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Service Dog Myths
Myth: Guide dogs for blind people are the only real service dogs.
Fact: There is no limit to the variety of jobs a service dog can perform, as long as the handler of the dog is disabled and the dog’s task or work mitigates the disability.
Myth: The terms “guide dog” and “Seeing Eye Dog” are interchangeable.
Fact: The generic terminology for a dog who is trained to guide a blind or visually impaired handler is either, “guide dog,” or “dog guide.” The Seeing Eye is a guide dog training school, located in Morristown, New Jersey, and only dogs trained by this organization are to be called “Seeing Eye Dogs.”
Myth: Businesses are only required to allow guide dogs and can prohibit pets and other types of service dogs.
Fact: Any business that is open to the public is required to allow any type of service animal. Occasionally, you will come across a posted sign that states only guide dogs are permitted, but these signs carry no legal weight.
Myth: Restaurants and businesses that sell or deal with food can legally deny access to a service dog team.
Fact: The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of disabled service animal handlers to enter all places of public accommodation. Food service businesses are not exempt.
Myth: Service dogs must wear a vest, special harness or ID Badge to distinguish them from pet dogs.
Fact: Federal law, The Americans with Disabilities Act, does not require any special identification of service animals. Some service dogs need special equipment to perform their jobs correctly, while others do not. Equipment and identification are used at the handler’s discretion. Understand that if a handler uses patches or an ID badge to identify his or her dog as a service animal, it is being done by choice and not all others will do the same, nor are they required to.
Myth: A certified or registered service dog is more legitimate than other service dogs who are not.
Fact: Some service dog handlers, trainers and programs certify their service dogs, even though it isn’t required by law. Certain certification or registration can be as insignificant as a piece of paper, if it’s not with a reputable organization. Some unscrupulous companies charge customers a fee to certify or register a dog with their company, without any verification whatsoever that the dog is a legitimate service dog. To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference between one of these companies and a legitimate service dog organization, nullifying any value of presenting proof of certification. Regardless, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require service animals to be either certified or registered with a service dog program or company.
Myth: A service dog team can be denied access to a public place because another person is afraid of or allergic to dogs.
Fact: A service dog team must be allowed access to a business or place of public accommodation, regardless of other people’s feelings toward dogs or allergies. In most cases, it is possible to accommodate both parties, as they will usually be happy to keep a distance from one another.
Myth: Service dogs never get time to relax and just be dogs.
Fact: Service dogs get lots of “off-duty” time. They get plenty of time to rest, play with toys, play with their families and play with other dogs. Many even participate in fun recreational activities like agility, flyball, rally obedience, dock diving, disc dog, canine freestyle and more! While service dogs are more than just pets, they get tons of time to act like regular family companion dogs.
Myth: Service dogs are euthanized when they can no longer work.
Fact: When a service dog is no longer able to work, due to a health problem or age, the dog is retired by his or her handler. Upon retiring a service dog, the handler has various options. If the handler can keep him or her, the dog will assume the role of a pet. If the handler obtained the dog from a program and cannot keep the retired service dog, he or she will usually have the option to give the dog to a friend or return the dog to the program. If the dog is returned to the program, the individual or family who raised the dog as a puppy is typically given first choice to take the dog back. Otherwise, the program will adopt the dog out to a carefully screened individual or family to be a pet.
Myth: Service dogs have access rights in places of public accommodation.
Fact: It is the disabled handler whose rights are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act; not the dog’s. The dog must be accompanying a disabled person and perform a task or do work that mitigates his or her handler’s disability.
Myth: Service dogs are infallible robots.
Fact: Service dogs, while held to the highest of training standards, are still animals. With exceptional temperaments, hours and hours of training and thorough socialization, service dogs almost always manifest impeccable behavior. However, slip ups can happen; like a distracted dog losing focus on his or her handler. The defining influence will be in how the handler responds to the minor mistakes that may occur.
Myth: Dogs who provide emotional comfort through companionship are service dogs.
Fact: A service dog must perform a task or do work that mitigates his or her handler’s specific disability. A dog whose only job is to provide companionship for someone with a psychological disability may be designated by a mental health professional as an emotional support animal but he or she is not a service dog.
Myth: If it’s not a Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever or other large breed, it’s not a service dog.
Fact: Service dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds; from dogs as small as Chihuahuas to dogs as massive as Mastiffs, and almost everything in between.