Are you a Service Animal Elitist?

by Spot on September 18, 2009

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This blog was created to share news and information about service animals. I’ve seen a trend in comments here and on other sites which I find disturbing, service animal elitism.  I find it quite strange that the people that all have service animals in common seem to segment themselves and dismiss or belittle those whose situations are different than their own. Where I see this most is those who’s animals have been “professionally” trained and those who’s service animals are not.

The ADA makes it quite clear that owners may train their own service animals and have the full protection of the law as long as the owner meets the definition of a service animal and the animal has been trained to preform a task that is directly related to that disability.

I often see smugness in comments here and on other service animal sites that the people that have gone through formalized training feel they and their animals are somehow superior to those that have not. I also see this attitude from people that also think that dogs are the only beast worthy of the service animal status. As the law currently reads a disabled person with a trained pig has just as much right as a person with a trained dog. Unless you know firsthand that the animal does not preform useful tasks for their owner then why would you assume that they can not do everything your dog can do?

I also see this divide between people who’s animals assist with physical disabilities as opposed to mental disabilities. Just because you can’t see the disability does not mean that one doesn’t exist and again the law is quite clear in this regard. I think the old saying that until you have walked a mile in another man’s shoes then you should not judge is something we should all keep in mind. Be thoughtful and courteous of others situations that are different than your own when you offer advice here or elsewhere. :lol:

{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katherine 09.18.09 at 3:13 pm

I completely agree. I have a psychiatric service dog and when I tell people that…they say, “Well that isn’t allowed because it isn’t a guide dog.” People are often ignorant of the fact that there are many types of service dogs. My college also tried to discriminate against me because my dog had not been to a formal school. Instead, he was trained by a private trainer. They felt that such training meant that he wasn’t a real service dog.

2 Stephaie 09.18.09 at 4:25 pm

FINALLY! I am a new addition to those who have the pleasure of going through life with a Service Animal — mine happens to be a dog — though I have been disabled for over 10 years. I have been increasingly distressed by the comments — from the subtle to the down right nasty — that attempt to establish some kind of Service Animal Hierarchy. Are we not all just trying to live our lives as fully as we possibly can? Do we all not find that our Service Animals allow us to participate in society in ways that were previously closed to us? Isn’t it bad enough that we have to deal with the ignorance of the general population about what LEGALLY qualifies as a Service Animal and what that means as far as access? This internal sniping is the reason I have not attempted to reach out to others with Service Animals. I am working with private trainers to train my Service Dog. She has been training since April and, while she still has much to learn, I have been in several situations where she has been better behaved and on task than other Service Dogs that I later learned were trained by a ‘formal school’ and purchased fully trained by the disabled person they were serving. And yet, based on some of the elitist comments I have read on various sites, she would be looked down upon by a very vocal segment of the Service Animal community. Go figure!

3 Stephanie 09.18.09 at 4:27 pm

Gotta love those typos! Can’t even get my NAME right! LOL!

4 MonSqueek 09.18.09 at 9:35 pm

The other sort of elitism I see is based on type of disability…. Unfortunalty living with chronic illness I can not predict when I will require his services, and I can not make him alert unless I really AM getting sick. People think because I look well right now, I may not need my service dog in the next 10 minutes.

Just because my disability is invisible and not all my service dogs tasks are demonstrable on cue does not mean my service dog is not just as valuable or bona fide as a service dog for a visible disability.

5 Melanie Boudreau 09.19.09 at 11:15 am

As I am just entering this world of service animals, I am definitely seeing this schism. I am training my puli to serve my autistic daughter hoping that she can overcome her social phobias and anxiety with a service dog and be successful in a college environment. I am being coached by an “official” retired service dog trainer. Twice my daughter and I have encountered “real” service dogs in our travels who have been professionally trained and certified. Both times, the dogs LUNGED towards my dog in an attempt to attack it. Dog aggressive service dogs??? Who certified those beasts? Meanwhile, my dog ignores the threat, and behaves as a good service dog should. Make a standard for behavior, and judge a dog based on its demonstration of training and temperament, not on official certification. Scorn only those whose dogs sully the reputation of a bona-fide service animal by substandard behaviors, regardless of the training source.

6 Wendy 09.19.09 at 11:57 am

I also see this alot. People think that because I “look” ok that I don’t need my service dog……my disability is not physically visable! It does not always manifest either! My dog alerts to my problems and unless you see me having those problems it isn’t apparent that I have any.

Psychiatric Service Dogs are not recognized among many of the guide dog communities as being ‘real’ service dogs. Unfortunately unless you do walk in our place, you won’t understand why we need service dogs just as much as a blind person does. I wouldn’t even be able to walk out my door without mine, but then to alot of people, ‘mental illness’ is something they feel that they need to fear. It saddens me to see the ‘elitest’ groups put down owner trained sd’s and psd’s. Why is it that some people feel the need to try to tear others down to make themselves feel higher?

7 Syren 09.19.09 at 1:24 pm

psst…why advertise? I just say he’s my SD (for public stuffs). End of story. it’s no one else’s business. On forums I tend to be a little more specific, I just figure it is a quicker explanation of his basic task set.

8 Wendy 09.19.09 at 8:51 pm

I DON’T advertise, my dog is a breed that no SD school uses though so I don’t need to advertise it, the fact that my SD is not a lab or retriever does it for me…….not to mention I am constantly told that I ‘LOOK’ normal……

9 Melanie Boudreau 09.19.09 at 9:47 pm

What I tell my daughter to say when asked what the dog is for is simply this , ” I really don’t feel comfortable sharing my medical history with you.”. Then if necessary enter into a friendly conversation educating the nosy person about the differing roles of a service dog… predicting seizures, detecting a drop in blood sugar, detecting the presence of peanuts, etc. They soon get the point, without ever mentioning psychiatric, that a service dog can offer a variety of services. Since our SD is so unusual (dreadlocked!!) we end up doing quite a bit of advocacy.

10 Kim 09.20.09 at 6:43 am

I have a small lab (60 lbs) that I have trained with the assistance of a trainer friend. She is only 18 months old but already she is able to bring things and help me handle stairs. I have balance and ortho problems. I have had many people question me about what is wrong with me and what she does. I simply explain that all service dogs are not guide dogs and she is providing me with services that enable me to function normally. I NEVER tell them what she does because it encourages them to ask again. Well sometimes I will tell a child so they will understand and I always tell them they must ask the handler before approaching the dog.

11 Terri 09.20.09 at 7:43 am

I would like to note that it appears that no one with a “professionally trained” service dog has posted a response. Interesting? Yes. Telling? Also, yes. I have trained my own service dog with the help of a nationally known “regular dog” trainer, whose help has been invaluable. Like many of you, I have run into “professionally” trained animals that are agressive, unmannered, and wild, which makes me wonder who the “professional” is and what their credentials are – other than charlatans wanting to make a buck to help unsuspecting owners. This is NOT to disparage those organizations that for decades have trained service dogs (Guide Dogs for the Blind, etc.) who do amazing jobs. As previously mentioned by others, under the ADA, owner trained are just as acceptable as professionally trained.

On the topic of how much to tell someone when asked, for me it depends on who is asking and how they ask. Under the ADA, the only two questions are: “do you have a disability” and “does your animal assist you with your disability”. I WILL point this out to overbearing, officious idiots who try to bar me from bringing my dog into an establishment (ie, rudeness gets rudeness). However, most of the time, the public in general is curious because truth be told, there are not that many “non-guide dog” service dogs out there so they are unusual. It warms my heart when I hear a child in a store ask their parents, “I didn’t know you could bring a dog to the store” and the parent replies “It is a helper dog”. That means there ARE reasonable and educated people out there who understand. Makes me feel even better when a child tries to run up and pet my dog and the parent tells them not to for the same reason. When someone doesn’t understand, I try to take a minute to educate them so that when they run into another person with a service dog, they are more understanding, don’t try to pet, etc. Under the right circumstances, I don’t mind at all giving someone a demonstration of how my service dog helps me because then, especially the kids, will tell others about the “cool dog they saw” which in turn educates their frieinds.

I hope that everyone with a disability that can be helped by a service animal, be it a dog, cat, pig, miniature horse, etc., can be – whether that service animal is owner or professionally trained, and that the public at large can be educated to know you don’t try to pet, don’t ask personal questions of strangers (in some cases, they are just as rude as those people who rush up and feel a pregnant woman’s stomach without asking permission first), but ask intelligent questions to educate themselves and their children.

12 Christy 09.20.09 at 8:17 am

I look okay as many of you have mentioned and have a service dog. She was not professionaly trained but I did have the help of an organization in PA since there are no trainers in my area. I applied to many places to get a trained dog but was often put on waiting lists of 5-7 yrs. I elected to get my own dog and get helping training her. She is a wonderful dog and having her from puppyhood has seemed to make her more alert to my condition. (I fractured my skull overseas with the Army in 2006 and now have frequent seizures and no aura). Although she is not yet 2, my dog is very well-behaved. We have come across many other dogs that were amazing and many that were not.
With the help of my dog I have also recovered enough to be a substitute teacher in my district. The school required shot records for my dog but no proof of professional training. The best part of it all is the chance to educate the kids. At the start of each new class there are always many questions but each child is very responsive and respectful and now I see many of them in the groccery store with their families and they all know how to act around her and what service animals, besides seeing-eye dogs, can do. As Terri said, it really is a wonderful feeling when you hear someone around you explaining to another person about service animals. It makes me smile every time I hear a person ask why there is a dog in the store and hear someone else explain.

13 penny 09.20.09 at 10:11 am

I am privately training my now 6 month old Lab/Pit Service Animal for hidden disabilities. I agree that some with professionally trained are upset because they paid big bucks or have had to wait years for their SD, but that should not be a reason to be judgmental. I know I have a few years to go for her to be perfect. It also takes a big part of my day for training. As a matter of fact she just came home from being fixed and her last shot, for the year. This will allow training to be easier. No distractions. I found her when she was just a month old at a grocery store. Adopted her and decided that this dog is going to be my SD. She is absolutely wonderful, trainable, intelligent and at times stubborn. She is potty trained, kennel trained, she know 3 ASL signs, and she fetches. I believe that for as young as she is, and as much as she has learned that she will make a wonderful SD for me.

14 Kathy Bright 09.20.09 at 10:19 am

I have been disabled since 1995 with OA, then has proceeded to degenerate and now I have Neuropathy and Fibro. Walking is cumbersome and tiring. I started training my own SD back in 2002, with a Shep/Lab Mix. I have years of experience training cows for show, and dogs all my life but never professionally.
I too met the road block of program dogs and the time it takes to get a professionally trained SD of back then 2-3 years. So hence decided to train my own. I researched, studied, researched again and I abide by all the laws and requirements.
In 2005, Wolfie became lame, and was diagnosed with arthritis in his legs. So I retired him…although he thinks differently. So I went without an SD for some time. I then purchased a Great Dane, and I have been training him for the past 2 years. But once again, I have had to put him on medical for a busted tail, called “Happy Tail”.
So, Owner Trainers go through allot more of harder times, because we can purchase a pup and have it wash out. Or the dog gets injured and needs to be kept out of the public until he/she heals.
Whether our SD’s are professionally trained by a program or we train our own. The law says we are equal.
In my life, I have seen and heard of SD’s trained by programs wash out even after being fully trained. And after paying $15,000-18,000 they have to wait till a new SD can be trained for them again. Or they have a very expensive pet. Then the program refuses the place an SD due to them thinking another dog is going to interfere with the SD and their training.
We are all the same, we should gather together and learn together as a community of an Elite group of people, who are having their lives enhanced by an SD, not be fighting over who is better.
It is enough that we are always having to fight out in public with uneducated people in regards to Service Dogs.
Why not get along? Just my 2 cents worth for what it’s worth!

15 penny 09.20.09 at 10:29 am

#14, Wonderfully explained, I am with you…..It is extremely difficult out in the world. Good luck with Happy Tail….My SD Karma has a cone around her neck, I call it her satellite dish.

16 John Brubaker 09.20.09 at 10:32 am

I am an Elitist only because my dogs are prettier than everyone else’s. hahahahaha Yes I have heard some horror stories about professionally trained dogs. The van company that transports me has one. It won’t listen to it’s handler, and the bad part is the guy is blind. As far as behavior mind aren’t perfect, but then no dog ever is, but I know when I need them they will be there for me. I have even seen them do things they are not trained to do.
We should all be proud to have a service animal, they put us in a very privileged group. We have the privilege of being a partner in one of the most loving relationships God instituted.

17 Kathy Bright 09.20.09 at 10:43 am

Thank you Penny…if I put a “satellite dish” on Duke, the world as we know it would come unglued…or so he would think LOL! Because of an incident at a Vet’s office when he was 6 months old, broke a back toe. He just literally freaks out with them on. I have tried everything…one device even dislocating his tail, and a trip to the Doggie Chiropractor. *sighs* Unfortunately my next step is amputation and I do not have that kind of money right now.
John, you are so right about how our SD’s will sometimes do things we never trained them for. Both Wolfie & Duke can check my breath and tell me when my sugar is too low and need to eat. Duke has saved my life because I had stopped breathing in my sleep. He then licked my lips *yeah eewwww* LOL, to wake me up on 3 different occasions. He also licked my face to bring me back to waking up when I bent over to pick something up and passed out hitting a wall with my head.
What they can do for us is AMAZING…and they are God’s gift to us…no matter where they came from and how they got here :)
Hug your SD’s for me!
<3 Kat

18 penny 09.20.09 at 11:23 am

John, I think my mutt is beautiful too. She is really amazing.. I also have seen her do things that she hasn’t been trained to do. I do know she absolutely hates this cone, she runs into everything. ha ha. I learned that if you fix an animal when they are young and have not mated, the animal would be better to train as a (SD). I will be finding this out soon. lol. Kathy, could you get insurance on your dog for the amputation? I believe where there is will there is a way.

19 Kathy Bright 09.20.09 at 11:32 am

Penny, even with insurance you pay the bill and the insurance decides to pay or not.
I have been trying to sell a wheelchair on craigslist, and had a yard sale…but nothing has helped. Still have the wheelchair. LOL
I need $300 for amputation and neutering. So now Im gonna try and go back to work part time to supplement my income. Been 8 yrs since I have worked due to numerous surgeries and illnesses.
But as you said…where there is a will there is a way. And I will find some way to get the funds together to him back to full status.
Watch out for spaying/neutering a Great Dane before 1 year old. That causes over height dogs, or other problems. Great Danes or any Giant Breed needs time for the growth plates to grow together properly. I do rescue as well. And I have seen quite a few GD’s come into my home that were extremely tall for their breed due to being fixed at 6 months old. I just had one who was 40″ at the shoulder. And he was extremely hard to place and he had issues with coordination.
Good luck with your Karma, Penny.

20 penny 09.20.09 at 11:39 am

Kathy, to bad insurance couldn’t be made available for Service Animals. You know that would be a great issue up for debate, or maybe it already is. I would think that a working dog for the disabled person should have some type of insurance available. Oh boy, I need to hush. lol

21 Stephanie 09.20.09 at 12:19 pm

I, too, had noticed that the only comments posted so far have been from those who have privately or self-trained Service Animals. I find this unfortunate since it only appears to reinforce the schism that is mentioned in the post.

I have a couple of thoughts about the professionally trained Service Animals that have “less than ideal” behavior. The first is that everyone has a bad day, even Service Animals! Now, don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned above, I have has some less than pleasant experiences with other Service Dogs, and that has been both frustrating and a bit scary sometimes. But, Cura has her own personality and has days when she is spot on and days when she is off. I am not looking for her to be “perfect” 100% of the time — I feel that is a bit unreasonable. I am not perfect 100% of the time so how can I expect her to be? As far as I am concerned, when she is having that occasional off-day, I take that into consideration as much as possible and structure my day and my own level of alertness to potential distractions appropriately.

Which brings me to the second thought. I see that one of the benefits of training my own Service Animal is that I am intimately aware of Cura’s triggers. The trainers I am working with are great about teaching ME techniques to insure that she stays on task in highly difficult situations. BECAUSE I am training Cura, I am able to recognize that ‘moment of intent’ and deal with it before it becomes a problem — usually before anyone else even realizes she has been distracted. This allows my ‘corrections’ to be virtually invisible to others and extremely mild for Cura — in fact, more and more frequently, it is simply a matter of a soft sound or tap on my hip and she is re-focused. This is a benefit that individuals who are not involved in the training process from day one do not have. In some ways, I think it helps to have this involvement so that the handler learns how to cope with their animal’s individual idiosyncrasies and prevent them from developing into inappropriate behavior for a Service Animal. This does involve significant dedication and time on my part and may not be realistic for some who would benefit from having a Service Animal. But for me, it is the only way to go.

I have a beautiful dog that is a rescue and was not shown as a potential adoptee because she was too rambunctious and they were unable to train her. She spent 13 months in a no-kill shelter before my trainers found her for me. You would never know she was unmanageable looking at her after almost 6 months with me. When it is finally time for me to think about allowing Cura to retire, I plan to take the same steps when finding her successor.

22 Stephanie 09.20.09 at 12:22 pm

BTW — I do have insurance for Cura. It is not free, but when I purchased it, I mentioned that I wanted to get the best value for money because Cura was a Service Dog and I needed to be sure that she had good coverage. I ended up getting a discount on the premium! So, if you are shopping for pet insurance, make sure you mention that it is for a service dog — it may help!

23 penny 09.20.09 at 1:00 pm

Thank you Stephanie, that even helps me with insurance for Karma. I know that she is only 6months, but you never know.

24 Kathy Bright 09.20.09 at 1:10 pm

Stephanie, thanks for sharing your thoughts and idea on insurance. I really wish Vets would help with SD’s as well.
I have been dealing with Duke’s situation with his tail for over 5 months now. And he is getting soft with no public access.
I understand about an SD having a bad day like us. But as the handlers, sometimes you need to decide to leave them home if they just arent on task. Lord knows my dogs were never 100% all the time. One incident I had Duke growl because we rounded the corner & and about ran smack dab into a guide dog with his Owner, who I knew personally. She made a comment about a vicious dog, when she found out it was me and Duke’s first time in Walmart, she was a bit more relaxed knowing that I had things under control. I did go and apologize to her. But to be honest, her guide dog lunged at Duke as well. Did I get upset? No because I know that the guide dog was protecting his owner.
A year later I ran into my blind friend, talked for awhile and found out that her program dog that she had for over a year I think ended up starting to stop working for her and put her in some dangerous situations. She had to retire and rehome hime. Sad story, now she lives in a homeless shelter waiting on a time to move out of state.
So goes to show you, know matter who trains the animal. They can and might not work out.
Im even risking a chance that Duke will not work out with him being left home for so long. But I will try my best to get him back to working soon. If not, then its square one again.
Btw, its nice meeting you all!

25 Judy 09.20.09 at 2:13 pm

I am a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, specializing in “psychosomatic medicine” which is the intersection between the mind and the body, physical illnesses like cancer and emotional reactions or psychiatric consequences of medical treatments. There has always been discrimination against people with mental health problems. You only need to look at the funding for psychiatric research compared with other medical illnesses to see the discrimination, or the fact that many insurance policies will not cover psychiatric care at all. So over the years, I have specialized in helping many people with illnesses like cancer and fibromyalgia get service dogs, and I’ve seen the problems that people with “invisible disabilities” face compared to those with obvious physical problems like amputations. The service dog questions (are psychiatric service dogs as legitimate as guide dogs?) is only part of a much larger problem with is the contempt that many people hold for those with mental illness. Yet depression is the second most disabling condition in the world, second only to HIV/AIDS according to the World Health Organization. Acceptance of the connection between the brain and the body, and mind and the body, is still a long way off, and people with invisible disabilities pay the consequences.
That being said, I have a self trained service dog because I have a life threatening medical problem as well as severe degenerative arthritis. My dog carries emergency medicine for me, and stabilizes me. When he is wearing his stability harness and a service dog cape, I have never had a single instance of trouble, including multiple air trips.
People with MS, depression, PTSD, autism, and other psychiatric disorders face discrimination at many levels, and it is important just to hold your head high, work for your rights, and know that this is a social problem, not a personal one.

26 Craig 09.20.09 at 5:24 pm

My wife suffers from complex regional pain syndrome / reflex sympathetic dystrophy and requires extensive pain protocols to be able to walk/work/or just wear pants. She recently had knee surgery which made everything much worse than ever before. We recently planned to attend a concert – but feared her leg would be bumped into by someone who was drunk or otherwise pushy/wobbly…

We heard of service dogs being used this way – to prevent bumps etc… and then looked at our dog – a perfect obstacle – who is a 130# great pyrenes. He seemed well enough mannered as I looked through the requirements – and so we figured we’d give it a go. I was very apprehensive of what might happen on his first public outing wearing a vest!

I am a veterinarian and have seen some impressive things done by animals… what my dog did in public was amazing! He completely, with all of his heart, went to work… a usual flirt in public, never strayed his focus… a usual sniffer of foods, never put his nose down to the ground. He appeared to know exactly what his job was and he defended her leg with a steady posture and attitude. It was as if he channeled all the great service animals who went before.

We self trained for bumps (for a week or so :!: ) and gave it a command – “stay close”… and he did his job 100X better than any service animal we could have bought, hired or trained. Sometimes moving himself in-between people just before they’d fall down or predicting who was the biggest threat. When leaving the concert with no bumping at all, a woman approached us and wanted to know where he was trained/purchased…. She had been training service dogs for 15 years and never seen one work so hard, so long, without ever losing focus. She even guessed my wife’s “invisible” disability.

Every pet is a “service animal” when they help people relieve stress, get exercise and find unconditional love in their hearts. Ours proved this can happen without formal training, certification or special breeding. If he wasn’t as big, he couldn’t have done it. If he wasn’t white, he would have been stepped on by drunks in the dark crowd. If he wasn’t our pet – he wouldn’t be bonded to my wife so strongly.

When we took off his vest, he was back to our pet – a somewhat untrained, poorly mannered big white pillow.

27 Terri 09.20.09 at 6:57 pm

I agree with all of you about the bonding that Stephanie first brought up. Who knows better than the person with the disability what they need? To pay exhorbitant amounts of money to get a dog somebody else trained not knowing my particular needs? Don’t think so. I also find it strange when organizations won’t place a service dog with someone that has other pets! Don’t they know the word “socialization”? And, why do I see so many dogs and pictures of dogs that are “professionally trained” that are in muzzle leashes? That just doesn’t seem right.

Craig, I know exactly what you mean. My service dog goes with me to major conventions where there are LOTS of people, and she is always spot on in her harness. I take her back to my room, take of the harness, and she is still a Lab puppy (and being a vet I know you know what that means!) In fact, she is so spot on in harness and so wild out of harness, in her current training classes, we are going out of harness so she learns she has to listen no matter what! And, I love my trainer – our class homework this weekend was to do something with our dogs, or expose our dogs to something they hadn’t already done. For me, it was a challenge, as my girl does escalators, elevators, stairs, slidewalks, Walmart, Albertson’s, Lowe’s, comic book shops, Las Vegas casinos – you get the idea. She also help pulls my shopping carts. So, today, for our homework, we went to the park without our harness for the first time. Let me tell you, it was entertaining! We also worked on bleachers and I taught her how to do a slide which meant a really steep ladder climb. I like this approach because you never know what might come up!

It has been real enjoyable reading about everyone’s experiences today.

28 Kathy Bright 09.20.09 at 7:15 pm

It so nice to hear some heartwarming stories of our SD’s/
I would like to share a funny one of Duke and I. One day shortly after my caregiver had moved out of my home. I got myself into a pickle. I had dropped a treasured photo of my Therapy dog, Vinnie & myself under my desk. I did not want anything to happen to it, and I am bullheaded when it comes to my disability, and know that bending over makes me dizzy yet I still do it. So I got down on all 4′s under the desk, got the picture laying on top as I tried to move out from underneath. Duke at this moment was looking at me like what the heck are you doing, Mom? And I raised my rear end in the air, strattled feet, and guess what? My back locked. hahahaha!
So here I am stuck, and not sure how I was going to get out of it. Didnt have my life line on either. So here comes my 150# Duke, crawling on his belly underneath me. So I thought what the hay, I will see what my big boy will do. So I gave the command “Up” which we have practiced incase I would fall. Low in behold the big goof raised up with me on his back to get me on my feet. I gave him a huge hug, told him thank you, and he was so tickled he helped me he couldnt help but wiggle and wag his tail with glee, banging it on stuff as he went about.
I still laugh at that day, but if it hadnt been for that big of dog, or without him, I would be in a world of hurt.
I hope this story made you laugh, or even smile. If it did…then you can see how a dog, cat or bird could bring a smile to someone’s face who suffers from depression or a mental illness as Judy has pointed out.
Blessings to you all,

29 Anonymous 09.20.09 at 9:19 pm

Great comment…

30 Mary Burton 09.20.09 at 9:27 pm

I am so glad to hear from those of you who did not have your service animals professionally trained. When we started looking on this website, I noticed the elitist mentality of those who had “trained by professionals” service dogs and almost felt like we were on a website which wasn’t for us. WHEW, thanks guys for letting us know we are one of you. We needed that. Our service dog is always well trained and NEVER “speaks” while on duty unless it is a threat to my husband. Fancy is well trained and busy being alert waiting for those signs she is trained to notice. Your comments did make us laugh also. Thanks again. :smile:

31 Nic 09.21.09 at 2:13 am

Wix, my black lab, was professionally trained. She’s retired now, past 13 years old. She enjoys staying at home with my wife’s (pet) dog. She was trained as a mobility assistance dog, but served with emotional issues as well :)

I certainly don’t think that self-training is a bad way to go. I personally wouldn’t train my own, but that isn’t because I think any less of self-trained/privately trained. I don’t live in the US (although I used to live and work there). Here, in New Zealand, only dogs that are trained by some very specific organisations (named in legislature) are recognised as service animals. This means that technically, although Wix was professionally trained to international standards, and passed testing to that effect, my dog and I are not protected under NZ law. A self-trained animal would get even less protection.

Also, if you are travelling internationally with service animals, chances are that you’ll need to present some sort of certification of training.

Unfortunately, too many dog owners and badly trained dogs (either professionally trained, or self/privately) are around, and are spoiling it for the rest of us. I understand why some legislators see such accreditation as necessary. I don’t agree with it, but I can see where they come from.

I’ve had my fair share of enduring the brunt of service dog elitism. I wrote about that a few years ago on Ragged Edge: I’m getting a service dog, so what?. I can’t begin to imagine what it would have been like had I stated that Wix was less for mobility than something else.

32 Angela 09.21.09 at 1:39 pm

Hi everyone!

After reading the comments I thought i may just leave one :smile:

I don’t think there is anything wrong at all with training your own dog. to each his own and if it helps you than i don’t see the big deal.

I’ve experienced it from the opposite end as well. I’ve had 4 service dogs, all were trained by programs here in the US or “professionally trained” is what I guess its being called. I’ve run into more than one person saying I can’t think for myself because I choose to go through a program.

It really isn’t that. I just find it is the way for me to go. For me it is the easiest way as they can screen dogs before hand and find the dog with a good personality match and a dog with the skills I’m looking for. The longest time I’ve ever waited on a waiting list was 2 years.

I haven’t run into anyone from the programs I’ve been to saying anything negative about training your own dog. There was discussion about it and they supported it as long as the person did a good job. Many of their clients have gone on to train their own successor dogs. So I don’t think everyone is against it or rude about it.

I hope when people with self-trained dogs see me with my dog they don’t think I’m a jerk because I got my dog from XYZ program :smile:

Also, to dispell some myths that I always get questions about when I talk to others about a program dog. Two of my dogs cost me nothing, my latest came from a different program and the fee was $2,000 and you can pay it off for as long as you want, they didn’t demand immediate payment. If I ever got quoted 18 grand for a dog I’d look elsewhere too!

Also, with all my service dogs I have had pet dogs as well. I was never required to not have another dog. My lab is retired and I got to keep him as a pet dog and recieve a successor dog too. I think a few programs I’ve seen have this rule of no other dogs, but most do not at all.

I want to apologize for what stress and grief you have gotten from programs and their clients. Please know that we are not all like that!

I don’t go with programs because I think I am better than someone who chooses to do it themselves, its just what works for me. I think it is awesome that someone would choose to go through all that screening and training by themselves and I wish them all lthe luck in the world.

Anyway, I hope this helped coming from someone with program dogs :smile: I wish you all the best and am so happy to hear that your dogs are working well for you.

Take care! :grin:

33 Mary Burton 09.21.09 at 2:39 pm

It was nice to hear from you Angela. In my husbands case (he has ALS) two years would be way to long to wait for a professionally trained service dog, as it is, probably he will be bed ridden in less than a year, and perhaps deceased in two. We were blessed the dog we trained has worked out so well. Your comments were refreshing. All of our furry friends deserve credit for their lives they gave up for us. And they do it so willingly and lovingly.

34 Angela 09.21.09 at 2:55 pm

Hello Mrs. Burton,

I am sorry to hear of your situation, but I am so happy that you have found a dog that can help you and your husband. In your case, it was a perfect decision and I am glad it is working for you guys.

I’m glad I’ve had my dogs too. They are great friends. I’m glad you felt my comments were good. I would hope everyone could learn from eachother and not judge, but I guess that would be a long shot.

It was nice to talk to you, again, I wish you and your husband and your dog the best. Thank you for your comment :smile:

My best…

35 Stephanie 09.22.09 at 10:45 am

Thank you for your lovely post, Angela. You point out something that I think is very important for me to keep in mind the next time I experience a negative or condescending attitude stemming from that person’s opinion about independently trained Service Animals: they do NOT speak for all people who have a professionally trained Service Animal! They may be vocal and may echo some of the positions taken by various organizations that attempted to deny access to individual’s Service Animals and have shown up in the news in the past few months, but they do not represent the entire Service Animal community. I DO wish that the ‘supporters’ were as vocal about things as the ‘elitists’ (to use the initial blog’s term), which is why your post is such an important one for this discussion. It is very comforting to read. Thank you, again — I will remember your words when I am confronted by an elitist attitude in the future!

36 Wendy 09.22.09 at 11:40 am

Thank you Angela for your posts, it is good for me to be reminded to not generalize people or programs no matter how many of them I run into with the same opinion. I have never even looked at a program dog because quite frankly i just don’t have the funds. To top that off every time i run into someone with a program dog I get he same treatment. It is very heart raising to know that there are a few out there like you that aren’t down on those of us who train their own :mrgreen:

37 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 09.28.09 at 6:50 am

I believe that any dog and not just Service Dogs are a true reflection of their owners. Dogs experiece transference like children do. If a parent is mean and nasty to their children,you get spoiled brats. The same goes with dogs in general. Dogs need to be raised with the same temperment as you would provide with your own children. They need to learn the difference between right and wrong and just a few tricks.
I had called many different schools before training Rocky myself but this was only after Rocky saved my life twice in on week. He just sensed that something was wrong with me and ran downstairs twice to get my wife and was back at the side of my bed like waiting for help to arrive. It took a second time for us to see the pattern. I explained this to the half dozen schools I talked with and most of them saw this as a way to make a quick $15k off of me that I surely didn’t have. It wasn’t until I talked to a trainer in Hawaii who knew he wasn’t going to make a penny off of me even if I was a millionaire due to Hawaii being a non-rabie state that I got some valuable advice and tips to enhance my dog’s ablilties. Before you laugh,you must understand that Rocky has saved my life five times now,my son’s life once and a total stranger in Las Vegas once also. One of the first things this trainer asked is if I had my German Shephard fixed yet and the answer is no. He said to not get him fixed because he would lose interest and his sense of smell. I knew this also because I use to train Police Dogs before going into the military. I was also asked what I true wanted out of this German Shephard and my first concern was my kid’s safety. My kids were 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 years old at the time. I wanted him to very good around the kids. Rocky did have one really bad habit in the beginning and that was the fact that he would run away if someone opened the front door and down the street he would go. I had to teach myself to let him go. I said bye to him and thought that I would never see him again. I never looked back and walked back to the house. That was the last time that he ever did that. He came back and scratched at the front door and just knew that I was serious. Now,that dog reads me like a book.
I was told by one trainer to use little doggy treats to train him. I found out that he doesn’t any doggy treats whatsoever. I had to train him with love and rubs. Now I can train him in one day almost any trick and he gets it. This really makes me wonder if those fancy schools are really worth it. I say that it all depends on the breed and what they have to learn. I ran into this guy two weeks ago that trains dogs for search and rescue,bomb and drug dogs for the military and saw how Rocky was able to track a scent in 115 degree heat and follow a trail with such ease. Now he’s offering to train Rocky for free in his next class so that he can be used with the local mountain search and rescue here. They have to search for three hikers a week here and most of the time,there is no happy endings. I play fetch with him in the dark and I can throw a stick towards a pile of sticks and he’ll come back with the right one.
If you think about it,what does a trainer really do? He spends a lot of time with a dog and show the dog the same tasks everyday and that’s how they learn in those schools. If you have the time to train your own dog,that is wonderful but if you don’t,than a school is your best bet.

38 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 09.28.09 at 6:56 am

I’m sorry that I didn’t proof read my above post. My laptop keys need to be sprayed out and sometimes I type too fast,lol.

39 Alma Febus 10.05.09 at 6:36 pm

I own a rottweiler and she is a Service dog. I had 4 major spinal surgeries and At time I use her to stabalizes me and to help me move around, Because of her breed people ussually discriminate my dog. Especially with Walmart Department Store here in Puerto Rico.
I am so happy Walmart was sue and my dog and I was part of the sue but now it worst the nightmate starts all over again.
Our smart government here in Puerto Rico was to pass a new law discriminatting different breed and guest what my Service Dog breed will be part of the dogs they are talking about. They want us to lock or keep our dogs away from people. Now tell me how the hell and why should I keep my dog in a kennel which is against the law and it bad enought to explain the use of my dog which I know I don’t have to but to label my Service tag with a tag that say Danger bree and walk with her with a muzzle. I don’t think so.
The only dogs not included in the new law are Law enforcement dogs but what about out dogs. They have right and we need our dogs.

Here in Puerto Rico the situation regarding dogs is very sad and any dogs that is lost and taking to local shelter is MURDER . They don’t give the owner time to find and reloacted themself with them. The reason giving be start this law is to ban a law 158 which prevent Pit bull owner to have their pets. I do understands that people should be able to choice which dog they want. For over 11 years many inocent Pit Bull have died because of the Puerto Rican government and they say in order to save one breed we must affect other breeds. How can that be possible to in danger other responsible owner and dogs including Service Dogs.

I just found out about this nightmare and hopefully I will be able to stop the abuse and discrimination of any breed but to be able to save our Service Dogs.
Can anyone help me with any Idea???????????

Please time in precious and I want to save my Service Dog and my best friends.

40 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.06.09 at 10:39 am

Hi Alma,
Your lawsuit against Wal-Mart unfortunately doesn’t help the rest of us yet. Wal-Mart doesn’t care about the disabled or their Service Dogs based on ongoing and constant violations on a daily basis at their stores across the USA.
As far as these new laws for Rotts and Pitbulls seems too long overdue. The problem with these dogs is the nature of their breed. They do two things that other breeds don’t do. Other breeds will provide you with a warning that you are doing something wrong and you should whatever it is asap. Rotts and Pitbulls have no warning system like grawling or barking. They simply just attack without any warning. The second thing they do is attack and their breed goes for the throat and neck areas. They do not stop their attack until the subject is dead or immobile. That is why laws are needed for these two breeds. They are simply to unpredictable to have as pets or service animals,especially if you have children in the home. These dogs kill their owners or their children on a regular basis and we see this on the news several times a year.
Speaking of dog pounds, If you microchip your service dogs and put service dog ID tags on them(which you can buy here on this site), they will not be put to sleep or caged with the general population of other dogs in the shelters.A word of warning,you will charged a lot more $$$ to get your service dog out because the fact that they must keep them separated from other dogs.
Alma,one more thing,your service dog must be marked as a service dog with a clearly visable vest and you can also carry service animal business cards like Rocky does. Sometimes we have problems with hotels that are run by eastern Indians or Pakistan and don’t care about our laws here. Then they will try to charge a pet fee and that gets them even more mad when you show them the business card with the ADA Act of 1990 on it.
So you see Alma, there are many things you need to do before you can call your Rott a service animal. If she was trained at a school, she would have all of that. If not trained at a school,you need to do more research until you know the requirements.
Many of us need our service dogs but yet,at the same time,we must be weary of those who suddenly turn their pets into service dogs overnight.

41 curasmom 10.06.09 at 11:17 am

I want to clarify something stated by Todd and S.D. “Rocky” — there is no federal law requiring that a dog wear special equipment or identification indicating that they are a service animal. It DOES make things easier and Cura’s identification usually stops any confrontation, but it is n0t something that MUST be done. This may be something that individual states require — so if traveling it is a VERY good idea to have things that identify your dogs as a service animal — but it is not required by federal law. Not only is this my understanding, but it has been reinforced by several other sources. If there is a law out there requiring that service animals must wear identification — PLEASE let me know!

42 Alma Febus 10.06.09 at 12:13 pm

Todd & SD Rocky
I totally disagree with you regarding Rottweiler to be use as a Service Dog.
I have own the breed for over 25 years.
I am a Vet Tech. Lic Instructor and Obedience trainer
My first Rottie came from an excellent BLOOD line
They all have Temp Test not done by me because I don’t want any one to think because I can certified dogs i will certified my own. NO .
I want to walk arounf with a dog that I can trust and feel confortable with.

I know what it feel to be attacked by a dog and destroy my life. and it wasn’t a Rottweiler it was a different breed( Husky). Still I don’t discriminate against any breed. I BLAME the owner.

Yes I feel people buy these dogs for the wrong reason and trust me I know because I have become and animal activist and speak out for the safety of any behavior because of what happen to.
I lost my job as a Law enforcement , not able to have kids and still I speak out for the right of animals.
Maybe a few who will say that animals do have right and people should be blame for their responsability.

So don’t think I don’t know about the breed because I do. Like I said the first Rottie did SAR and he was the one who save me and the reason today I am walking. He became my favor nurse and companion.
Not anyone know the different in breeding. So they feel that breed because of the same breed is right.
Negative. A lot has to be done.
Since I move to Puerto Rico I have never met people to ignorant about the care and safety of dogs.
My SD is a very well behave SD and I can trust her at any time. Yes not everyone is like me. But I do my best to have the BEST not be a LABEL of an irresponsable owner.
I will never put anyone safety if I own a dog that could do harm the same reason I was put.
Because of the cruelty and abuse I see every day and the joy and happiness my dogs give me I became the Voice with my SD to protect and secure a better quality life for the 4 legged animals.

I go to school, speak on POLICE Conference, or any where I can a speak out first about safety and them the law that protect animals rights.
So I can say I own a EXCELLENT SERVICE dogs and is always with Kids, other dogs and in hospital and she or the other is considered to be EXCELLENT Service Dog.
You should not discriminate against the breed because you like all of us have been discriminated because of our disabilty condition and to LABEL a SD like you mention is bad. SHAME ON YOU.

We should all be happy that we own a excellent dog that can help us in any way they do best for us to be a part of this world.
Thank You for your oppinion.
Alma and Bambie my Rottweiler Service Dog

43 penny 10.06.09 at 12:14 pm

I have been reading all of your comments here.

As far as Walmart goes here in my location since the law suit it has been wonderful to shop there now. They are more pleasant and respectful.

Dangerous Dogs, now I do not totally agree with that. I believe that it is the way you raise your dog. You will be able to tell by the animals personality if it will be a good SD. For my breed she is a rescue (Lab/Red Pit) and she is wonderful, young still but wonderful. Karma wears a tag as well, mostly for educational purposes. People are people and I believe awareness is the key and education is a must.

I am also self training Karma, I realize I have a long way to go,but she is worth it to me.

44 Alma Febus 10.06.09 at 12:34 pm

PS forgot because of my sd breed she does wear a vest, ID and cary all her temp evaluation test inside vest.

45 Alma Febus 10.06.09 at 12:38 pm

here above you will see the suffering of animals in Puerto Rico and how well the government works.
It dosen’t mater what we have or the abilty of our pet.

46 Alma Febus 10.06.09 at 12:39 pm
47 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.07.09 at 11:24 am

Hello Alma,
I’m sorry if I misunderstood your posts because your grammer and spelling is so poor and I don’t completely understand what you are saying or what to believe. Your personal attack of me shows your level of education, lack of class and was uncalled for. I would have been nice if you just would of pointed out things like the other poster did about wearing the service vests. Where I live,a service vest must be worn for identification purposes only, no law that I am aware of, just common sense comes into play.
Alma,as far as Rotts not being a dangerous animal is only your opinion. I do talk in a post above your first post that dogs in general is a true reflection of their owners or called Transferance. But you being a “supposed” Vet tech,Licensed Instructor and failed Law Enforcement officer,you should have caught that statement and added to that.
Again,I apolgize is if I misunderstood. As far as Rotts and Pitbulls goes,everyone is assuming that they are being trained and raised by us and that is so untrue. They are being mostly raised by people who either don’t care about that raising their dog properly and just wants to show off a mean dog to all their friends and neighbors or raise them for fighting. Unfortunately for these two breeds,their danger far out weights the benefits to the general public’s benefit.
Example,I was leaving the vet’s office yesterday with the doctor and my Rocky, a man was sitting next to the front door with a Rott/Pitbull mix. He had this big dog on his lap and without the benefit of a grawl or anything,this dog leaped from the man’s lap to attack all three of us. You may not agree with me but I truely feel that these two breeds should be banned and I’m not going to wait for one of these dogs to kill me or disfigure me for life based on your own personal opinion on these breeds.Bottom line,they and their owners are unpredictable.

48 Kathy Bright 10.07.09 at 11:50 am

Todd, I am very sadden at your demeanor towards Alma, attacking his/her grammar, job etc. First of all, Alma is from Puerto Rico, so English IS NOT his/her first language. Secondly, Alma was trying to point out what the government over there is doing.
You are both, as I am allowed your opinions. I am and will admit I am not a Pitbull/Staffordshite lover! I do not own them, but where I live they are the dog of choice.
But what I will say, is this. The bite list is ridiculous. I am a Owner/Handler of a Great Dane..which did you know is on our vicious list? Did you know German Shepherds, Labs, Goldens are all on the list? How many SD’s are Labs and Goldens? Even Chiuahahas?
Point is, the dog acts as its own allows. As trainers we need to know our breed, learn how to train them properly and how our SD’s need to act in public.
I have owned and trained Rotti’s. I know the breed well. Every breed have their problems if you look at all breeds.

This list is not for fighting, its not to belittle people or come off judgemental. It’s to learn, grow and enjoy having a community where we are all in the same boat.

How about showing some plan old understanding, asking questions before jumping down someone’s throat before you truely understand where Alma or anyone is coming from?

How about putting yourself in their shoes? We all have different things we deal with on a daily basis, we fight and have to educate people who do not understand why we bring our SD’s to a store or out in public.

I hope we can all play nice and become closer and more understanding.
Kathy & Duke, SD

49 Katherine and "Sheriff" 10.07.09 at 11:57 am

Todd and “Rocky”…are you saying that if I tell you that I own a Pit Bull Terrier, not only is he unpredictable…but I am as well? I think that is a bit absurd. Was I unpredictable before I owned my dog? What if my Pit Bull has its Canine Good Citizen? What if my Pit Bull is a service dog that has never expressed any amount of aggression, even when confronted by other aggressive dogs? Because of his breed, he should not be allowed to be a service dog? Is that what you are saying?

Also, my dog was not trained at a service dog school because he is a psychiatric service dog. There are no schools that train that type of service dog. He was trained by me (I am a dog trainer) and another dog trainer who went to school that certified him to train service dogs. That dog trainer is also an Animal Control officer. So, is my dog…due to breed and training…simply a substandard service dog? What should I do? Should I obtain and train a different, more “predictable” breed? Since there are no schools for psychiatric service dogs, should I just not own one since it cannot receive the proper training? Please help me.

50 Alma Febus 10.07.09 at 12:01 pm

I do agry that not everyone is responsable and the breed is use for dangers sport. Here in Puerto Rico is call machista.
Todd remember one thing is not the dog who create the problwm is the people. If I was to mistreat my dogs and not socializes them. What do you think I am doing? Creatting a bigger problem and my dogs will be a danger to the public. All dogs are good but like i said it depend how u raise them.

I don’t feel that I attack you. It is bad enough that people judge us for what ever disabilty we may have. My SD was tought since she was born and her education will continual. I want to walk around and feel that my SD is always in her best behavior but you are right not everyone does the same. But Please don’t judge my dog because of her breed. We all have beed judge for what ever illness and we should stop any discrimination. If we are all here is because we are all responsable and look for people with any special need like you and I. We should all be blees to have an amazing companion to be with us in good time and in bad time like our SD.

I am a proud owner of two amazing Sd and I don’t regrat having them.

Their are time that I let my feeling take over in what i AM WRITTING. So please don’t judge that.
I am a GOOD person and respect everyone and will never offend you because we are here to unit our thoughts and respect each other. If I offended you I am sorry but please lets stop the discrimination and work hard to have the best SD ever. We need them and they need us.

Thanks for your time.

51 Alma Febus 10.07.09 at 12:16 pm

Thank You
Yes this is a place to learn and to reach out for help and guideness.
Again Thank You :roll: :roll:

52 Mary Burton 10.07.09 at 4:34 pm

i submitted a comment which was not displayed???

53 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.07.09 at 7:03 pm

I’m sadden by your demeanor towards me or anyone that has an opinion that you don’t agree with and I had already apologized to her already. Your rude comments when you where not involved in the beginning is also showing lack of class too.
Look,I’m not mad at anyone. The crime that I’ve commited here so far is for something I fought for and served my country for and that is freedom to have an opinion.
Bottom line- I have children and I feel that these two breeds should and will be banned in do time. Fortunately,there are some limits to those freedoms such as weapons,explosives,guns or even yelling fire in a movie house. Many states are looking at new laws to ban these breeds and I am so tired of seeing so many victims of these killer breeds on TV on a daily basis.
It’s always the same with people,my son wouldn’t do that or my dog wouldn’t do that…
Truth is, responsible dog owners are outnumbered 2000 to 1 by people who maybe shouldn’t even have kids let alone a dangerous dog. Again,this is only my opinion and everyone has a right to one because I gave up the use of arm and leg for my country and you guys think that this is a free for all. I should be the one saying SHAME ON YOU but I don’t want to stoop down to your level. I’m not mad at any of you.
And Katherine, I think you’ve proved my point to a tee!

54 Alma Febus 10.07.09 at 7:50 pm

I salute you for fighting for our freedom.
Yes it is your opinion and you have the right for it.
I want to thank you for what you did for our country and I admired that. No we don’t think it is free for all. What we mean is we shouldn’t judge anyone instead let be here for each other…

What bother me a lot is what you continual to say, ( that we have a lack of class).
I might not have the highest education like some but trust me when I say I do my best to stand up for the right of anyone or anything I believe.
Here is something I read and want to share with you all:

A Hundred Years from now, it will not mater the sort of house I lived in, what my bank account was, or the way I look, or the car I drove, or how I spoke……. but the world my be different because I was important in the life of animals and all the creatures of this earth.

I totally respect how you put your life for our freedom. Trust me Todd, Thank YOU and I look up too you. You are a real hero. Not many could say the same.

Todd can you do me a do me a favor, when you look into you Rocky eyes and you see how valuable he is to you. Is the same way my dogs are to me and grateful that God gave them to me.. I can truly say I do respect you and yes you do have the right to say what in your mind.
Thank You Todd for your honesty.

55 Katherine and "Sheriff" 10.07.09 at 9:31 pm

How exactly did I prove your point? Are you saying that I am unpredictable? What about my post makes me seem unpredictable?

And for your information…I don’t own a pit bull. My service dog is a Labradoodle. Try and prove that he is aggressive!

56 Kathy Bright 10.07.09 at 10:13 pm

I was not rude to you Todd…and as far as I am concerned, you dont like me responding to your post, take it off list.

I didnt put you down or call names. You said you fought for our country? Well, I will say thanks for helping us keep our freedoms here.

Which I have every right to say my peace here.
But you Sir need to show people respect…just as you wish to be respected.
Enough said.

57 Mary Burton 10.08.09 at 12:29 am

I am not interested in “listening” to people who are rude and make personal attacks. Also I sent in an entry which wasn’t posted asking for everyone to stop personal attacks and more which wasn’t posted. I will be opting out of reading more, due to the hostility. It is very sad this site couldn’t be used to help each other, share resources and learn. This site was intended to bring us all closer together and help all of us exist in a world unaccustomed to our service animals. So very sad it ended up being a place where people would be cruel and petty to someone they have never met.

58 Pamela 10.08.09 at 1:29 pm

I have been reading this blog all morning and would like to thank all the posters for the invaluable education. I hope you all feel that this is an appropriate place for my question. I welcome any and all opinions of my situation.
I have long thought that my dog R.D. would be (is) a great service dog. I was (and am) a dog trainer, but have no specific education in training service dogs, other than what I have researched online. Although R.D. helps me immensely, I never thought that my disability would qualify to have a dog legally considered for service. After 20 years of increasing pain in my spine, hips and other joints, numbness in my legs, and being poked, prodded, x-rayed, MRI’ed, bonescanned, you name it, I still have no diagnosis. (One doctor tentatively wrote “possible fibromyalgia”, which made me mad because I don’t want an over-diagnosed, mis-understood disorder, and it does not fit my symptom set anyway). Most days, I can walk like a champ, futher and faster than most people, with a backpack on. But people don’t see me on the days when I am lying on the floor in pain (and R.D. helps me stand up), or when my back is so stiff I can’t bend over (and R.D. picks something up off the floor for me and puts it gently square in my hand), or when I’m dizzy (and just holding on to R.D. helps me get through it). Even on good days, when we walk together, he helps my balance. But in general, I do not appear disabled. With a lack of a specific diagnosis, I never thought I was, even though I was given a “physical disability” discharge after over 5 years in the Marine Corps.
Because he wears a red backpack on our walks, many people ask me if he is a service dog. (The packpack has NOTHING on it to indicate such). This got me thinking about all that he does for me. But still I feel weird – I adopted him as a companion (pet), not with the intention of training him to “serve” me. As a trainer (and just a responsible pet owner), I of course started with obedience. Although still exuberant around people that want to talk in baby voices and want to give him affection, he is quite obedient. As for the rest of it, some things I taught him for fun or a mental challenge for him, and most because it was something he did on his own and I simply encouraged the behavior and asked for it on demand. He is extremely eager to please me, and I simply don’t know what I would do without him. As I have been reading various blogs, I couldn’t help but think, “Why, he is the very definition of a service dog!” I should just start not letting people approach him ridiculously and make him break his focus. People shouldn’t do that anyway, to any dog – to them, that is unbalanced behavior.
Please give me your opinions on this. And thank you so much for this site and your invaluable insight.

59 curasmom 10.08.09 at 2:25 pm

I find it unfortunate that this latest exchange has resulted in some people feeling that the best course of action for them is to cease reading this blog. As I have mentioned in other posts, I am a newbie to the whole SD life and have found this site a benefit, particularly in the past month or so since activity seems to have increased. If the individuals that have been repelled by the posts of the past couple of days are still reading, PLEASE reconsider — not only are your opinions important but, combined with your experiences, may be very helpful to others, like myself, who are just starting out. Leaving the blog means that your voice will no longer be heard in this forum — a shame, given the circumstances.

As an aside, some posts have mentioned that there are other blogs out there that may be helpful for those with SDs — can anyone pass any of them on? I can’t seem to find much!

60 curasmom 10.08.09 at 3:08 pm

It sounds to me like R.D. is already a SD and all you really have to do is start considering him one. Personally, I think of Cura as both an invaluable companion and a SD — in fact, for me the two concepts are intimately linked. It sounds like R.D. thinks that helping you out is part of being your companion (pet) so I would say — go for it!

No ‘formal’ schooling or certification is required by federal law — but the person does have to be disabled. So, if you are still awaiting a diagnosis and have not at least been classified as disabled, you could run into problems. Also, there may be some programs locally that, while not required, may help you with access (for example, as I understand it, some states have a public access test that can be — or must be — taken which evaluates the animal’s behavior in various situations. An example of such a test can be found at: It will give you an idea of how R. D. should be behaving in public as a SD.) Enjoy your journey!

61 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.08.09 at 4:53 pm

Aloha Pamela,
I totally understand what you are going through. I have a friend that has been going through that for years.Fine one minute and laying on the floor in pain from his back the next. Is it kind of like severe back spasms?
It maybe too early to call R.D a service animal yet but it sounds like he more than qualifies. Some states may require a doctors referral to have a service animal but not required under federal law for physical assistance that I’m aware of.
My Rocky carries my meds,his passport,a flash drive of my medical records, a mini First Aid Kit and his business cards. He helps me in so many ways. I can walk to a point but rely on Rocky to pull me along. I can get down onto one leg but can’t get back without Rocky. All of these rods,screws and wire in my arms and legs would be a total nightmare without him.
Pamela,I am pretty sure that more tests by your doctor or doctors will narrow down the causes of this health issue over time and maybe you can start expressing your need of a service dog now to see how helpful he or she is willing to be in this area. Any good doctor can see the value of service animals.
I know another fellow Marine veteran who was hit on his helmet by a RPG rocket propelled grenade and now has a service dog that gives him a 15 minute heads up before he has seizures. He like me,Carry’s a flash drive of his medical records and a copy of his Handicap registration to prove that he is disabled and instructions on what to do when he is having one,and emergency contact information and etc.
There are many people who don’t know that they qualify for a service animal. As the public becomes more educated about service animals,the more sense it will become for the disabled to own them. They are also now being used to detect Cancer in patients now and that is simply amazing.
Good luck with your doctors and your health ,Pamela and mahalo for your post.

62 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.08.09 at 4:54 pm

Aloha Pamela,
I totally understand what you are going through. I have a friend that has been going through that for years.Fine one minute and laying on the floor in pain from his back the next. Is it kind of like severe back spasms?
It maybe too early to call R.D a service animal yet but it sounds like he more than qualifies. Some states may require a doctors referral to have a service animal but not required under federal law for physical assistance that I’m aware of.
My Rocky carries my meds,his passport,a flash drive of my medical records, a mini First Aid Kit and his business cards. He helps me in so many ways. I can walk to a point but rely on Rocky to pull me along. I can get down onto one leg but can’t get back up without Rocky. All of these rods,screws and wire in my arms and legs would be a total nightmare without him.
Pamela,I am pretty sure that more tests by your doctor or doctors will narrow down the causes of this health issue over time and maybe you can start expressing your need of a service dog now to see how helpful he or she is willing to be in this area. Any good doctor can see the value of service animals.
I know another fellow Marine veteran who was hit on his helmet by a RPG rocket propelled grenade and now has a service dog that gives him a 15 minute heads up before he has seizures. He like me,Carry’s a flash drive of his medical records and a copy of his Handicap registration to prove that he is disabled and instructions on what to do when he is having one,and emergency contact information and etc.
There are many people who don’t know that they qualify for a service animal. As the public becomes more educated about service animals,the more sense it will become for the disabled to own them. They are also now being used to detect Cancer in patients now and that is simply amazing.
Good luck with your doctors and your health ,Pamela and mahalo for your post.

63 Sheila Stroh 10.14.09 at 1:13 am

I just got my first serveice dog, and yes we have had this discrimination. I suppose it doesn’t bother me quite as much, since i have lived with it all my life. I was born to a blind mother. Since she was blinded at 8 she mostly seemed just like everyine else. My friends, the ones that were brave enough to come to my house, thought she was faking, where is her dog?, how can she know hwat road we were on, etc. I just take it as a matter of life that many people don’t have the foggiest idea what a disabilitity can be. Most days, okay some days, I try my best to educate those, and take time with the little ones. All they see is a dog in a store, and I try to teach both them and their parent that he is special and helps me even though he is quite small.
As for professionally trained dogs, well I have been training dogs in obedience for almost 20 years, and I just need to work with Xander to teach him a few more things. He is very good and I know I can count on him when I need him. Isn’t that what this is all about anyway?
Thanks for letting me vent a bit, I was getting some of the same feeling, just because mine is a 20 pound dog.

64 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.14.09 at 12:33 pm

Hello Sheila,
I understand how you feel and probably many others do also. I see some of the same things that you are talking about. When I was finally released from The VA hospital and allowed to go home,many of my friends were afraid to come over to visit. I can’t explain why that happens. I had to arrange to go see them in my wheelchair first. After that,then many of them started coming to visit me at my house. They just knew that I wasn’t going to let all these things stop me from being who I always was,a friend. Now ,my SD Rocky was very helpful in other areas of my life that nothing else could fill. I didn’t feel so alone with him and I could tell him to fetch the TV remote or a bottle of pills for me,that was easy. It was him sitting next to me or laying down next to me that gave me hope to live.
You are not so much as venting but you feel like I do,that you owe your whole life and being to your service dog and I will be the first to tell you that this ok. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this picture,so don’t feel bad. Your service dog also got many things from you also. He got to play with you,he got love from you,good food but most of all,he gets to feel like he belongs to you and you only. That’s what dogs like…your love.

65 Kathy Bright 10.14.09 at 5:39 pm

I agree with Todd, I owe my whole life to my service dogs. I have gone thru so much depression for being alone and for losing so much of my abilities as my diseases progressed.
I have had a SD for 5 years. Each of my boys provide something to me, and I give them love and training in return.
People around here arent too educated on Service Dogs either. So I think we all feel we have to be educating people on what our Dogs do for us.
I fight discrimination because Duke is a Great Dane, at 159 lbs. They are either scared of him, or they are wondering what he does for me.
They cant believe he helps me walk and keeps me from falling.
I have even had a pharmacy ask if he was certified, or have a doctor’s slip for him. When I provided the things they really shouldn’t have asked for, they told me some patron had said she was going to call and report them to the health department if I wasnt asked to leave with him. My reply was..Go ahead and call them! I have the right to bring him in, had been bringing him in…and even I had my other SD in there SEVERAL times before that.
Needless to say, I no longer use that pharmacy. But I was definately discriminated on, but I just let it go.
I just try and educate people on SD’s especially kids. For if we teach the future generations things might hopefully be better in later times.
Hang in there Shiela, and keep doing what you need for yourself, do not worry about others. Just try and educate, cause its all you can do.

66 John Brubaker 10.14.09 at 8:45 pm

Hi Melanie,
I know what you experienced was unsettling. I have had my dogs do that. Not becaused they are not well trained, but it was their reaction to our being attacked by strays. Which has happened several times. It took them a while to get this handled, they no longer lunge, but they will not allow another dog within reach of their leads.
One time a large German Shepard pup came at us because he was unleashed by a stupid owner. They did not attack the pup, they sandwiched it. One on one side and the other on the other side holding the pup so it couldn’t get to me.
I don’t about everyone else, but we have had a lot trouble with strays.

Also there several references their dogs not being allowed in businesses. The only thing nI can say is SUE THE JERKS! It has happened to me down here in Florida many times and finally I just gave up and started calling my lawyer. Print out a copy of the ADA rules for businesses have it laminated and do the same thing for your state law.

67 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.15.09 at 4:51 pm

Hello John,
I totally agree with your post and the one before yours. Yesterday,I got a big package in the mail from DOJ because of something that happen to me and Rocky last July where a doctor refused me services because I brought my SD to my appointment with me. A friend is a reporter with a local TV station here and did a story of me and Rocky. The doctor was tough but faced with looking like a heal on TV and maybe he talked to an attorney,we ended up making peace. I have had a good relationship with him ever since.
So I have mixed feelings about suing people even if I’m in the right and the law is on my side. Some of you will think that I am wrong for doing this and not suing but now I have this package and I’m being asked to go to mediation over this. I frankly don’t know what I am to do now. I’m I being selfish or should to stand up for everyone of you on this matter?

68 Lynnette 10.25.09 at 10:58 am

Hi folks,

I just stumbled across this blog for the first time and read the “Elitist” discussions and those addressing discrimination.

Re discrimination: I applaud Todd and others for not suing, which is a stressful, multi-year-long hassle. Rarely is anyone able to prove it or win a case; besides, there are better ways to handle things– most notably by educating people, as many here have learned. To clarify, discrimination is narrowly defined and has nothing to do with our service dogs not being allowed public access. We have to wrap our minds around that truth, which should also serve to end the sense of being victimized. I think we too often victimize ourselves based on misconceptions about the law. Being challenged by a business owner or another customer isn’t discrimination. Being asked if we’re disabled and assisted by a PSD or SD isn’t discrimination.

An example of actual discrimination would be if I’m told I can’t rent a home or apartment with my dog because pets aren’t allowed, and the landlord refused to exclude my service dog from that policy. Discrimination is when a business denies MY access to their facility or asks me to leave. This is a crucial distinction. It’s important not to let the service dog accompanying me become the issue, because the dog has no rights… only I, as a human, am protected by the ADA and the US Justice Department. One reason lawsuits are a waste of time is that people sue about their service dogs rather than on behalf of themselves. A business saying “you can’t bring that dog in” isn’t yet discriminating; not until he or she says “YOU can’t come in” are they on thin ice. And if I turn around and leave instead of entering, there is no discrimination, as I voluntarily ended the interaction without knowing for certain that I’d have actually been barred (with my dog).

As a courtesy to businesses, I carry an ADA brochure with me and keep the US Attorney’s 24-hour 800 number handy, and my dogs wear vests with a photo ID badge. If there’s a problem with me entering with my wheelchair and SD, I first say that this is my service dog. If that doesn’t work I offer the brochure. If that isn’t helpful either, I next ask the business representative to call the AG (I won’t make the call for them). I never argue or let him or her know how pissed I am; I want to do everything I can to make it into a positive experience because I know darn well this business owner will tell others about the incident. If I’m friendly rather than bitchy, this person is going to educate many other business owners when telling them about the incident. He or she will likely never challenge someone else with a service dog, so my goodwill goes a very long way. In my opinion, we who have SDs owe it to each other to take advantage of these opportunities; we can make the next few decades much easier on newcomers than the previous decades have been.

Regarding SD Elitism: You might call me that; my view has nothing to do with WHO trains a dog, however, only that it had damn better BE TRAINED! This country is full of people passing off their pets as service dogs. Pets with atrocious manners. Pets grabbing food off of customers’ plates in restaurants. Pets goosing people who pass by. Toy breeds carried in women’s purses yapping their fool heads off all through a movie. This crap is prohibited in service dogs so I expect to see any dog have excellent manners in public, I don’t care who trained it. Even an Emotional Support Dog (which nobody is required by law to allow in public places except as a courtesy) should be capable of passing a CGC or ATTS test before being foisted on the rest of us in public. They hurt the reputation of every service dog and damage the credibility of every disabled person with a lawful service dog. I believe that much of what passes as elitism is actually the frustration of people who like me have worked our asses off in the last 40 years to get disability laws at the point they’re at now. Not that we’re finished yet .

I trained every service dog I’ve ever had. Now I also train other dogs, as well as co-train with disabled persons and their dogs until the person is comfortable taking over the training. Earlier this year I started giving priority to returning vets disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan who need service dogs, so I’ve seen many sides of the “Who Trains” issue.

The last ADA revisions tightened PSD requirement so that they too must be skilled at tasks for their owners. Except for needing a letter from a physician or psychiatrist, the owners’ privileges and responsibilities are nearly identical to service dog requirements. The letter must say what the disability is and how the dog assists with the disability. I don’t like that because I don’t believe our medical conditions are anyone’s business, so I don’t recommend going the route of a PSD when a full SD doesn’t have that restriction.

Lastly, anybody who has time to bicker about what trainer is the only “right” trainer can’t have much going for them, as people who are busy living their lives don’t have time to try to control others. I’m not going to be able to change their minds. You can’t change their minds. Ignore them and live your own life to the fullest.

69 Alma Febus 10.25.09 at 5:06 pm

Hi Lynnette
Excellent words. Thank you

70 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.26.09 at 4:23 am

Mahalo Lynnette for your kind words. The truth of the matter was that I was denied services because I was with a service animal and was asked what medical need I had in having one. Now if this optometrist or doctor had said that they were allergic to dogs and cats,I could have made some kind of arrangement not to bring Rocky and I would have been fine with that. The fact that I had walked into that office the week before with my SD and made the appointment,it wasn’t like I had sprung Rocky on them without warning. They knew in advance that (1)I would be going to that appointment alone without my wife, (2) that I would be accompanied by a service animal, (3) I did present an ADA Act business card and showed Rocky’s photo ID cards on his collar and finally,I proved to them that he carries a SD Passport,Meds,and a flash drive of my medical records. If he had granted my wish to discuss the matter in his office, I would have been more than willing to answer all of his questions but not in front of other patients who I didn’t know in the lobby. That would have been the more civilized manner in which to solve this problem before it becomes an issue. He did admit that,as a doctor,he knew nothing of the ADA Act of 1990 and was going to educate himself and his employees who thought that it was funny at the time I was being asked to leave his office. Those smiles dissappeared when the camera crews showed up.
Do I still have the right to sue? Probably,but I discovered that he was a nice guy even after everything we went through. I agree that it will take some lawsuits before everyone get’s it but is that a lesson for me to teach? I’m a pretty fair person and willing to forgive one mistake.My question is: Will I be looked apond others as being too easy or too forgiving among all of you?

71 Melanie 10.26.09 at 6:51 am

Don’t sue to make a point when you are able to make your point through advocacy and relationship. Well done.

72 Lynnette 10.26.09 at 8:04 am

Todd, I have no idea if you will be looked upon by others as being too easy or too forgiving. Is it even possible to quantify forgiveness as if there’s a scale or measurement of how much is too little and what is too much? For me, I either forgive completely or else am lying to myself or others about what forgiveness means.

You said it will take some lawsuits before everyone gets it; I disagree. Successful plaintiffs haven’t influenced others so far, no matter what issue was sued over. Millions of dollars in awards haven’t reduced toxic emissions from chemical and coal companies that should consider a successful lawsuit against the industry as a warning to straighten up and fly right themselves. Lawsuits haven’t lowered the death rate caused by drunk driving. I could go on but you get the picture. The myth that big lawsuits by individuals can change human behavior is little more than hype that sells movie tickets. People wind up not getting all the money anyway because the litigation continues on appeal another 10-15 years. But the most important fact is that we can’t, on our own or with an attorney, jump in and file a lawsuit for discrimination.

There is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about civil rights lawsuits but I also think we use the very idea of a lawsuit as a way to soothe ourselves when we feel we’re treated unfairly. The catch is that civil rights law isn’t about fairness as individually interpreted, but is based on constitutional rights. Since it is a constitutional matter as opposed to one person harming another person (such as in a car wreck), NOBODY has an automatic right to sue over perceived violations of civil rights; that just isn’t the way it works. The only right we automatically have is to officially complain to the agency tasked with protecting civil rights. That agency is each state’s Attorney General. The AG is the only entity that can give us the right to sue (or to file on our behalf); without it, no court will accept a case, period. And before an AG will provide that signed piece of paper giving us standing to proceed with a lawsuit, the case will first be investigated by their office to gather the information from each party. The next step is mediation, which is required, and a determination will be made at the conclusion of that as to whether there has been a violation and if so, whether or not it has been remedied through mediation. This is a confidential procedure and both parties must agree beforehand to accept the findings, which are legally binding upon everyone.

The purpose of correcting civil rights violations isn’t to win punitive monetary awards as so many people erroneously believe. Correcting a violation (if indeed there was one) means that the person discriminated against is made whole again. So if you are disabled and were denied entry somewhere, the remedy is ensuring that you now have access. If you were fired from your job because you have AIDS, or were refused housing with a service dog, were subjected to sexual harassment, or are claiming other discriminatory actions, the remedy must directly relate to the violation. In other words, you get your job back (with back pay); you get to rent that apartment you wanted but were denied; the employer has to cure the sexual harassment and educate management about what constitutes discrimination. You don’t get a cash payoff, but you do get a say in the solution.

Your own incident with the optometrist has already been remedied so there are no grounds on which to pursue a complaint. In the case of somebody leaving a store because another customer complained about the presence of a service dog, the basis for discrimination was absent at the time she left. It might or might not have developed into discrimination had the decision instead been made to stay and ignore the fussing customer, with the result that a clerk or manager asked the person with the service dog to leave.

I had the pleasure of being on the first team of mediators with the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division starting back in 1988. That is the place to start if one believes they’ve been discriminated against. Forget talk about filing lawsuits because we aren’t permitted to do so initially (nor are our attorneys). Attorneys for both sides are usually allowed in most mediations but they are prohibited from speaking or otherwise advocating for their clients. The whole point of mediation is that you and the other party have an opportunity to sit down in neutral territory, tell your side of things, and work on solutions. Talk about opportunities to educate those who are ignorant about disabilities!

73 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 10.27.09 at 5:46 am

Wow,I have to admit that I have been blown away by your sense of knowledge in your posts from the beginning. I guess most of learn about these issues as we become a party to the issue.
Just yesterday,I had a new one thrown at me and was wondering how I should handle this. I take my wife to school and then my daughter each morning and then take my son who is 4 years old to one of the many local parks. Then in the afternoons, I pick my daughter from school and then my wife. The principle told me that I can’t bring my service dog to pick up my daughter because a sign is posted in front of the school that states: No Drugs,No Guns,No Knives,No Weapons and No Dogs! I also pointed out that Rocky is a very friendly service dog and is protected by federal law. She then went on to say that she is liabal if my service dog bites someone or a child. I will agree with this statement to a point because many people are buying dangerous dogs and not raising them correctly but I feel that service dogs don’t generally fall under this. I will agree that the sign is probably outdated but wasn’t rusty. Maybe the principle is taking her duties to the extreme,I need to get more information before I can make an opinion.
Again,I’m not into suing over these things but think that I could be a tool to higher education about the ADA Act of 1990 regarding service dogs. My disablilities are obvious and my service dog is very much needed in more ways than one.
If I went by that sign,I would be arrested on two counts,the service dog and my meds he carrys for me. Yes,laugh now,but there has been stranger news headlines. The point is that I don’t want to break any rules or laws and don’t want to be a poster child for service dog rights,lol. What is really going on here?

74 Anonymous 10.27.09 at 12:51 pm

Sorry, this is straying pretty far from SD elitism.

1. Service dogs aren’t pets. No signs referring to dogs/pets apply to service dogs. The mantra you want to memorize is this: “A service dog is individually trained to perform specific tasks that mitigate its owner’s disabilities. A disabled person’s right to be accompanied by its service dog is protected by federal and state law so that those tasks can be performed anywhere and anytime they’re needed.”

2. YOU, not anyone else in the world, are responsible for your service dog and its behavior so the principal thinking she is liable if Rocky bites someone, and your agreement with her, is a non-issue. Service dogs are thoroughly evaluated for temperament in advance of any training, and then receive hundreds of hours of intense training by professional trainers or their owners. Service dogs are discouraged from interacting with people other than it’s owner when on the job, again making this an unfounded concern.

3. Her lack of information re service animals doesn’t subject you to arrest.

I encourage you to thoroughly familiarize yourself with laws governing disabled person’s rights to public access when accompanied by their service dogs; there are only a few of them and it is every disabled person’s responsibility to understand these laws. There are oodles of civil rights accorded to disabled persons, mostly dealing with structural architecture, employment, and accessible housing; only a few have anything to do with service animals.

A very helpful Q&A format for businesses is available at It’s handy to print out and present to businesses that are unaware of disabled persons’ civil rights. It doesn’t include the exceptions but is handy for most situations.

Bookmark the ADA’s homepage for other quick answers and to search for literature that will assist you in dealing with businesses and the public.

75 ML 10.29.09 at 5:39 pm

I am waiting for the ok on getting back my emotional therapy dog. Because he is a Rottweiler they feel they do not have to allow accomidation. I am disabled have doctors note and he was my dog for 7 years. Is there any help for me to get this approved. My dog has character references showing he is a good dog, I have doctors notes everything I need. I am in NC would love info. Back in June my landlord then foreclosed and only gave me 7 days to move. I was told my dog wasn’t a legal service dog so I could’t rent I had no choice and put him with a rescue group. I have become very very sick with out him. I am now in a place allows dogs under 25 pounds. I am difined under fair house law dissabled and I receive SSD and had my emotion therapy dog for 7 years. I am still waiting for them to approve it and to let me have my dog back. Is there any legal way they can say no. I agreed to many things including renters insurance for a Rottweiler. Im confused on my rights. I really need my dog back. (sorry for the spelling)

76 Kathy Bright 10.29.09 at 6:44 pm

Call Dept. of Justice in regards to the ADA Law, 1990.
I think they would be able to tell you what to do next or if they have a legal right to keep him away from you.

Im sorry for what you are going through. I wish you good luck on getting help.

77 Alma Febus 10.29.09 at 9:22 pm

Hi. ML
I own a Rottweiler who is a SD. I had an incident and the following e-mail help me
with my situation. and
Please write to them and explain your situation. They r from ADA and Department of justice.
Two years ago I responded in a case of 80 dogs that was remove from a Public Housing HUB and the tenant was told that they only had hours to get rid of their pets or give them to an animal control service. A lot of the dogs was Therapy and SD. Housing staff enter to the apartment of some people and other surrendered their dogs because they were afraid to be evicted from their apartment. Dogs was pick up by a animal control service. Then to find two day later dogs was thrown over a bridge and killed.
Only two dogs survived the fall.
These people now have a civil sue against Housing, Police Department, Emergency Management, the Mayor of the town who order this nightmare and company that pick up the dogs.
Good luck
Assistance Dog Model State Law
The model law below is suitable as a basic template for any State law in the United States. The principles outlined will also be useful for any country or state looking to develop an assistance dog law.
LLS NO. 98-0000.01 BILL 98-
Bill Summary
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as introduced and does not necessarily reflect any amendments which may be subsequently adopted.)
1. Legislative declaration.
I. The general assembly hereby declares that it is the policy of the state to encourage and enable the blind, the visually impaired, the deaf, the partially deaf, and the otherwise disabled to participate fully in the social and economic life of the state and engage in remunerative employment.
II. The goals of the state regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self sufficiency for such individuals. The use of Assistance dogs by these individuals helps facilitate the accomplishment of these goals and should be permitted and encouraged by the State.
. As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:
a. “Assistance Dog” means a dog that has been or is being trained as a Guide Dog, Hearing Dog, or Service Dog. Such terms are further defined as follows:
i. “Guide Dog” means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a particular blind or visually impaired person.
ii. “Hearing Dog” means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a particular deaf or hard of hearing person.
iii. “Service Dog” means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a person with a disability other than sight or hearing.
b. “Places of Public Accommodation” means:
. Inns, hotels, motels, or other places of lodging, except for establishments located within buildings that contain five or fewer rooms for rent or hire, and that are actually occupied by the proprietor as the proprietor’s residence;
i. A restaurant, bar, cafeteria, lunchroom, lunch counter, soda fountain, casino, or other establishments serving food or drink, including any such facility located on the premises of any retail establishment;
ii. a gasoline station, or garage;
iii. A motion picture house, theater, billiard or pool hall, skating rink, swimming pool, concert hall, sports arena, stadium, amusement and recreation park, fair, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;
iv. An auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;
v. A bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;
vi. A laundromat, dry cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, clinic, dispensary, hospital, or other service establishment;
vii. A terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation,
viii. A museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;
ix. A park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;
x. A nursery school or elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school or other place of education;
xi. A day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment;
xii. A gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation;
xiii. Any other establishment or place to which the public is invited.
xiv. Any establishment physically containing or contained within any of the establishments described in paragraphs
xv. i—xiv inclusive which holds itself out as serving patrons of the described establishment.
c. “Housing accommodations” means any real property or portions thereof that is used or occupied, or intended, arranged, or designed to be used or occupied, as the home, residence, or sleeping place of one or more human beings, but does not include any single-family residence, the occupants of which rent, lease, or furnish for compensation to more than one room therein.
d. “Employer” means the State or any political subdivision, commission, department, institution or school district thereof and every other person employing persons within the State; but it does not mean religious organizations or associations, except such organizations or associations supported in whole or in part by money raised by taxation or public borrowing.
e. An “Individual with a Disability” is the same as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act 1991, including but not limited to, the blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise disabled.
Right to use of public facilities and services.
. An “Individual with a Disability” the blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise disabled has the right to be accompanied in or on public streets, highways, walkways, public buildings, public facilities and services, and other public places with an assistance dog specially trained for that person without being required to pay an extra charge for the assistance dog.
I. A person, whether or not he is blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing or otherwise disabled, has the right to be accompanied in or on public streets, highways, walkways, public buildings, public facilities and services, and other public places with an assistance dog being trained by that person without being required to pay an extra charge for the assistance dog.
Right to full and equal access to places of public accommodations.
. “Individuals with a Disability” including but not limited to, the blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise disabled have the right to be accompanied by an assistance dog trained for that person in any place of public accommodation without being required to pay an extra charge for the assistance dog.
I. A person, whether or not he is blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing or otherwise disabled, has the right to be accompanied in any place of public accommodation by an assistance dog being trained by that person without being required to pay an extra charge for the assistance dog.
Right to Full and Equal access to transportation.
. It is unlawful for a common carrier of passengers or other means of public conveyance or transportation operating in this state, including but not limited to motor vehicles, taxis, airplanes, railroad trains, motor buses, streetcars, boats, buses, or other modes of transportation, to refuse service to an “Individual with a disability”, because said person is accompanied by an assistance dog; or charge an additional fee for such assistance dog.
I. A person, whether or not he is blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing or otherwise disabled, has the right to be accompanied in any common carrier or other means of public conveyance or transportation operating in this state, including but not limited to motor vehicles, taxis, airplanes, railroad trains, motor buses, streetcars, boats, buses, or other modes of transportation, by an assistance dog being trained by that person without being required to pay an extra charge for the assistance dog.
II. An “Individual with a disability” accompanied by an assistance dog are subject to the same conditions and limitations that apply to persons who are not so disabled and accompanied.
Right to Full and Equal Housing Accommodations.
. A Landlord may not refuse to rent, lease or sublet any housing accommodation solely because an assistance dogs will be residing with the prospective tenant of the housing accommodation.
I. Places providing Housing accommodations shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures including but not limited to allowing an “Individual with a disability” to be accompanied by an Assistance Dog, especially trained or being trained by that person without being required to pay an extra charge for the Assistance dog.
II. A landlord may require proud that a dog is an assistance dog. A landlord shall accept as evidence that a dog is an assistance dog, identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harness or markings on harnesses, tags, or the credible verbal assurances of the disabled individual using the dog.
III. Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring an owner of any housing accommodation to make any physical modifications to any property for the purpose of accommodating an assistance dog.
Right to full and equal access to places of employment.
. It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer, labor organization or joint labor-management committee to discriminate against persons with a disability by interfering, directly or indirectly, with the use of an aid or appliance, including an assistance dog by such a person.
I. It is an unlawful employment practice of an employer, directly or indirectly, to refuse to permit an employee with a disability to keep his assistance dog with him at all times in his place of employment.
Liability for damage caused by Assistance Dog.
. The owner of an assistance dog is solely liable for any damage to persons, premises, or facilities including places of public accommodation, public conveyances or transportation services, common carrier of passengers, places of housing accommodations, and places of employment caused by that assistance dog.
I. An “Individual with a disability”, including but not limited to, the blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise disabled who uses an assistance dog shall keep the dog properly harnessed or Ieashed, and a person who is injured by the dog because of an “Individual with a disability”, including but not limited to, the blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise disabled failure to properly harness or leash the dog is entitled to maintain a cause of action for damages in a court of competent jurisdiction under the same laws applicable to other causes brought for the redress of injuries caused by animals.
. An owner of an assistance dog, or dog in training to be an assistance dog, shall be exempt from all state and local licensing fees or charges that might otherwise apply.
Violations – criminal penalties.
. It is unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, or agent of any person, firm, or corporation to:
. Withhold, deny, deprive, or attempt to withhold, deny or deprive any other persons of any of the rights or privileges secured in sections [] of this part;
a. Intimidate, threaten, coerce, or attempt to threaten, intimidate or coerce any other person to interfere with any of the rights or privileges secured by sections [] of this part;
b. Punish or attempt to Punish any person for exercising or attempting to exercise any right or privilege secured by sections [] of this part;
c. Interfere with an assistance dog or an assistance dog in training;
d. Allow another dog to injure an assistance dog or an assistance dog in training.
Civil Penalties.
. Any person who violates any provision of this part shall be liable to the person whose rights were affected for actual damages for economic loss to be recovered in a civil action in a court in the county where the infringement of rights occurred or where the defendant resides.
I. In any action commenced pursuant to this section, a court may award reasonable attorney fees and costs.
Precaution for drivers of motor vehicles approaching pedestrian who is carrying a white cane or using an Assistance Dog.
. The driver of a vehicle approaching a totally or partially blind pedestrian who is carrying a cane predominately white in color (with or without a red tip) or a blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or otherwise disabled person using an Assistance Dog shall take all necessary precautions to avoid injury to such pedestrian. Any driver who fails to take such precaution shall be liable in damages for any injury caused to such pedestrian and/or any injury caused to the pedestrian’s Assistance Dog. It shall be unlawful for the operator of any vehicle to drive into or upon any crosswalk while there is on such crosswalk, such pedestrian, crossing or attempting to cross the roadway, is such pedestrian indicates his intention to cross or to continue. The failure of any such pedestrian so to signal shall not deprive him of the right of way accorded him by other laws.

78 Marie 10.30.09 at 4:48 am

Thank you for the help I will look into the info today. It is sad before I became real sick I used to train rotties and horses. I used to care for rotties and worked for a top breeder who shows. I trained my dog but most important for a person with mental illness my dog came to me at 12 weeks old and bonded to me he knows all my emotions and feeling and know what to do and how to react. I am not asking to go out to eat with him I am asking to keep him in my home I agree to accomidations to ensure the safety and comfort of those who live around me I have vets that verify the I care and have full control of my dog. The only issue at hand is not letting the dog in the complex its his breed. If anyone knows Rotties bond strong with their human and family thats why they make great therapy dogs. I have a under the ADA Law to have my dog. The laws need to change the mentally disabled are pushed aside and forgot about because you can not see our disability.

79 jamie 10.30.09 at 11:03 am

I am glad to have found this website. I am an RN who has been on disability since 02. I had a standard poodle already, and due to her nearly “scary” intelligence it was a snap to teach her what I needed. After 6 surgeries on my leg (300 lb pt meets 100 lb nurse…guess who lost? :wink: I have mobility issues and on occasion will fall. If she is right by me she can steady and help me prevent the fall. Or if I am on the floor already she steadies to help me up. I also developed RSD in the leg which just means chronic ongoing pain..dang it.
Anyway, I had no idea that it would be within my rights to take her anywhere . I found this site because in the near future I will be getting a nother Standard poodle youngster to begin training to take over her job as she is now 8 and it just seems like the time to consider it in the near future. I wanted to find out how to make the next dog “official” and wanted to be able to train in public places.
I have had dogs all my life and would rather train my own dog anyway. Sunny, my current standard picks things up for me, brings me things,etc. We live alone. She is great emotional support also. As there are several on here that I am sure know, chronic pain wears one down. If I didn’t have Sunny, I don’t think I would have much purpose.
So thanks for the information. Now I have some real information about the laws. Thanks and to all, God Bless :grin:

80 Lynnette 10.30.09 at 11:07 am

Marie and ML,

If I may make a point, it’s critical to refer to our dogs by their correct service titles every single time we speak of them. Many issues that might never have risen, and many problems that should be easily resolved instead tend to escalate out of all proportion when a person doesn’t understand the different categories and know which one their dog is. These are LEGAL titles and we have got to use them correctly, or else face the consequences such as continuing problems with landlords, business owners, and the general public.

For example: There is no category of assistance animal called an emotional therapy dog. There is, however, a Therapy Dog and an Emotional Support Animal but there are no similarities between them. A THERAPY DOG is an obedience-trained PET that visits patients in nursing homes and hospitals to cheer them up without acting crazy and jumping on them or getting in the path of their wheelchairs and walkers. When I hear emotional therapy dog, I assume it’s a Therapy Dog that visits psychiatric wards to cheer those patients up. A Therapy Dog helps other people, not their owners, so it stands to reason that owners have no rights of public access or reasonable accommodation with this dog. Landlords are entitled to prohibit pets; therefore, anyone referring to their dog as a Therapy Dog is subject to that prohibition. If your dog isn’t a legally described Therapy Dog, don’t ever use that title because a TD isn’t an assistance animal and calling it one just invites trouble and misunderstandings.

An EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL (ESA) is also a pet but supports and comforts an owner who has mild mental illnesses (mild in the sense that their condition doesn’t require a service dog). Some states do not provide exceptions for ESAs from laws regarding pets but most states do so AS A COURTESY. Landlords usually exclude ESAs from a “no pets allowed” rule, especially if a physician or psychiatrist writes a letter of support to the landlord or rental management company. If your dog is an ESA, always refer to it by the legal title, Emotional Support Animal. If it isn’t an ESA, never refer to it as one or you’ll be stuck with the consequences of that mistake.

As I’ve mentioned before, we are obligated by law to know the federal laws regarding disability laws (or be able to quickly access them); included in those laws are descriptions of the categories of assistance animals. We also must learn the relevant laws of the state in which we reside. If there is any one thing that would improve our situations, it is to take responsibility for this. Failure to do so opens the door to unending hassles, and that really bugs me! Owners of professionally trained service dogs learn this fact during training, which may explain why owners of self-trained service dogs often feel looked down upon. It hurts us all that so many people don’t bother to know exactly what we’re entitled to, what category our dogs are in, and what our dogs are required to know. If a medical condition interferes with your ability to read through the laws and make your own copy of those that pertain to you, ask a friend to read and condense them for you.

The other named assistant animal titles are SERVICE DOG (includes MEDICAL ALERT DOG) and PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE DOG. If your dog is in one of these categories by legal definition, always call it by that title. If your dog doesn’t meet the qualifications of any of these categories, never refer to it by one of these titles, as you risk being charged with a federal felony– fraud. Some service dogs are occassionally used as Therapy Dogs too, but their correct title is Service Dog.

I took to heart what someone told me years ago: Don’t expect anyone to consider that you are credible if you don’t first give yourself credibility. Ouch! That hurt my feelings at the time but it is so very true. So take the time to understand the state and federal laws as required so that you can’t be taken advantage of, and always use the correct legal title for your dogs.

As for Rotties, I know several pro-trained Rott service dogs. A couple things to consider abut them is that there’s a drive to eliminate them as SDs because they have a short snout. In case you haven’t noticed, many breeds are under attack from animal rights (NOT animal welfare) extremists. Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is pending in most states this year and the extremists are citing the short nose (saying they can’t breathe right) and poor temperament as the reasons why. These extremists are winning, so be sure to follow these pending laws and write your legislators to let them know you oppose BSL. There are 3 cases pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding Rott service dogs being barred from public places. If your city, county or state says no Rotts, then that will include service dogs. We have to be involved in these politics whether or not we want to, if we don’t want to lose our favorite breeds as our service dogs. My breed, Belgian Groenendael, also is on the BSL list of breeds to ban. The successful opposition to such laws rests not on defending certain breeds, but on supporting the rights of individuals in this country to own whatever breed they choose.

81 Marie 10.30.09 at 1:13 pm

To everyone who gave me advise I just got word it was approved Praise God this is a huge step for us with mental disabilities and having our dogs in rental communities. Also for Rottweilers a breed that are always turned down so never give up be your own advocate and learn seek and fight for your rights and your dog.

82 Lynnette 10.30.09 at 1:19 pm

Great news, Marie!

83 Marie 10.30.09 at 1:35 pm

This is a huge step for all those who lost or who need a dog and don’t know the law protects them. How many dogs are put to sleep everyday that can be put in the hand of someone with a mental disability. This is a huge step for large breeds and Rottweilers. I am taking this blessing running with it to let others know you have rights.

84 Alma Febus 10.30.09 at 7:18 pm

Lynnette and Marie
Excellents words. I love all dogs but I am happy to own my Rottie. She is amazing and I don’t regret the breed.
Good luck

85 Marie 10.30.09 at 7:26 pm

Yes Rotties have such a bad name it is very sad. They are dedicated, intelligent, caring, the bond is something many can not understand unless they have had a Rottie. The bond is for life and they become so in tune with you thats why they do so well in therapy. I am so happy I hope the word gets out and many Rotties as well as all dogs and people that are disabled and rent have rights.

86 Alma Febus 10.30.09 at 7:41 pm

What is important now is your health. You must get stronger and don’t you ever give up your believes and rights. You are so right when you say we have right especially where you rent. Like other said our dogs are not pet they r Service Dog and cannot be consider as a pet.
We must be responsable when we have our sd and have them in control.

Today I was invited to go and speak with my SD in a school. I was so happy when people asked me so many question and see how good my rottie behave. Although kids want to play with her or touch her it is hard to tell them that she is working and she cannot be pet. But sometimes I remove her vest and aloud her to be with the kids. You have to see her when she get on kids scooter or skate board. They even have race with my Rotties. She is well manner but because of her breed poeple always discriminate us. But it is ok i will explain to anyone the different of SR and why I use her.
It is up to us to educate the people. It is bad enough we all have a disabilty condition and sometimes people look at us like we r different from them. But we r not, we have the same right and all r equal. So imaging us with a condition and now explain the use od our SD.

Don’t ever give up.

87 Marie 10.30.09 at 7:51 pm

Thank you so much you are so right. My dog is the same way loves kids also but strangers see the breed and discriminate based on looks. I also have Lupus and unseen disability and i get weird looks and have to explain. What you and your SD are doing is great I hope after I get my Sd back and I get better I can go out and educate and hpe this opens the door to more Rotties waiting for homes to get trained to be therapy and SD dogs. This is big for those who rent I didn’t know my rights if I did I wouldn’t have lost him the first time. I decided to get educated and instead of complaining I learned and the internet showed me the laws and I researched until I had the answers. Yes most important be a smart dog owner period. I am happy you are able to break the stereo types for those who are disabled as well as Rotties and SD dogs. Thank you and yes never give up and believe!

88 Marie 10.31.09 at 6:56 am

I forgot to add being so caught up in the drama of getting my dog back. I trained my dog. I learned through my past work history working with trainers and learning first. I think it is important to train a dog basic obedience first. As far as a dog for emotional therapy it is the bond with owner and dog that help this training. I am going to further my training as well as my dog. I also know no matter how much training it is up to the owner to enforce and keep up with this training. It is hard many time my dog and my previous dog have been atacked by stray dogs running around or owners not in control if their dogs. Its sad. But I also think emotional therapy dogs and PSD dogs should have as many rights as any pro dog if the the dog prooves its self and the owner.

89 John 10.31.09 at 9:50 am

I recommend a few neccassary things for every Service Dog Owner.

1. Print out a copy of the ADA Guide for businesses on Service Animals an get it laminated and carry it with you anytime you go out with your dog.
2. Get to know you r state laws on Service Animals. An example here in Florida denying access to a Service Animals to a public place is a criminal offense. Print out and laminate a copy of this to carry with you.
3. Contact your local law enforcement agency and find out if they understand the laws, if they don’t contact your local legislative body and ask them to help you get the message to Law Enforcement.
4. Know your local Law Enforcement non emergency number so if an incident happens you can call them immediately.
5. If you confronted by business personel and ask to remove your dog, maintain your cool. Ask to speak to a manager and ask them if they are familar with the Service Animal laws. Ask them to read the information you have brought with you. If they still don’t allow your access, maintain your cool and leave the premises. Call local law enforcement and explain the situation to them and ask for them to send someone out to assist you in this matter.
If this doesn’t work contact either the DOJ or a Civil Rights Lawyer.
Remember never lose your temper, if you do then they have a reason to have you removed.
I have seen a couple of people here mentioning WalMart and a lawsuit. This is ridicules! I hope the court throws the book at them, because there already has been a lawsuit and a consent decree issued.


90 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 11.02.09 at 6:28 am

Aloha Lynnette,
The first step I did was photograph the sign in question that the principle had pointed out the next morning and discovered that there is no mentioning of dogs whatsoever in the signage. So like you said,cooler heads prevail. I called the school district and spoke to the head of security management for the district and figured that their job must be part of working in Loss Prevention areas of the district also.
I explained in detail what had happen and was transferred to the school district superintendent and was able to talk to him for about 20 minutes and he was very informed on the ADA laws and said that the principle was in the wrong but needed to get her side of the story and would give me a call back. I told him of my concerns and that I want to be an advocate and not a poster child of ADA laws. He also said that the district was in no position to challege Federal laws and that he would review the law himself to make sure that he himself was correct before speaking to that principle on how she was incorrect. He did say that some years ago,the district did have signs that included “No Dogs on School property” but found that the newer signs no longer reflect that. This gentleman really seemed to be on top of his game and knew just how to handle this issue. Again, communications seems to be the key to solving these issues.
After talking to her,her concern was that she would be responsable if Rocky should ever bite anyone. He had to explain to her that Federal Law protects the school districts interests and that laibility would be on me for Rocky and not her. That she wasn’t allowed to deny me access,detain me and provide reasonable accommadations. He even took it one step further. That she must teach the other teachers about the ADA Act of 1990 and service dogs. I told her the next day that I have plans to go to the awards show on Friday to see my daughter get her two awards. Everything went fine during the show and Rocky did a great job on his part too. I even heard one teacher tell a couple of her students that were reaching out to pet Rocky that they must not do that because Rocky is a working Service Dog and doing so could in fact,put me in danger and I totally agree.
The moral of the story was that I had to be in control and use the chain of command for the school district and give them an oportunity to handle this issue on their own levels first in order for it to work to my benefit without getting mad over nothing. It worked good this way and made me feel better too!

91 Alma Febus 12.03.09 at 6:29 pm

I just want to tale this opportunity to thank everyone for all the grate information and also to wish all a happy holiday.

Alma and Bambie

92 Alma Febus 12.03.09 at 6:30 pm

I meant to say take this opportunity :lol:

93 Todd and S.D. "Rocky" 12.04.09 at 5:40 am

Hello Lynnette,
I can’t believe the hoops I’ve had to jump through to get Rocky into the state of Hawaii. Their laws are much different than the state I live in. There are requiring Cert. of training,medical recommandations from my doctor and my vet, to enter the state of Hawaii. I’m kind of getting the same thing from the airlines. None of them understand the ADA Act of 1990 and one airline has never heard of it which totally surprised me and she wanted me to explain it to her. She told me that she works from the sheets the airlines provide her. So,I carry a copy of my DD214 and DD215 to show proof of my training in training military police dogs for drugs , explosives and SARS. I do not train attack dogs and I will not either. I do not believe in abusing dogs to get thm to do certain jobs.
I did get the forms and got all required signatures but it looks like our job as advocates for Service Animals is far from over. My disablilities are obviously physical with more metal that a 1979 Hugo inside of me, I just wish I felt as good as the $6 Million Dollar Man though. Sometimes I make jokes about my disablilities to make myself feel better and to make light of them but there are moments of sadness,like when I do travel. From TSA to the airline companies,Customs,hotels and even taxis. No one has ever heard of the ADA Act of 1990 or even how to treat a person with disablilities. Rocky is my whole world at times. He helps me in ways that I wouldn’t help myself. Sometimes without his help,I would never get out of bed. He makes me get out of bed,makes me walk,reminds me to take my meds and then alerts eeryone when I am sick and need to go to the hospital. Earlier this year,I became very sick overnight and I was staying at a hotel for a week. He opened the hotel door and ran to the front desk office to the hotel. He went all the way around the office to the side with the automatic doors and put his two front paws on the desk and started barking. He made a couple of attemps to get the staff to follow him and they figured it out. Using a master key to get in,they discover me on the floor and loaded me up in their car and took me down the street to the hospital. The doctors found my flashdrive of my medical records in Rocky’s vest and was able to provide proper treatment. I don’t know if Rocky alerted them to that too but he is one very sweet, loving dog and smarter than most people in some cases. You hear about stories of children dailing 911 and saving their parents but a dog doing that doesn’t get much coverage. I am very lucky to have a very friendly German Shephard that stays by my side day and night and does what he does. I want the whole world to know that service dogs are an extention of me like my right arm or cane or even a wheelchair. Rocky just seems to know me better than I know myself.
So Lynnette,never give up your day job because we need good people like you to protect the people who are unable to protect themselves. Mahalo-Todd & Medical Alert Service Dog-Rocky.

94 Lynnette 12.04.09 at 8:15 am

Todd, it sounds like you have a major headache on your hands. Hawaii handles all animals differently than the rest of the states because the islands aren’t on the continent. I know of no exceptions to quarantine or any other laws there.

But as for the airlines, don’t go explaining things to ordinary employees. For one thing, only reservation representatives, customer service for special needs assistance (and most flight attendants) know the rules re SDs. Secondly, and far more important, is that every time any one of us tells a business more than they’re legally entitled to ask, we give up a piece of our privacy and give in to more and more invasiveness each and every time it happens. It’s insidious and we usually don’t realize how much we’ve lost until there’s little left to lose. Next thing we know, every business starts thinking they have the right to our medical files and private lives… and we start providing it without a thought. Thirdly, when employees obviously don’t have a clue what your talking about or why you’re showing them documents re your health or a SD, you have no idea what they’ll do with your confidential information. And one more reason that makes my point. I have twice seen people carry on so much about needing their SD for medical reasons that the airline eventually refused to let the person board. Both times it was the person’s own fault. What happened was that they went into their medical conditions to such a degree that it finally convinced the airline that the person’s health was too poor to travel without a medical assistant traveling with them. That’s an ugly example of giving too much information to employees who have no business knowing everything about a person. The harder one tries to justify the SD, the deeper the hole gets dug.

One other thing to consider is that airlines follow DOT & FAA procedures, not ADA, in all things. The ADA and Justice Dept regulations are folded into DOT regs, so it makes sense that most employees don’t know what the ADA is about. Airlines do have this information on their websites

After you’ve make an airline reservation on the internet, call the number listed for customer service for special needs passengers and simply tell him or her that you travel with a service dog. You can also say it’s a large dog and request a bulkhead seat. If you forget to request that row, the ticket taker and/or flight attendant will probably seat you there anyway once they see you in the boarding area. Even if the online seating chart shows those seats are filled, passengers will be moved to other seats because disabled persons have courtesy-priority in that row. We still have to keep the dog only at or between our feet and not let it sprawl into the person’s floorspace next to us, but there’s a lot more legroom in that row of seats so it should work out OK.

The phone number you need to call for special needs assistance such as aisle wheelchairs or SDs can be found on every airline’s website but you have to go looking for it. If you make your reservation by phone or in person, tell the clerk that’s serving you that you need to speak with special needs customer service when you’re finished.

Having said all the above, I should add that airline personnel should be trained to handle persons with SDs but in reality not everyone is. I’ve had security personnel attempt to nonchalantly test my dog by shoving paper to the edge of the table and act like he was going to knock it off. Presumably they want to see if my dog picks it up but when I see that kind of inappropriate behavior I just smile and say “Are you teasing my dog?”

As best I can tell from being on all airlines, the person at the desk by a boarding gate is who knows how to cautiously ask about service dogs. Only a person whose dog is roaming the waiting area, barking, trying to reach fool on the floor or stretching to be petted by other people in the area will be challenged. The only med documents required is a doctor’s or psychiatrist’s letter fora Psychiatric SDs.

95 Jackie 02.04.10 at 8:51 pm

My student apartment (run by the university) is kicking me out because I have a service dog. I have lupus and anxiety disorder. My doctor said I needed a service dog. I have proper documentation and notified my apartment complex. At first they were ok with it, but now they have informed me that I am going to be evicted because of it. I was notified yesterday and I have to be out tomorrow. I talked to the school lawyer and she said that because the university owns it they do not have to comply with the ADA or fair housing. Is this true?!?

I was also told lupus is not a real disease, and that I do not need a service animal even though multiple doctors have documented that I do.

I’m going to stay at a hotel until I can get a new place to live. Oh and because it is student housing they make you pay months in advance and I have paid through August and they said I am just going to lose it all, plus I have to pay $500 for a cleaning fee because I brought my dog in.

She is registered with the American Service Dog Association.

96 Kathy 02.04.10 at 10:53 pm

You need to call Dept of Justice. They can not just change the rules.
In my opinon, although I do not know what your lease says, etc. your attorney is paid by the University to begin with, so I wouldnt take a word she says, they aren’t exempt from the law.
Also, they can not give 24 hour evictions! They have to give at least 10 days to my knowledge, as far as I know in Ohio.
But Dept. of Justice is who you need to call. But its gonna take time to get their packet to fill out. Ask how or what you can do to expedite things.
I hope that you get justice in this. Too many people are saying they do not need to follow the law when it comes to people with service animals. All they care about is themselves. This isn’t right.
Might want to think about calling the media around there.

Keep us posted

97 Bonnie 03.14.10 at 2:42 pm

After reading all of these wonderful comments I was inspired to ask for a little help. I have some sever vision impairments, I’m not totally blind but I might as well be. I wanted to go the route of picking my own guide dog so I found a highly accomplished and respected private trainer and she helped me locate my dog. He happens to be a larger sized Border Collie, a BEAUTIFUL black and white bundle of energy. And he’s got his CGC, and gone and done well at obedience trials. Anyway, he’s been my fully trained guide dog for several months, and he’s doing wonderful. My problems are more of a human nature. We run into people who say he’s not a guide dog since he’s not a lab or a Shepard. I’m shy and have a hard time explaining to people that he IS a guide dog no matter what breed he is. Has anyone else run into this problem? Any ideas on what I can say in just a few words to help people understand? And leave me ALONE? Haha
Thank you everyone!

98 Kathy Bright 03.14.10 at 3:16 pm

It is a shame that people need to be so ignorant and think they know better than the person who is in need of a Service Dog. I get problems due to me needing to use a Great Dane, due to his size. *whopping 175 lbs.* but for a mobility/balance dog, his size is EXACTLY what I need!
My suggestion to you is to get ADA law cards to hand to someone and just walk away. I was given some where it states the ADA law of 1990 and says that they have violated it. I usually hand it too them and smile, walking away. I am not sure where you can get them. I would suggest looking at some Service Dogs sites, or maybe the Delta Society may have them.
I just know that they have come in handy for me to explain in a polite but educational way of how they can not question you. If it is something that continues then maybe call Dept. of Justice and see what they say in how to handle these situations.
Good luck Bonnie, and I hope things get a bit easier.
Kathy & Duke, SD.

99 Curasmom 03.14.10 at 7:54 pm

I’m glad you ordered the cards, they will help. I understand your frustration and the thoughts about what to do when it comes time to retire Phoenix. First, hopefully that day will be a long time coming. But, when it does, resist the pressure to conform. The important thing is that the dog performs necessary services that you need — regardless of breed. It may not always be fun, but I have learned that a big part of having a Service Dog is education. The cards should help you with that despite any shyness you may have. Just give them the card and be on your way.

100 Cindy 06.25.10 at 1:40 pm

I don’t know what to do. If you are disabled like me in a small midwest town, and I thought my 5 mo. puppy Mia, whom I rescued from a backyard breeder, spent much money and almost 3 mo. getting well, loving her and training her to be my companion/service animal, so I took her to the humane society because I thought she wasn’t happy enough or getting enough exercise, it was closing time, I could barely drive home. Called and left a message that I don’t think I can do this and don’t call people whom were interested in her brother. I tried to stay away for over a day, I just wanted to take her home. But they wanted her because a family they know has money and the woman volunteers their, wanted her brother and so they called her and said that family is adopting her. I realized after looking over notes about raising Mia and what the neighbors told me that she layed around for two days due to the shots I got her. I saw her and she wiggled and whimpered which is what she does when she is happy, and she knew I was taking her home, but they wouldn’t let me. I have a good record as a pet owner, am registered with them for foster care volunteer, the owner of my apt. buildings wife is the Director but was on vacation and did tell the manager that I love my pets. They also said that had I come back that day they would have returned her, I said check your phone messages, the office was closing so I called when I got home and not to show her to those people, she had to be spayed yet due to I was waiting until 6 mo. I hate it that they spay animals too young. I need her, she needs me, I am a good home for her I can’t seem to do anything without her, she was my reason to keep going on with all my health issues. I could have petitioned the court but this small town would have destroyed me, they don’t understand disabled persons emotional issues. I don’t know what to do.. Do you? She will be gone from their by today, if not already. They should have helped me through my concerns about doing what is best for her and let me know that she was laying around due to the shots. Since I have been disabled, government agencies or non-profit HELP, has stomped on my rights, and they will do things so you are afraid to complain and loose what little you have. I use to be confident, I was 12 credits shy of College degree, had a house bought as a single person raising 2 girls. Now I am pathetic, and turning into a recluse…Mia was changing that.

101 Dizzy 03.29.11 at 12:37 am

I would very much like a few short sentences to explain to curious people about my service dog (in training). The previous suggestions about handing out cards won’t work for me, because the situation is different in Australia. I have never had anyone be rude to me; they just want to know what my dog does.

Like many others, I look “normal” and I don’t want to go into details about severe depression and fibromyalgia and so on. ALSO, my dog ( a 12 inch high American Staffy x Silky Terrier) is quite small and still looks like a puppy and so she doesn’t LOOK like a service dog.

I have thought about explaining that she can make sure that people don’t bump into me and how I am beginning to teach her to find the closest exit and/or the car for me, but …..

any ideas?

102 Michelle 06.13.11 at 11:07 am

I JUST came across this yesterday when I joined a service dog forum! It’s disturbing and silly that people who have gone through the hardships of a disability and have to have a service dog will bully others who face the same situation, although not always the same disability.

As people with similar situations, shouldn’t we be supporting each other?? Why should strangers, who have no idea what it’s like to have problems so bad that you require a service dog to function in day to day life, be nicer to service dog users than other service dogs users are?!

103 Dia 06.14.11 at 10:15 am

OMG Thank you! I have run up against this several times and each time I’ve “walked” (okay, navigated) away from the page or site wondering what the frack this I’m-more-disabled-than-your-are menatlity was. I stumbled upon your blog, saw this post and have now signed up to follow you – you appear to be a voice of reason in the chaos. Thank you!

104 Brittany K. 07.04.11 at 12:03 pm

HI, my name is Brittany and I have been diagnosed with fibro for 3 years know. Only, my fibro isn’t so bad that I need a dog to retrieve an object, or open a door. I was wondering though, could I still use a service dog to engage in more physical activities, or something in that area? Or is my fibro just not severe enough for even the thought of a service animal?
Thanks, Brittany Kinger

105 Brittany K. 07.04.11 at 12:07 pm

For those of you with a service animal, my encourageing words are: ”Even if you have a disability, just to try your best and live for all the good days, no matter what other poeple think! God Bless All”

106 lalura 09.30.11 at 1:02 pm

Isn’t the Delta society sort of elitist? they really only list one trainer in Montana when you search their “directory”

107 Karla Brewster 02.06.12 at 5:10 am

Ok, so, yeah, in some ways, I am an elitist when it comes to service dogs. Why? Because I see alot of “crappy” ones out there. BTW, my “elitism” doesn’t just apply to owner trainers, I include alot of organizations in it too.
Here are my guidelines:
1) You have to be willing to “dump” a dog. Period. Leave your emotions at home. I know you love the dog, but if he isn’t working, he isn’t working. Get him gone, find another home, return him to rescue, whatever. But, start from scratch. Now, the reason why owner trainers often settle for second best? THey don’t prepare for the expense of starting over.
2) Don’t whine, complain, etc…about expenses, etc….if you can’t afford the dog, then don’t get him. And, if you are smoking cigs, drinking soda, eating chips/salsa….well….maybe you need to rethink your priorities(I get really tired of the people who don’t want to pay for a dog).
3) Suggestion: Listen to the folks who have been doing it for years. There is a reason why most orgs don’t use certian breeds. A valid good reason. Listen to it.
4) Don’t accept less than the best. Period. All service dogs, BEFORE they are called even service dogs in training, should have the following:
—Hip/elbow exrays
—cardiac testing
—all vaccines, heartworm testing, etc.
(BTW There is never an excuse for a poorly trained dog. None. Give it up. If you try, you are kidding yourself, and lying to yourself.

So, yeah, unless you are meeting my standards, I am an elitist when it comes to service dogs.

108 Shavonne 10.14.12 at 12:02 am

I recently adopted a dog from a rescue with the intention of turning it into a service/mobility/emotional support companion for myself, because I like many other disabled people did not want to have to wait years to get a dog. However, an incident accord when she escaped through our back door at our apartment that had a faulty latch, and due to this we (my fiancee and I) were forced by my apartment manager to give her back to the rescue or risk loosing mine and my fiancee’s home which we could not afford to happen. I am now concerned though that people will be angry and upset with me getting another dog though it is much younger from a good home and a much smaller breed of dog. especially since I want to do most of her training on my own.

109 Dr Betty Schueler 03.02.13 at 6:43 am

When I became disabled my condition required a large-breed dog that could support my 225 lb weight. I went with a Rottie-Husky mix and she served me well for many years.

Eventually the time came for her to retire and I was too ill to train a new dog. As a result, I haven’t been able to go out, without assistance, for the past 3 years.

My biggest problem is traveling and shopping. I have osteoporosis, and a fall at a store, would likely result in a broken hip at least. I recently lost a dear friend who fell at a store and later died from complications.

I will need a fairly large dog and I can foresee that there will be a number of stores who will not be thrilled to see me coming. Most of the larger breeds, that are suitable weight and size wise, tend to slobber and shed copiously.

It makes it very difficult to find such a dog without going into the bully breeds. I am sure this will create all sorts of difficulties and I will go to the bottom of the service-dog hierarchy in the opinion of some people.
It doesn’t bother me a bit as my life and health are far more important than what some small-minded person thinks.

All sorts of animals can be used to help enrich, and possibly save, our lives. I hope no one ever feels inferior because they trained their own service animal or they are using a species, or breed, that isn’t usually chosen for service work.

110 nisep1 06.17.13 at 10:38 am

I have a service dog that was self-taught for hyperglycemia. Probably spelled wrong but it is somewhat the opposite of diabetes. My dog is now 6 1/2 years old and has been protecting me for about 5 1/2 years faithfully.

Because I have limited blood flow in my legs my dog was trained to sample my upper arms via taste and smell. Naturally he could not assist me when I was wearing long pants. He licks my upper arm several times an hour especially when I’m asleep.

My dog is a Shi Tzu, a 20 pound dog. His size was chosen because I travel a lot on airliners and his breed is hypoallergenic.

Herein lies the problem. I play poker here in Las Vegas simi-professionally. I have been playing at a certain casino on a regular basis and I kept my service dog on a chair behind me. This allows him access to my upper right arm. There has been no problem with this at the above referenced casino or any other casino in Las Vegas. Now, my regular casino has come to me and dictated that my dog can no longer sit in a chair, or even my lap, that he has to be under the table at my feet. Of course, there is no room under the tables for him to fit. And, it is very nasty under all the tables. If he is at my feet he cannot alert me for my disability. Someone complained that he was allergic to my dog to the poker room manager. Security found a commercial ADA training manual that was given to them on their annual training. Their trainer told them that under no circumstances could a service dog be sitting on a chair or in his handler’s lap. The commercial ADA training manual I saw confirmed that. The only thing I saw at the ADA website was that the dog could not take the seat of a paying customers, such as if he sat in one of the 10 seats at the poker table, a seat on an airliner, etc.

I have been all over the ADA website and I have not seen anywhere that said my dog could not sit beside me in a chair or that he HAS to be on the floor. They even refused to allow me to bring in a small cart that I furnish that my dog could sit on. They are adamant that by ADA law my dog can only be on the floor. Their ADA compliance lady told them that they could be fined if they allowed me to continue as in the past.

My civil rights are being violated because I can no longer go to that facility safely because I would have to leave my dog behind. It is a big corporation with multiple casinos. They have no concern that I am a disabled veteran and I need my dog to stay alive. Actually they would rather not deal with the matter and they are coming up with all kinds of reasons to bar me. Customers are allergic to him, one customer was scared of him, and they even said he crapped on the carpet sometime back which is total bull.

What can I do? I can file an ADA complaint but that will take a year, it will go to arbitration, and no telling the result. For that year I have lost my ability to subsidize my income at a public accommodation.

It seems no one is knowledgeable about proximity alert service dogs. I have encountered numerous service dogs like mine that have been trained for the upper arm for a variety of disabilities.

Do you have any suggestions what I can do or where I can go to get immediate help. The most recent ADA rules make no mention to where service dogs HAVE to sit.

Please help me or tell me where to go.

Thank you,

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