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Service Animals and the Importance of Not Faking It

Posted by Briana Graber on

I know how nice it would be if we could bring our pets everywhere we go, but there's generally good reasons for not allowing pets in certain areas.  It can be a food safety hazard at restaurants, buildings don't want to clean up after a poorly trained pet, and so on.  

Service animals are given separate treatment and allowances for the work they do an in consideration for their owners, who have disabilities that the dog is trained to handle.  They are an allowance made under the Americans With Disabilities Act.  It's easy not to see it that way, since these days most people you come across with a service dog aren't blind or obviously impaired, but service dogs can do so much more that still requires them to be with their owners constantly.  They can also detect seizures, for instance, before they happen, allowing someone to get to safety before its onset.  Service dogs are also trained to handle disorders such as panic disorders, PTSD, and depression. The most common image we have of the service dog is the dog leading a blind man as we've seen in movies and media.

They do important work, but some people have taken to putting service dog vests on their pets so that they can bring them into buildings and other locations that normally wouldn't.  While this urge is understandable, if there's any misbehavior at all, it reflects badly on service animals in general and the reputation of those who actually need them, making their motives suspect.  The issue has become serious enough that Wyoming is considering making it illegal to pretend a pet is a service animal.  The Washington Times states that "In one case, a client who uses a dog for balance took it to a grocery store.  Another person's pet dog ran up and startled the service animal, causing the client to fall." In these cases it not only does damage to the reputation of service animals and their owners, but can cause physical harm to people as well.

As nice as it would be to have your pet with you at all times, for the consideration of others, please don't try and pass of a pet as a service dog.

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