By: Joel Allen
There is a lot of confusion about service dogs, especially when it comes to entering restaurants. Years ago people were comfortable with “seeing eye dogs” being in restaurants, but now there are many kinds of “service dogs.” According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, “Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets.” (www.ada.gov)

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

Now, there are many reasons for confusion or the desire for casting out someone with a service dog from a restaurant. One is cleanliness. We Americans do not want a dirty animal near our food or the area where we make our dinner. I get that. I don’t want dog hair in my food either. But, if the service animal in question is really a service animal, it will be well groomed. This is because none of us with service dogs want to be frowned upon and shunned when all we want to do is sit and eat our meal in peace. Another reason or desire to ask someone with a service animal to leave is allergies. Not everyone can be around animals without having an allergic reaction. For example, there may be a situation when a service animal is on a commercial flight where there is a passenger who is highly allergic. The airline cannot necessarily remove the service animal because the ADA Law protects the rights of the disabled person. But reasonable accommodations can be made for both parties by placing the person with allergies and the service animal as far from one another as possible. It needs to be understood that under the law, the animal cannot be removed just because someone claims to be afraid of it.

We need to address the attitude and training of the “service animal.” Unfortunately, there are people who are fraudulently attempting to pass off their pets as “service animals.” If they are acting out in public by barking, lunging at people, begging for food, not listening to their handler at all, or just plain everywhere like a 2-year-old kid, they can be removed. However, if there is a physical need that the animal is providing its owner, the business has to assist the disabled person with that need.

The need for service animals is growing, and they are used for many conditions. We have them for diabetes, where they can alert an hour out before someone’s sugar goes too high or too low. They carry medicines for those who need to keep their medicine close and can call their service animal to them the instant they need the medicines. Some service animals are trained for specific needs such as pushing open and holding doors for the wheelchair bound. They are even taught to retrieve items for the disabled. Ever seen a dog taught to turn on lights? I have and it is amazing because it improves the quality of life for the person in need. There are service animals for those with mental disorders; they help to calm, bring back to reality, or alert someone that they need to pay attention to themselves and take their medicines. We even have service animals for those who suffer from sensory overload and may try to run out. The animals are trained to stop or deter this behavior, and possibly prevent the disabled person from getting hurt by running out into traffic. Like I said, there are many needs. We are meeting those needs one disability at a time. Those of us with service animals need those of you with businesses to understand we are not trying to bring in a pet, but we are trying to enhance our quality of life by using a service animal for our specific need.

As stated before, service animals are not pets. They are working animals. They have a specific job to do. Parents, please watch your children in public when there is a service animal around. I see so many parents who just allow their kids to approach someone with a service animal. I get that seeing a service animal in Walmart or any other public place is cool, but let your kids know why they are there.

Lastly, I would like to remind everyone there is no certification for a service dog. I wish there was, but there is not. The ADA Law is clear on this and again I ask that you not believe me but read for yourself at www.ada.gov.

A quick note to my readers, I have turned off my cell phone due to the number of telemarketers that have called it. I can be reached via Facebook or my home number listed below. May everyone have a great month.

“Remember to love your dogs because they love you. Maybe not the way you want them to, like chewing up your favorite shoes or what not, but that is just love-chewing. Be thankful for the time you have with them always.”
By: Joel and Zues Allen

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