Have you ever thought about why I can go just about everywhere that my mom goes? After all, I am a dog, and most public places do not allow dogs inside. I can go with my mom because I am a service dog!
There are laws in place that allow me to go into public places. Except if I am not with my mom! You see, that public access is granted to my mom. And not to me. She is able to bring me with her because she has a disability. And I mitigate her disability with the tasks I do that help her.
Do you remember what mitigate means? It eases or lessens the severity of something. So the tasks I do to help my mom makes the limitations imposed by her disability easier. My mom always is saying that I enhance her independence. Which must mean I’m doing my job perfectly!
In many of my previous posts, I have shared with you some of the places where my mom and I go. Some of these include tests and procedures done at the hospital and appointments with her doctors. Going shopping in the mall or bookstore or grocery store. And even to a restaurant.
Riding on Paratransit with my mom!
But there are a few exceptions where a service dog is not allowed. Like the operating room in a hospital or the actual kitchen area in a restaurant. But basically anywhere that the general public can go I can go.
Even though I am extremely well trained and I have a whole bunch of tasks that I do, that alone doesn’t make me a service dog. It is all of that training and the tasks that I perform . . . combined with being with my mom.
The other part of all of these public access issues is that a person with a disability can not just take their pet dog or any other random dog in public with them just because they have a disability. Their dog must be trained to do specific tasks. Ones that mitigate their disability.
Helping my mom at the grocery store!
As an example, my mom isn’t able to take my little sister, Roo, to all of the places that I get to go. Roo is cute and well behaved. She knows basic manners and lots of tricks. But she doesn’t do any tasks that mitigate my mom’s disability. So my mom doesn’t have the public access rights with her like she does with me.
Sometimes you might see a person with a disability bringing their pet or untrained dog with them. And they say it is their service dog. But when doing this they are not understanding the laws correctly.
What makes this harder and more confusing is that many places of business are now allowing pet dogs to come into their stores. So in some places, there could be a person who does not have a disability and are there with their pet dog. And oftentimes these owners will then blur the lines. They begin to think that it is okay to go into other stores that may not have those same pet dog policies.
According to the law, there are two questions that can be asked to determine if the dog is an assistance dog. They are:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
If you are curious and want to learn more about the law check out Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA.
Since some store owners are reluctant to ask about the dog many people get away with going wherever they want with their pet dog. And don’t think about the impact this may have on the people with disabilities who have properly trained service dogs.
Sometimes when my mom and I are out shopping we see dogs that are misbehaving. They bark at me and try to run toward me. I just ignore them but it is disturbing to see such behavior from a dog who, if a true service dog, should have impeccable behavior. Do you know what impeccable means? It is performing to the highest standards.
The biggest compliment my mom can hear is “I didn’t know there was a dog here” when we get up to leave from a restaurant. Or when we are out shopping or at a medical appointment. That means I am “invisible” and doing my job without being distracting or disruptive.
Waiting with my mom while she has a procedure done!
Being “invisible” sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? My mom works hard to be respectful of other people’s space. She knows that some people are uncomfortable around dogs so she is always sure to keep me close to her and out of the way. And you know what? I don’t even shake when I get up so my fur won’t fly around the room!
There is no national certification or standardized requirements. But through the organization where I came from they have a certification process from within. My mom and I had to take a written test and a public access test when we were first partnered together. This was to make sure we had the skills needed to go places. Every one to three years we meet with some of the trainers and take the public access test again to make sure we are maintaining our skills.
Remember how I’ve told you that my mom does lots of training and practicing with me? Well, that is so I maintain my skills. And my behavior is appropriate when we are out in public.
I love my job and helping my mom! I especially love all of the places we go and the people we meet. And the ways we get to share our story! It is heartwarming to me and my mom to have the opportunity to educate others about the many ways a dog can give independence to a person with a disability.
And just so you won’t worry… The top photo is an old one. It is from a hospitalization that my mom had quite a while back. It is just a good example of where I can go as a service dog. My mom is healthy and doing great right now!