Service dogs are allowed

Posted: Sunday, February 05, 2006

I was reading the letter titled "Taking advantage of service dogs" (Feb. 2 Empire). As both a service dog user and a trainer, I would like to set the author of this article straight about service dogs. They can be any dog, cat, horse, etc., that is trained to help a person with a disability.

A lot of the disabilities are called invisible disabilities, meaning they cannot be seen. It might be a heart problem, seizure, hearing disorder, mental disorder, etc., that the dog alerts to. The dog does not have to be a large dog to do this job; in fact, small dogs are easier for people living in an apartment to have, especially in a city like Juneau, where most property owners restrict the size of the animals you can have. It is easier to comply some what with the owner of the building and not have to fight them. The age and gender of the person using the service animal does not matter.

By federal law the only questions a business owner can ask of a person using a service animal is the following: "Is that a service dog?" "Is that service dog needed for a disability?" They cannot require any proof of the dog being a service dog, nor does the dog even have to wear any special harness, vest, patches etc. The other thing is that these dogs are not "pets;" they are working dogs. The seeing-eye dog is a type of service dog. We are not "playing dress up" with our dogs.

We would love to have a body that is as perfect as you apparently think yours is, but we don't. To a person who uses a service animal, the animal is a tool just like a walker, wheelchair or a caregiver would be. I, for one, get tired of going into a store or restaurant and having everyone stop and ask questions about my dog, or having to argue with restaurant owners about the legal aspect of me bringing my service dog into your establishment.

Sonya Smiley


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