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19 thoughts on “Beneath the 'Headlines' of the DOT's Final Guidance of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals

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  1. One of the main problems with all this legislation is that “service dogs” and “support animals” are NOT the same thing.

    A service dog performs services. It is trained to see for someone, or hear for them, or calm them in a state of agitation, block people from touching the owner. balance them, or warn them of a seizure etc. They have actual jobs. This dog is a professional dog that needs to perform “at least three meaningful tasks” in the completion of its duties. It also must be trained to a high degree of obedience and be temperamentally sound.

    A support dog is an emotional support for someone whose mental state may be fragile. It provides no service other than “being there”, may not be even adequately trained in basic obedience. This role may be filled for some people by a friendly cat, ferret or parrot. This has to do with doctors signing certificates for fragile patients so they don’t lose their pet due to housing restrictions.

    Where this all falls apart is that most countries only a require a Doctor’s certificate to certify that an owner needs this animal for one role, or the other. Most doctors may be able to qualify what is needed for their patient. They’re *not* qualified to determine whether the dog’s functions in its role, sufficiently.

    There’s many ways to solve this problem. One would be legislation around what qualifies as a service dog and where such dogs are to be tested and by whom. Another would be to allow service dogs, but not support dogs, on airplanes. Right now, support dogs aren’t allowed in any place that serves food so why are the airlines, allowing them on board? Only proven service dogs can go wherever if the owner has a doctor’s certificate.

    I understand many disabled people cannot afford to purchase, or have no access to, proper service dogs. The waiting lists are huge.

    However, the dog, at the beginning and end of training, at the very least needs to be seen by someone qualified to assess the dog’s capabilities.

    Just sticking a vest on Petey The Pitbull does not qualify it as a service dog. It’s just too risky.

  2. Thanks for the detailed examination of this issue. What I never see addressed by the legal authorities is the definition of “pet” or any realistic psychological assessment of what it means to desire the company of an animal. Specifically, while the ADA expressly excludes emotional support, comfort, and companionship from its definition of “service animal,” these effects are nevertheless continually being invoked to confer some special status on a pet (e.g., “emotional support animal,” “comfort animal,” “therapy animal”).

    But these effects of comfort, emotional support and companionship, it seems to me, are simply what define a “pet” (as opposed to, say, livestock) and merely describe the bonding that can develop between human beings and other species. They do not confer anything more special than what is meant by “pet” in the first place. So the repeated efforts of both the authorities and some pet owners to carve out some niche between “pet” and and a strictly defined “trained service animal” just strike me as misguided and bound to result in all kinds of pernicious — and dangerous — situations.

  3. Thank you for this very, very detailed update. When will the government stop forcing dangerous animals on the people? Not likely within my lifetime, at the rate that they are coming at me.
    Federal and local governments are, in practice, openly forcibly pro- dangerous animal, and openly forcibly pro- people maiming/death. There is no avoiding dangerous canines, and no defense against dangerous canines in our society except possibly inside your own home and Church. Even your ungated property is unsafe from physical and legal attack. This problem will be solved for me only when God much belatedly answers my repeated, fervent prayers to take my working breed canine afflicted soul to Heaven.

  4. The entire ADA needs to be abolished. The ONLY animals that should be considered real service animals should be guide dogs for the blind, anything else should be approved on a case by case basis and only for physical disabilities, since we have drugs and therapies for mental and emotional conditions. Of course all weaponized breeds should be ineligible- pit bulls and mixes, rottweilers, mastiffs, Caucasian mountain dog, belgian malinois for starters.

    • At the very least, there should be some objective, physical verifiability to the service the animal is providing a human being. As I suggest above, the problem with getting into the emotional and psychological benefits that animals provide us is that it puts the government in the ludicrous position of determining who is more emotionally or psychologically bound to their companion animal.

      This is tantamount to asking who loves their dog more? It’s an impossible standard.

      • Good question, Mike.

        As someone who trained protection dogs back in the day and other sorts of dogs, here’s my take on it.

        A dog that works with you is a junior partner. It’s not a pet. The bond that exists (and I’ve experienced this) is very, very different. Most owners have zero idea what that means because they have not experienced it. When your life is in the paws of a dog–it’s a very, very intense bond.

        So, some folks assume that their emotional relationship to Fido is the same as someone whose ability to function or even their lives, is dependent on that dog.

        I’ve had both pets and working dogs. With pets, mistakes are okay and there’s time to correct them. With a working dog there’s no such luxury. It must either be able to perform its function or be retired and replaced. When out in public–that dog must perform. It’s not there to grease the wheels of social commerce or wag its tail. It’s there to work.

        It’s a working partner mindset that pet owners don’t have the experience to fathom.

        It’s closer to the relationship between a farmer and his working horse.

    • As a disabled individual I tend to agree the ADA should be heavily modified or scrapped. The ADA started out with noble goals but has turned into a windfall for lawyers, fakers and selfish dog owners.

      We are constantly told that any sort of training or ID requirement for service dogs is a civil rights issue for the disabled. If I want to use a parking spot that is wide enough for me to get my wheelchair out of my van I have to have my Dr fill out a form and then I must display the placard when I park. If I can do that people with disabilities that choose to use a dog can submit to some kind of registration for those dogs. In Canada service dogs are registered. The honor system worked back when service dog meant seeing eye dog. Now there are so many conditions you can chose to use a dog for the honor system wont work.

      • Actually my friend, in some provinces, they’re not. Unless it’s changed in the last couple of years since I retrained a PTSD dog for someone when it decided to start sniffing around in grocery stores.

        Oddly enough–therapy dogs have higher requirements.

        One constant is though, that a service dog can be told to leave any premise if it is causing any sort of disturbance.

        Also, the owner of said dog, must be carrying their doctor’s letter proving that this is indeed, a service dog if they try to claim it as one, say in a restaurant.

        We have fakers here, too.

        I do think it should be required to pass a Good Canine Citizen test, at the very least…and prove 3 mitigating behaviours that make the life of the disabled person, more manageable.

        That seems a fair compromise, to me.

  5. As a side interest, I enjoy reading about airliners. So many safety regulations but somehow people are allowed to bring poorly trained dogs on board. In extreme turbulence people can get bounced around the cabin. How fool hardy to add to that by allowing anxious dogs.

    • It’s the same thing at event venues. The days of dragging coolers and cookout gear into events are long gone.

      My local event venue disallows any bag or purse larger than a person’s hand (which they search), forbids food or drink beyond a single factory-sealed water bottle, regularly confiscates keychains, and pats down everyone prior to entry.

      YET! Can you bring in an intact male pit bull with a fake “service dog” vest on? How about a pit puppy who’s barely mastered housebreaking, let alone providing any service? But of course! These are just two examples of the multiple pits I’ve seen dragged into this place.

      • I want to come out a fake pit bull that is really a cooler. It would come with a service dog vest and harness and a don’t bully my breed bandana around its neck. It of course would appear to be unaltered.

        You walk robo fido in to your concert or ball game. One you are seated open him up and enjoy cold drinks for the whole show. If anyone complains call them a racist.

    • This is a good point that I hadn’t considered. What is to stop a terrorist from bringing a dangerous dog on-board. It’s ludicrous that people can’t bring a water bottle on-board, because it could be weaponzied, but they are allowed to bring a far more dangerous pit bull on board.

  6. As the UK based owner of a genuine Emotional Support Animal (esa), I’d like to point out that not all mental health problems can be solved by drugs or therapy. Charlie, my esa, is capable of detecting full blown episodes of paralytic anxiety several minutes BEFORE symptoms appear. ( these episodes generally cause me to lose consciousness) Although sedatives can prevent panic attacks, the human body quickly adapts to most sedatives hence eventually rendering them utterly useless. Early warning of episodes is definitely the preferable option! Especially as Charlie has legal status as a service dog due to a dispute over benefits with the government, throughout the tribunals hearing Charlie’s behavior (as I expected) was so exemplary that the judge ruled him to be a legal service dog, giving identical status to that of a guide dog. The biggest problem with Charlie? Shop staff and the public wanting to fuss/stroke him… But then Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are generally lovable !!

    • I’m all for service dogs and I realize that they’re expensive and the failure rate is huge for them.

      I don’t hold the bias that a pro trainer must train the dog in every circumstance–although I do think it must be able to pass a behavioral and temperament test to be certified as a service dog.

      I’d also strongly suggest that most people who want to train up a dog do seek a trainer that’s trained some service dogs, before, to see if the dog is temperamentally suited for purpose and to help them understand the amount of time and commitment needed, to train up a dog that can go everywhere and fit into every social environment.

      People approaching *anyone’s* dog without asking permission need to just stop it. Right now. They’re a detriment to every kind of dog training out there.

      And in the case of a service dog, they should just stay away.

      But for some reason, the puppy wuppy crowd seem to think they have some kind of communal ownership to pet or annoy every dog they see. I know most people think that’s women but in my experience, it’s actually been more men that don’t bother to ask, first.

      I understand your frustration.

  7. Pit nutters complain the dogsBite Blog is discriminating against Pit Bulls and yet you identify all breeds when possible in each fatal attack! Keep up the good work! Truth matters!

    • I’m pretty sure it won’t just be headlines here but all the way around the world when someone is murdered by a pack of ferocious beagles.

      Within minutes of the attack hitting Twitter there will be a GoFundMe page to Stop The Snoopy Hate and an entire lobby to complain that Beagles Are Discriminated Against By The Media.

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