Service dogs aren’t the same as an emotional support or therapy animal. Service dogs are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their job could be anything from guiding a blind person to calming someone who has PTSD when they are having an anxiety attack. Service dogs are working animals, and we should respect them as such when we encounter them in public.
Essential Things You Should Know About Service Dogs
Don’t Ever Touch or Distract a Service Dog
Service dogs are easily identifiable by the vest they wear when they are working. When you encounter a service dog doing its job out in public, it’s imperative that you don’t try to pet him or distract him in any way. Service dogs need to remain focused entirely on their owner. When you pet or talk to the dog, he’s focused on getting attention from you instead of doing his job. Not only that but when you walk away, he may continue to look for attention from other people.
Service Dogs Aren’t Required to Have Documentation
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that service dogs don’t need to have documentation to do their jobs. In fact, when a service dog enters a public place with its handler, staff can legally ask only two things.
- Do you require a service animal because you have a disability?
- What is the job that your dog is trained for?
Otherwise, you should respect the handler’s privacy. Asking for additional details about their condition is not only rude, but it could be against the law if you are representing an establishment.
Service Dogs Come in All Shapes and Sizes
You can’t determine if a dog is a service dog simply by its looks or breed. Even if you think a particular dog doesn’t look like a service dog, you will be able to tell by the way it acts. Sadly, it’s common to see “fake” service dogs out in public, but genuine service dogs have good manners, they are quiet, and very well trained. If you encounter a dog in a public place that’s not housetrained or is out of control, it’s probably not a real service dog.
Remember That Service Dogs Are Protected by Federal Law
Service dogs must be granted access to any public place, without exception. They are medically necessary, so anywhere medical equipment is allowed, so are service dogs.
When you encounter a service dog in public, it’s best just to ignore the dog entirely. The handler will be grateful for your respect and won’t find it rude in any way.