Taking advantage of 'service dogs'

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, February 02, 2006

Just this past evening I was walking through the grocery store and something caught my eye. There was a young woman in her mid-20s searching through the produce, and following behind her on a leash was her small poodle-like dog wearing a bright blue vest with a "Service Dog" patch on it. Over the past few months I have seen more of these small animals in stores, including grocery stores and restaurants. Working at a local restaurant, I confronted one owner explaining that we did not allow pets in the dining room. In her reply, which is common for these pet owners, she proclaimed, "Oh it's OK; she is a service dog," as she held it in her lap. Now my disagreement with this subject has gone even more beyond the fact that most of these small and toy breeds are being carried in the shopping cart or escorted on leash by able-bodied females. But to my surprise, after a quick search on the Internet, I found numerous sites where these "Service" patches and vests can be purchased by anyone.

I myself am a dog lover and owner and love to walk him n parks and without a leash. I think in a town like Juneau, responsible pet owners and pets should be allowed much freedom. But my argument in this situation is that I believe that many of these people are taking advantage of the term "service dog."

To my understanding, a service animal is one that helps an individual adapt and live by providing service, such as seeing-eye dogs for the blind, or true service K-9s that assist those who are physically handicapped. I suggest the community of Juneau begins to respect the true service animals of our society and that the owners, who insist on outfitting their small lap dogs with these vests for a good conversation or attention during their grocery shopping or dining experience, quit taking advantage of others by placing guilt on those who question the service of your pet. While I am sure it may be providing you a service as a companion, your little game of dress-up is an insult to rescue and service dogs, along with those who train them. I also understand and do agree that pets are important and recommended to some people by medical or therapeutic specialists, but does this justify the term "service dog" used as an excuse by owners?

A select few see these vests as a tool and excuse to not have to leave their dogs alone in their cars or homes without any company. Businesses including retail stores and restaurants should respect their customers in understanding that most people do not find it appropriate bringing pets into these places. So don't be hesitant to question if the Chihuahua with a service vest is legitimate while it rides shotgun in the grocery cart. Don't take advantage of the term service animals and the nobility of what they do for some members of society.

Luke Adams


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