Saturday, January 28, 2023

Abuse of service dog status opens all sorts of doors… But it sure is rude!

Is it just me or is anybody else even the slightest bit put off and annoyed by this increasing trend of people passing their dog off as a ‘service dog’ just so they can accompany their owners into restaurants and grocery stores?

First let me say I am very aware and completely support the certified and trained ‘service dog’ to assist disabled folks and people with legitimate needs. I have a dear friend who has a ‘service dog’ who can detect the onset of her young daughter’s debilitating seizures. I’ve witnessed it first hand and it’s truly amazing. I also understand the utility of dogs to help wheelchair bound people and those who legitimately benefit from the dog with day to day chores and such. They are truly remarkable, highly trained and exceedingly well behaved animals and I completely support their rights to accompany their handlers in restaurants and grocery stores.

However… Today, for the second time in the past few months I had the displeasure of sharing the produce aisle in Vons with a very capable and ambulatory appearing middle age woman as she walked her medium size shaggy dog pulling at the end of it’s six foot leash. Clearly NOT a trained service dog.

Similarly, a while back, some thirty something and very attractive woman is in the same produce aisle with her golden retriever. Standing there with my daughter as the dog sniffs at us I politely asked, ‘Um, do you think it’s appropriate to have your dog in the grocery store.” The gal indignantly responds something like, “Well, if you can have your kid in here I guess I can have mine.” Again, clearly NOT a service dog.

In both cases, store management tell me all the people have to do is CLAIM their dog is a service dog and there’s nothing anyone can do.

This trend is becoming all to common in restaurants as well. Not on the patio, which I really have no gripe with. But indoors the restaurant among folks trying to eat their meal. Again, more often than not the dogs are not walking in a proper ‘heel’ as a true “service dog” is trained to do.

Often these dogs are darting about sniffing and nosing under tables and customer’s feet, such a some guy the other evening in a local eatery. He had his tiny dog on one of those lengthly retractable leashes stretched out to 8 or 10 feet. There’s one gentleman here in town who has his tiny dog sit in it’s own chair and eats off the table with him. Upon realizing we were talking amongst ourselves about this activity he rudely and boisterously jumped up and informed us (and everyone else in the place) his teacup dog was indeed a “service dog”…… Really?

Here’s the dirty little secret… The American With Disabilities Act allows anyone to deem their dog a “service dog” and for anywhere from a mere $58.00 to $160.00, (or something) you can pay a handy Internet site to “register” your dog as a “service dog,” an “emotional support dog,” or a “therapy dog.” Best part is, there’s no “qualifications” or “requirements!! Just your word.

Once they send you a handy little “official” card, (which has absolutely NO legitimate standards or requirements other than your word and the fee), you too can have free reign to take your dog anywhere you’d like. And it’s good for the life of the dog…

Besides these people abusing the system and thinking nothing of being completely disingenuous as to actually having any sort of real illness or disability, I can’t help but think of the slap in the face it is to those legitimate “service dog” handlers who have to watch these selfish people take advantage of THEIR REAL handicap or physical challenges and their trained legitimate ‘service dog’ just so they can skirt the system and take their dogs where it is otherwise inappropriate and/or illegal.

It’s just rude…!