Real Service Dogs
VC Star | Kathleen Rust
Properly trained service dogs are being looked down upon, refused at the door and having their reputations disgraced by impersonators. Refusal and impersonation are fineable offenses and are considered misdemeanors in California. The enforcement for the use of service dogs needs to be improved.
There are three types of service dogs: Service Dog, Psychiatric Service Dog, and Emotional Support Animal. The first two are officially recognized. You may legally ask, “whether the dog is required because of a disability” and “what work the dog is trained to perform.” Since proof is not required, some people lie.
There are no certifications nor national registries. Service dogs undergo a rigorous training program to help a specific individual with their distinct physical and/or mental disabilities. Emotional Support Animals are often thought to be in the same category as service dogs but have not undergone similar (if any) training therefore often exhibiting common pet misbehaviors. The owners may derive “a sense of well-being, safety, or a calm from the animal’s companionship and presence.” They are for comfort, not necessity.
There are several options for stopping the refusal of service animals and cutting down on service dog impersonators. A hotline: a source of awareness and protection for service dogs and their owners’ rights (supported in California under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, CDPA, FEHA and ADA laws). If there is mistreatment or unjust requests the public can call to report on their behalf.
Another solution would be official documentation of properly trained service dogs. A license or formal tagging would be required and visible for proof of authentication of true service dogs. This would cut down the chance of impersonators and would lower the possibility of damaging the reputation of real service dogs. They are heroes and they and their owners should be respected.