Friday, June 14, 2013

Do not pet or feed a service dog when it is working

A service dog has the right to be with its human but that doesn't mean they should be petted by strangers. They are specially trained to make life easier for their human and they come under the protection of ADA laws. Service dogs are more along the lines of living walkers, wheelchairs or crutches. They aren't pets and can never be treated as such.

Tomlin having his shoes removed.
Please do not try to pet or feed a service dog when it is working. Owners spend incredible amounts of time and money for dog training, gear and upkeep. Doing the wrong thing (no matter how well-intentioned) can undo years of hard work and possibly render the service dog useless.

Please consider ...

1. The table scrap that you gave just taught the dog that restaurants aren't just for humans. That's one place that the dog can now never go with his human.

2. If the dog is in your way, ask the owner to please move him/her. Pushing down on a service dog teaches him to sit. He will now do so even when his human needs help to get up out of the floor to to be steadied to prevent a fall.

3. The human may be on vacation but the service dog is not. Do not ask the team to leave a theme park or beach just because you think they have no right to be there. Check with an official (such a security or a lifeguard) if you have doubts or call the ADA Hotline by the Department of Justice for guidance.

4. Never give a service dog food, water or anything else without first checking with its human. A bowl may not be constantly present if the dog is in a classroom or meeting. Owners know how important it is to take care of their service animal.  Like humans, personal needs are taken care of on breaks or in between classes.

5. People sometimes assume that service dogs are pets. That's not true. Owners work with their dog daily to reinforce training. A pet owner may slide on training, medications for flea and tick relief or heartworm medications but not so with service dogs.

6. When you see a team, don't jump in and treat the animal as a pet. Ask if the owner needs anything for the dog and then act accordingly. If you have a question about what the dog does or are unsure what to do, then also ask the owner. We love our animals and are usually very glad to tell you all about them.

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