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Service Dog Laws

“Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA”

     Many people, (including some business owners and employees who should know better) are ignorant of the laws regarding Service Dogs which were put into place to protect those who choose to utilize the Services of a trained dog to mitigate a disability.

      For the most part though, it seems business owners are becoming better acquainted with the laws and are quite accommodating and even friendly toward me and my Service Dog, and for that I am grateful. Even so, I am still occasionally asked to show for ID for my Service Dog, but what I show them instead is the handout (provided for that purpose) by the Department of Justice with certain pertinent points highlighted (although in case of confrontations I also used to carry a letter from my doctor explaining why I require a Service Dog, but it certainly isn’t required and I don’t do that anymore).

      Remember, the only thing necessary is your word that the dog is trained to mitigate your disability. However, PLEASE, make sure that s/he is fully capable of doing so before you say that s/he is. People must take us at our word, and in this, as in any other area of our lives, we should be trustworthy.

      If someone won’t accept your word about the laws, there is an ADA Information Line to call, (800-514-0301) where somebody is available during normal business hours (Eastern Time) to set a business owner straight about your rights.

      You can also carry an official paper from the Department of Justice called “Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA”. You can either go to their website (ada.gov) to get a copy (though it is a little tricky to find) or I can send you one. (There is a form at the end of this post.)

      So don’t let anyone tell you that you “must” have documentation to show. “Service Dog IDs” and other “papers” mean nothing (as is plainly stated in number 17 of the handout from the Department of Justice mentioned above). If you feel the need to carry a paper for your Service Dog, carry this one!

iPad

Keep This Document Handy on Your Tablet!

This is the handout published by the Department of Justice regarding the rights of those with disabilities who are using Service Animals. It’s Better to Have It and Not Need It,Than to Need It and Not Have It!

The next time someone wants to see your Service Dog’s “papers” give them this!

 

 

 

Video for Police Officers

Below is a video that appears to be for educating police officers about service dog laws and how to handle situations where either the dog’s partner or the business owner has called the police.

It’s a bit outdated, as the officer quotes the law as it was then in regards to service animals. There has since been a change to allow only dogs and miniature horses as service animals. They used to permit monkeys, but not anymore. I’m not sure why they vetoed the monkeys, because it seems to me that hands would be a useful feature in a service animal!  😀

The video is well done and portrays (presumably it is a reenactment) a disabled man in a wheelchair being denied access in a restaurant. I’m glad that some people do stand up for their rights and thereby the rights of all of us. I can’t say if I would have what is necessary to take it to that level under similar circumstances and  demand that I be served. I definitely wouldn’t enjoy my meal knowing that my presence was not wanted!

ID Or Professional Trainer Is NOT Required For Your Service Dog!

The ADA does not require professional training  and, or, an ID  for very good reasons. Not only would the cost unfairly limit the number of people who could afford to have a Service Dog, but there is usually a long waiting list for acquiring one from a training facility, even for those with plenty of money. Besides, each dog still has to be taught to work with the individual that s/he is paired with, and that person must learn to continue the dog’s training enough to keep the Service Dog sharp on all of his tasks. On some level, all Service Dogs end up being “owner trained”, even if the original training occurred elsewhere. Just as it would be ridiculous for them to try to regulate and register every wheelchair and diabetes blood sugar monitor that is in use, disabled people may get canine assistance where they can find it. The only requirement is that the dog be trained to do tasks that mitigate a disability that the person has, which is reasonable, since that is the whole point of having a service dog in the first place, right?

Training a dog does require an understanding of dog nature and behaviour, as well as knowledge of basic techniques for teaching dogs to interact and communicate with us. It’s a lot like raising children. Many people these days turn their children over to “professional child trainers” otherwise known as school teachers, and lots of people hire professional dog trainers, (which is a good thing for me, since I am a professional dog trainer) but both children and dogs can be taught at home!  🙂

Just like children, dogs need to be educated. If children didn’t go to school and their parents raised them with no more instruction than many dog owners give to their dogs, the behaviour and abilities of the children would be a lot like that of the untrained dogs that we see.

You can’t ask a young child to go and mix up a cake without showing him how, and you can’t expect a dog to sit or lie down when you say so, (let alone to tell you when your blood sugar is dropping or going too high) unless you first teach him those things!  Similarly, I’ve seen 3 year olds who could mix up a cake from scratch and others who acted like they had no idea what their parents were talking about when asked to sit down on a chair…

My point is simply that dog owners are perfectly capable of training their own dogs, and it’s a good thing for the disabled that the ADA recognizes this. It’s my belief that most anyone (disabled or not) can learn to teach their own dogs to become not only polite members of the family and society, but intelligent, interactive and useful companions who help out around the house (in the case of a pet) or do more serious care taking when their person is disabled.

That is why I have dedicated this website to the purpose of helping people to train their own Service Dogs, and for free when possible. It’s also why I offer the first session free when I begin with a new client. Sometimes that’s all a person needs to get going on their own, but if someone needs more, I am happy to become their training coach for as long as needed. Also, if I can see that the person really needs help but can’t afford to pay, then I do it anyway, for free. So speaking of which, if you need help training your Service Dog but are having a difficult time financially and truly cannot afford to pay, then let me know. (I also accept tips and donations if you would like to contribute to helping me help others to have good service dogs)

Back to the point of this post – I’d much rather spend time writing about how to help people train their service dogs to be the best helpers and companions that they can be, leaving the issue of WHERE they perform those tasks and duties to the owner. Getting into the legal hows, whys, and wherefores is not my cup of tea.

However
One of my clients has some VERY serious disabilities, some of them are unseen, but others certainly are not. It is highly unlikely that anyone would mistake her for a non-disabled person, thereby even eliminating most of the need to ask the questions that are allowable by the ADA. (‘Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability’, and ‘what work or task has the dog been trained to perform’) Business owners can still ask, of course, but they rarely do when the disability is obvious and the dog is wearing something that labels it as a service dog.

In spite of all of that,  her previous trainer talked her into believing that it was required that she buy an ID for her service dog. The trainer not only gave her that erroneous information, but then steered her to one of the more expensive ID vendors that also put an expiration date on their ID and imply to their customers that yearly renewal is necessary. Why would a trainer do that? Did he really think what he said was true? (That is of course a rhetorical question, since we will probably never know…)

It seems, for the most part, that business owners these days are well acquainted with the laws and are quite accommodating and even friendly toward me and my service dog, and for that I am grateful.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been asked to produce paperwork or ID to “prove” that my dog is a service dog. On some occasions I had to just give up and show them an ID, but I first made every effort to educate them before taking the easy way out.  🙂

I still carry the card (I paid $20 for it) that I’ve had for years, just in case I’m in a hurry or might otherwise need to avoid some undue hassle, but please be aware, the only thing necessary is your word that the dog is trained to mitigate your disability. Also, PLEASE, make sure that s/he is fully capable of doing so before you say that s/he is. People must take us at our word, and in this, as in any other area of our lives, we should be trustworthy.

Some people feel that it’s wrong to use the ID’s at all, because it perpetuates the ignorance of the people who ask to see it in the first place. However, as I mentioned, I always give the facts first before I show it, and I give them the ADA phone number to call, (800-514-0301) but I am not a confrontational person, and if the card is necessary to let me peacefully get on with my business, so be it.  Also, it says on the back of my ID card, (I hand it to them facing that direction) “If you are being given this card, you have probably violated the federal ADA” and it gives the phone number and encourages them to call immediately.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you “must” have documentation to show. I carry a letter from my doctor when I travel by air because they have their own regulations about it, but that’s all you need. That $40 renewable ID (that at least one person I know of gave a good portion of her grocery money to obtain) means nothing at the airport, because they know that it is not required.

Click on the link below to download a publication by the ADA about the rights and regulations concerning Service Animals:

ADA Laws PDF

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