I have written previously about this subject but it bears repeating.
A couple weeks ago a passenger on Delta Airlines was bitten several times in the face by a service dog that was either in the lap of or in the seat next to his guardian. The dog was a lab/shepherd mix I believe so I’m not sure about position of the dog but it was a sizable dog and did sizable damage which required 28 stitches to close.
Without going into the specifics of this particular incident it brings up the concern of allowing service dogs to attend their guardians in social settings. There has been an increase of conflicts between ‘service’ dogs and other patrons (or dogs for that matters) in the last two years and most of these occur with ‘emotional support dogs’ when the increase is clarified by duties of the dog.
Let me state that I do not have anything derogatory to say against the wonderful work service dogs provide. I had one for a number of years. But I have many issues with the untrained ‘service dog’- and we have all seen them out among the public. You know them. Those dogs wearing the vest of a working dog but seem more reactive to situations than well trained ‘bullet-proof’ service dogs; they back up when approached, bark at sunglasses and pink hair or growl softly at other dogs. What is this problem stemming from?
I think the availability of service dog vests to anyone over the internet is large reason unqualified dogs are being gift wrapped as service animals. In that line of thought, it seems this could be curtailed by implementing requirements for getting a vest other than paying for it, slapping it on your dog and calling him an emotional support service dog. Perhaps only certified trainers of service animals should be allowed to obtain the vest. This does sound like I am singling this group out and I suppose I am because this group (emotional support service dog) is the leading culprit in incidents by a very large margin. And veterans have a real need for these dogs. But the dog MUST be trained to be classified as a service animal. I know from experience that there are requirements in place to classify an animal as viable for service work. I believe it is the availability of the vest that makes it possible for unqualified animals to claim ‘service’ status. Guardians abusing this availability of vests should be held accountable for this breech of privilege (both legally and otherwise) because their actions will have devastating effects on individuals that truly need service animals down the road and how welcomed the pair will be. Currently there is no legal way to refuse entry of a service animal and that is how it should be, but if there begins to be cause for public safety concerns and legal responsibilities that is likely to change.
Let me reaerate that I am in support of service animals, including emotional support dogs, but there has to be a qualifier. They must be proven to be reliable in all social settings.
The guardians abusing this very important issue should be ashamed of themselves for making it difficult for people who have genuine issues and need their completely TRAINED service animals to accompany them.
I will now climb down from my soapbox….