Yesterday there was a video posted on Facebook about a man who was on a cable car with his service dog, who happened to be a pit bull mix. The driver was not comfortable with the dog, and tried to throw the man off the car. The man, knowing his rights, refused, and the police were called. They threatened to charge the man with trespass. The man has now stated that he intends to seek legal representation to sue the city. He is well within his rights to do so.
A service dog is allowed to accompany his/her human anywhere the general public is allowed to go. A perfect example of this is, your dog can go to the hospital with you, but not into surgery. Hospitals are open to the public, surgery is not.
There has been a lot of uproar recently because of “fake” service dogs. People buy a vest off of Amazon, and take their untrained dogs everywhere with them. That makes life much harder for people who have dogs trained to assist them.
A real trained service dog does not need to wear a vest (although most of them do to avoid issues in public). There is no such thing as a registration for a service dog (although many of us do carry documentation from a trainer saying that we have been evaluated as a service team). There is no test. There is no certification. All those things are scams that people use to take their untrained dogs in public. I’ve even seen it happen here at the sanctuary.
So how do you know if a dog is a real service dog? You are allowed to ask two things: 1) is this a service dog? and 2) what has this dog been trained to do for you? The handler must be able to answer both questions. The dog has to have been trained to do something that makes living with a disability easier. That cannot be something any dog would do for his/her person, such as offering comfort/support. Bubba has been trained to keep people at bay, when I am starting to panic in a crowd. He’s been trained to get my attention if I start getting worked up.
A real service dog will have completed public access training. He/she will know not to bark, pull, lunge, growl or behave in any other inappropriate manner. He/she will not soil in a public place. Any dog acting in any of these ways can be asked to leave, even if he/she is a service dog.
One time Bubba and I were at Walmart. We were standing in line at customer service. A small yappy dog wearing a service dog vest was barking and lunging at us. Bubba sat at my side, as he has been trained to do, but he did look up at me with an expression that clearly said “hey, you told me I’m not allowed to do that in public. How come he can get away with acting like such an idiot?”.
The ADA guarantees people with verified disabilities can have a trained service dog at their side. A dog can’t be treated any differently than any medical device such as crutches or a wheelchair. But I agree….these idiots who are trying to pass their pets off as trained service dogs are making things difficult for the rest of us. There are hefty fines associated with lying about your dog. I wish we would start to see people actually being prosecuted for violating the law.