Service dogs seem to be a popular topic of conversation these days, which can only mean one thing: Doing your homework is now more important than ever. From researching which states have laws against misrepresenting service dogs to knowing all the things you shouldn’t say to a service dog owner, staying in the know is imperative.
Not as informed as you’d like to be? Don’t worry, we all have room for improvement. For starters, you can learn about some of the rules and regulations here. Once you’ve gotten those down, your next step is knowing what you can, and cannot, say to a service dog handler (which is any person who has a service dog), because the last thing you’d want to do is upset a stranger.
15. Can I pet your dog?
Sound familiar? That’s because this is a fairly common question that service dog handlers hear. After all, how harmful could it be? Aside from being super annoying, it’s just inappropriate. The dog may be adorable, but it’s usually pretty clear whether a dog is working as a service pet. For instance, would you run up to a dog working with a TSA agent at the airport and start petting him while he’s on the job? Probably not.
Next: Never assume.
14. If your dog is just sitting there, he must not be working
Quite the contrary, a service dog is usually always working, or at least he is when you see him out in public. More specifically, here’s a good rule of thumb to follow if you know someone with a service dog: The dog is always working when he’s with his person. Simple as that.
Next: What should a service dog look like?
13. Your dog doesn’t look like a service dog
Funny you should say that, because the reality is, there’s no breed requirement when it comes to service dogs. Sure, some breeds are more commonly associated with filling certain roles, but there’s no breed standard when it comes to service dogs. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not restrict the type of breed that can be a service animal.
Next: Here’s where knowing the rules comes in handy.
12. Your service dog can’t come in here
This one may sound obvious, but with so many people trying to scam the system, it does happen. One bad apple could ruin it for everyone else, which is a real shame. You, however, are already doing your part to make sure that doesn’t happen, simply by reading this in hopes of staying informed.
Next: Think again.
11. Your service dog should be wearing a special vest
Actually, the ADA doesn’t require service animals to wear any special gear or tags. So, if someone tells a person with a service dog that they need to make their service dog’s status known, they clearly don’t know the rules.
Next: This may be true, but it’s not always appropriate to say.
10. Your service dog is so cute
Yes, we get it. Dogs are the best, and we want to cuddle every one we see. But sadly, we need to refrain from doing so. The best bet? Work on changing your mindset, and adjust your comments accordingly on a case-by-case basis. And just remember, service dog owners don’t want to be stopped constantly because they happen to be out with a cute dog.
Next: Know the rules, and you’ll be much better off.
9. Is your service dog allowed to be in here?
If he’s a service dog, then he should be allowed to go anywhere the general public is allowed. While there will always be exceptions to the rule, such as restricting access to sterile hospital rooms, service dogs are indeed allowed access into most public areas, so keep that in mind before opening your mouth.
Next: Service dogs have a number of jobs they can do.
8. How much can your dog really do for you?
You may be surprised to hear just how many roles service dogs can fill. For instance, did you know that a service dog can detect an oncoming seizure, or even help detect specific scents if a person suffers from a severe food allergy? Turns out, there’s a wide array of tasks that service dogs are able to assist with. So, in short, the answer to this question is “a lot.”
Next: Think before you speak.
7. How can my dog qualify to be a service dog?
First and foremost, the person asking this would need to have a disability. Secondly, a person with a service dog doesn’t want to be a walking information center, meaning that they probably don’t want to be fielding a bunch of questions all day long. If you do in fact need a service dog, there are plenty of resources out there to help answer any questions you may have.
Next: We all wish for this, but it’s just not a reality.
6. I wish I could bring my dog everywhere with me
Don’t we all. But unfortunately, there are rules we need to follow, one being that our dogs aren’t allowed anywhere they please. In these instances, it’s important to keep in mind that service dogs have earned the right to be in places where other pets are not. It’s their privilege, and it didn’t come without a process.
Next: Service animals are much more than pets.
5. Service dogs are just well-trained pets
Nope. Service dogs have been specially trained to perform certain duties that their handlers wouldn’t be able to complete on their own. Aside from that, service dogs aren’t just pets. They’re working animals, so keep that in mind before uttering this incorrect sentiment.
Next: Nope, you can’t ask this one, either.
4. Why do you need a service dog?
This is something that the ADA says you’re not allowed to ask a person with a service animal. But unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to deter everyone. With the recent rise of fake service dogs has come a major problem for those who really need them. Sadly, folks are having to explain themselves when they shouldn’t need to.
Next: Here’s another one the ADA says you’re not allowed to ask.
3. I need to see documentation
In fact, you don’t need to see any documentation, seeing as there’s actually no special documentation or certification required for a service dog. According to the ADA, “There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.”
Next: What should a person who needs a service dog look like?
2. You don’t look like you need a service dog
Seriously though, what’s a guy to say to a comment like that? What should a person who needs a service dog look like? Is there some physical trait that should stand out? The answer, of course, is no, and every person has different needs. To suggest that there’s a one-size-fits-all model for people who have a service dog is ignorant, and thoughtless to say the very least.
Next: This is just offensive.
1. I wish I could have a service dog
Do you really though? When someone says they wish they could have a service dog, what they’re really saying — regardless of whether they mean or realize it — is, “Gee, I wish that I had some kind of disability that would afford me the opportunity to have a dog by my side at all times.” It doesn’t take a thoughtful person to know that this comment is far beyond rude. It’s insensitive, offensive, and careless.
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