Service dog etiquette 101: questions and answers


photo courtesy albrittain.comMONICA SZAKACSNews Editor

What is a service dog?
It is a dog of any breed or size, trained specifically to do work or tasks to assist with a person’s disability, and trained to behave appropriately in public.
What is a disability?
A physical or mental condition that limits a major life activity. Some disabilities are harder to see than others.
Who trains service dogs?
They can be trained by the disabled partner, special service dog schools or private trainers.
What kind of things can service dogs do?
They can guide people with visual impairments, alert people with hearing impairments to sound, pick up dropped objects for people with mobility impairments, assist with balance, alert to symptoms such as seizures, diabetic shock, panic attacks, bipolar mood swings, flashbacks, hallucinations and more.
What if a service dog barks?
First ask if they need assistance. The dog might be alerting to a medical condition, it might have been stepped on, or it might be a young puppy learning manners. If the dog continues to be dis¬ruptive or destructive, the business can legally ask for its removal.
Are they allowed in stores?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, disabled individu¬als who are accompanied by service dogs are allowed anywhere the public is.
What identification is required?
According to the ADA, one can ask if the service dog is assist¬ing with a person’s disability and what type of assistance it pro¬vides. Partners should never be asked to disclose their disability. ID cards, vests or certifications are not required.
What about allergies or fears of dogs?
These are not valid reasons for denying a service dog. If the allergy or fear is disabling, both people must be accommodated. Usually the two parties stay away from each other.
Where can I get a vest for my pet?
Service dogs are not pets. They must be trained to do work that mitigates the partner’s disability and to behave in public. Call¬ing a dog that does not meet these requirements a service dog is offensive and illegal. Therapy dogs that visit hospitals or are there to assist children with acts such as learning to read, do not have the same rights as service dogs.
How can I help?
If a service dog team is denied access, speak up for them. Share service dog etiquette with others. Consider donating to a service dog program like Phoenix Assistance Dogs of Central PA.

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