathan.  "The manager at that point came over and told us that we had to leave because Marriott had a no pet policy and it was disturbing the guests.  Buddy kind of looked at him and went grrrr."
First off, having your dog bark in public is disruptive. There are other more appropriate ways for handlers to communicate with their service dogs. If the dog barked to go out, why wasn't the handler on his way out the door before the manager even got to him. Why did the handler feel is was okay for the dog to "grrr" (which I took to mean growl at the manager? The DOJ Business Brief states:
"A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (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." ( ADA Business BRIEF: Service Animals)

If this dog was having an off day, as can happen from time to time, why didn't the handler take the dog out to the car. As responsible partners of service dogs we need to recognize when our partners are overloaded, tired, bored, hungry, thirsty, or just feeling out of sorts and take steps to address each and every possible issue that may be causing our partners to behave in a fashion inappropriate for a service dog. A hotel lobby or restaurant is simply not an environment where a handler can afford to test the ignore it until they stop on their own training principle.

Secondly, having an ID card, vest, back pack, obvious disability or anything else to support that a person's claim a dog is a service dog as defined by the ADA (Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items.) does not mean the dog can behave however it will with no repercussions for the handler. Service dog teams working in public do have rights and with those rights come the responsibility to ensure that while you are exercising your rights, you are also aware of where your rights end and those of others including business owners begin. See the Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public

As someone who has been working dogs in public for over 10 years, I know it is possibly for even the best dog to have an off day. The best way to handle these occasional slip ups is to apologize and engage the dog's training to get them back in line. If you can't quickly get your service dog under control or if the nature of the problem is such that the dog is creating a disturbance or mess, you should leave in all do speed (all the while apologizing and expressing concern for the situation and your dog). If the dog is ill and you need to go out, handlers should alert staff and inform them of their intent to return and clean it up as soon as they get their dog out. Even people who may need help cleaning up can carry  the necessary tools for a quick clean up. Lodging a complaint because someone calls you on a dog's misbehavior is not the way to go.


~Pink~Doberman~ said...

Thanks so much for sharing! If you have a Service Dog, it is also good to use some common sense.

Kat Post said...

You are awesome! :) This was VERY well written. I love it - and your points are well made and I so agree

Holden said...

I would be absolutely horrified if my SD acted like that! I can't believe he was justifying the behaviour of his dog!

Melissa Mitchell said...

I'm glad you all liked the post. Thank you for reading.