From the Editor

Vicki LeeperMost people are aware that service dogs must be permitted to accompany their disabled handlers into non-pet friendly businesses. Unfortunately, many business owners are not aware that they too have rights concerning service dogs, and whether or not those service dogs are legally allowed to be in their business. There is a lot of misinformation and fear surrounding the rights of people with disabilities and the business owners. The fear is based on an influx of pet owners dressing up their pets in vests and bringing them in public claiming they are a service dog.

The ADA describes a service animal as: “A dog that has been house broken and individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”

You cannot determine a service dog just by looking at their appearance. They can be any size or breed or combination of breeds. Basically any dog.

You cannot determine its a service dog by the gear they are wearing.  It is up to the handler if they want any identifying gear, for instance a cape or harness that asks the public not to pet the dog, or a guide harness for vision impaired people. But a dog doesn’t require any visual gear for identification.

So what do you do if you think it’s not a service dog? You may ask the person if the animal is required because of a disability. And what task has the dog been trained to perform. That’s it.

The real tell is basic obedience. A service dog will not be sniffing merchandise, soliciting attention, barking at passersby, or leaving their handler to explore on their own. Although some handlers have small dogs in shopping carts or baskets, the common rule is 4 on the floor. And above all, service dogs must be under the control of the handler at all times. You have the right to ask an aggressive or poorly behaved animal to leave. If the handler removes the dog and wishes to obtain goods and services without the dog, that must be allowed.

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