29 November 2017

The problem with fake "service dogs" - updated

"Therapy dogs" are not the same as "service dogs" for the blind.
While it ensures their rights, the looseness of the law is a source of frustration for Freyseth and Johnson, who have been forced to contact police when untrained service or therapy animals have attacked their own dogs, which can be scarring to the animals and cause them to lose focus on the task at hand. A particularly traumatizing incident could render the dog unable to continue working, an especially harsh loss given the $40,000 and several months invested in training.
“The hardest part is when we run into fakes,” Freyseth said. “We don’t know where they are, and one attack can change our dog forever. I get scared.”

While unauthorized service capes and harnesses can be easily purchased online, Johnson says an animal’s manner is a clear indicator of its legitimacy. Growling, lunging, excessive barking and energetic playfulness are hallmarks of untrained animals, as is the language the owner uses for discipline.
More at Madison.com: Photo credit

When Marlin Jackson arrived at his row on a Delta flight from Atlanta to San Diego in June, the middle seat was already occupied by a man with a sizable dog on his lap. Jackson squeezed by them to his window seat, and the Labrador mix lunged at his face. The attack lasted about 30 seconds, according to Jackson’s attorney, and left him with facial wounds that required 28 stitches and scars that are still visible today.

The mauling, which Delta said was inflicted by a canine identified as an “emotional support” animal, was among the thousands of incidents that just pushed the nation’s largest airline to tighten rules for passengers flying with service or comfort animals.
Much more at the link and also at this article at PewTrusts.


  1. While walking the 15-year-old Bichon I was babysitting, we met a man with a German Shepard wearing a service dog vest. The dog went crazy, so I moved us out of his way. Then the man let go of the leash. I got between the shepard and my Bichon, ad he bit me on the leg. Fortunately, my jeans were thick enough that his teeth didn't penetrate, but he managed to peel back a chunk of skin anyway.
    I've warned everyone in the neighborhood who has a dog to avoid this man.

  2. To be fair, even well-trained dogs can sometimes be unpredictable. I had a service dog getting up in years (nearing retirement), who suddenly with no warning at all, lunged and snapped at a smaller service dog that startled her as it appeared from a cross aisle inside a store. I can only assume it's because we rarely if ever saw other service dogs when we were out, and it took us both completely by surprise. No one was hurt but it was certainly upsetting to everyone involved. Any dog--even very well trained can act out of character, especially if startled, frightened or in new and unusual circumstances. I had had my dog for 7+ years and she had never acted like that before. Of course any dog with a history of hostility towards other dogs should not be out in public, certainly not without a muzzle. I will add that in the case of my dog nothing even remotely like that happened for several years until one day she suddenly--again out of the blue went after a small dog being walked on a leash down the sidewalk. Again no one was injured but that time it was a close one and I had no warning or expectation that she would react that way--the first time kind of made sense--the other dog was unexpected and surprised her, this time I have absolutely no idea what set her off. Needless to say I stopped taking her out in public as a working dog, and not anywhere we might encounter other dogs. If I did see other dogs when I had her out I asked them to keep their distance (I'm usually in a wheelchair when out with my service dog). It was weird because the vast majority of the time she simply ignored the presence of other dogs, yet obviously even though the incidents were years apart, I could no longer trust her.

    My point is--while training helps, it is no guarantee that any dog--any animal, won't do something unexpected. Even loving dog owners (loving pet or working animal owners of any breed or species) have occasionally been attacked (even killed) by their own trained dogs (recently in national news), or horse, or tiger, or monkey....... Any animal can surprise you. Training helps but is never a guarantee that the animal's instincts won't kick in under the "right" circumstances--especially if frightened.

    I also need to add that there is no Federal law requiring service dogs to wear identifying vests, or other identifying regalia. This may vary by some states. In addition, trained service dogs (or so-called emotional support, "therapy" dogs) may be trained as guard dogs or to defend their owners against perceived threats to their safety--and some incidents may be the result of dogs reacting too aggressively for the situation, or even misinterpreting a benign incident as a threat (or in fact there was a threat that is being denied by the perpetrator or owner--such as the other dog acted aggressively in the first place, which the service dog reacted to--not the case in either of my incidents by the way).

    I also disagree with the new law that does not offer the same legal rights to emotional support/therapy animals. These are not pets and enable their owners to participate in society in ways that they otherwise would not be able to without the animals' support. Imagine having debilitating anxiety and being denied the medication that allows you to function.... That is what we are doing when we restrict use of these support animals--especially given that medications frequently have unpleasant side effects--like sedation in the example I used, or may not even work.


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