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Here we go again; another airport dog bite in the news. Is anyone at fault? Is everyone at fault? In the last ten or so years it’s become almost too ordinary to see dogs in the grocery store, on a train, in big box stores and now roaming the terminals at airports.

In my travel, I have seen a miniature horse in the first row of an airplane. An eight-week-old Australian Cattle Dog puppy was wearing a Service Dog vest sitting on the lap of a woman. A cat on a leash. A large and exuberant Labrador on the end of a retractable Flexi leash, jumping on the gate attendants. Oh, and a dog wearing a Service Dog vest patted by a herd of small children sitting on the floor of the food court while being handed food from the owner’s table.

I have flown hundreds of thousands of miles all across the world and also here in North America, including Canada, mostly traveling to and from dog shows with a dog flying under my seat in a carrier or in cargo, and I have have seen some strange things.

Should the Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Industry be Regulated?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division the definition is as follows. “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.

Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

What should you do when you see a Service Dog?

Nothing! You should do absolutely nothing and carry on your merry way. Moreover, it would help if you worked with whomever you are with to remind them as well.

College student, Becky Romano, had to ask her fellow UConn students in this Facebook post to please respect her working Service Dog.

Romano said that while “she is working (when that vest that says “do not pet” is on) I ask that you DO NOT PET my dog. She is working and is not there for you to interact with. That said, you should NEVER pet any dog without the owner’s permission.” She also said, “when you take photos of us not only does it make me uncomfortable but it’s also an invasion of privacy, and quite frankly it’s rude.”

I know it’s difficult to pass by a dog without asking if it’s okay to pet them, but we must do this. These dogs are assisting disabled handlers.

What is an Emotional Support Dog?

Not a Service Dog. ESAs are not considered service dogs under the ADA and are not allowed the same access as service dogs.

The following is direct from the FAQ Section of the ADA:

Q3. Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

 

A. No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places. You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

How Can We Prevent Bites?

I’m glad I’m not in charge of solving this problem, but I do have some thoughts. One being, there are too many dog owners passing off their dogs as fake Service Dogs. Look, I love my dog a lot also, but that doesn’t mean I should be able to bring him to the grocery store with me because I love him.

We aren’t educating the public on Service Dogs. What is a service dog, what does the dog do, what do I do when I see one, can I have one? If you have a few minutes, read through the ADA FAQs as they stand now.

If we are ignoring Service Dogs, any working dogs or dogs who are training then we won’t run the risk of being bitten by sticking our hands in there. Of course, that doesn’t eliminate the entire risk, but it does cut it down considerably.

Pets Crave Love™

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