Responding Appropriately to Service Dogs in
Your Establishment

How to Support Service Dog + Handler Teams and Deter Fake Service Animals

The following handout was developed by PhD student Clare L. Jensen as a resource for establishments as they navigate interacting with, understanding, and supporting their clients with potential service dogs.

Click here to download the PDF

 

How to support service dogs and handler teams and deter fake service animals. Did you know? Animals without proper training in public places can cause a lot of diffuculty for both the working dog and the persona with the disability in the service dog and handleer team. Bad behavior, trauma, or disturbance caused by a pet or unqualified "service animal" can lead to increased skepticism of and discrimination against genuine service dog and handler teams. Due to the lack of public understanding and unclear regulations, portrayal of a pet or unqualified animal as a service animal can be intentional fraud, or unintentional error. Individuals with a service dog that experience depression and anxiety as major symptoms of a disability (PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder) or as side effects of disability or chronic condition (Alzheimer's, AIDS), may experience an increase in these symptoms when faced with public skepticism or discrimination. What you can do: The most effective way to reduce discrimination against genuine service dog and handler teams is to improve the public understanding of service dogs and to increase the regulation of fake service animals. Educate every colleague and member of your staff on how to respect service dog and handler teams and how to address suspicions of a fake or unqualified service animal. Fear, cultural differences, allergies? Fear or dislike of dogs can stem from cultural background and experience and should not be invalidated. However, fear, beliefs, or allergies are not legal grounds for which a service dog and handler team can be denied access. Prepare your team for any potential conflicts with clients/customers/patients who oppose the presence of a service dog. Be aware of the fastest route to an exit or private space if someone is experiencing an allergic reaction of fear of a service dog. Have informational materials ready for anyone who requests the removal of the service dog or who may not be aware of the importance of service dog access. You may make accommodations for people with allergies, phobias, or differing cultural views, but these accommodations may not occur at the cost of the service dog and handler team or limit their access in any way.

Prepare and share you action plan. Dog enters your business or facility, presented as a service dog: what can you do? Real? You will recognize a genuine service dog and handler team when you see them-the dog will be quiet, confident, and well-behaved. If the team is not causing any disruption, do not interfere. It is not necessary (nor is it recommended) to question every person entering with a dog. Smile and treat them with utmost respect. They may be be expecting skepticism or may be coming directly from an experience of public discrimination. Fake? It is legal on a case-by-case basis to deny access if the dog's presence would require unreasonable accommodations based on four pieces of information: 1. Type, size, and weight of the service animal and whether the facility can physically accomodate these traits. 2. Whether the service is sufficiently controlled by the handler. 3. Whether the presence of the service animal in the facility compromises legitimate safety requirements. Not sure? Ask the two questions that are legal to determine the legitimacy of a service animal. Never ask for task demonstration, any form of certification for the dog, or documentation of the person's disability. If the handler is able to answer these questions, thank them for their time. You can let them know you are trying the make it a more accessible space for teams like them by trying to identify fake or unqualified service animals. If the handler is not able to answer these questions or their responses indicate that the animal is not needed for a disability, offer resources to clarify the definitions and access laws for service animals compared with companion or support animals.

Quick facts. An animal who provides comfort or emotional support just be being present is not covered under public access laws. Only two questions can be asked off service dog and handler teams. One: is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? Two: what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Service animal definition: noun: a dog or miniature horse that is specifically trained to do work or perform a task for the purpose of assisting an individual with a disability. Infographic by Clare L. Jensen.

 

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