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Service Animals


Meathead
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There are a number of people who either own or train therapy dogs at dogster.com. <- That link goes right to the service and therapy dog forum. I didn't know a lot about it either, but after reading a number of personal accounts of people who have had trouble getting access to buildings or businesses and stories of how other customers can often be very difficult to deal with because so few people really understand the laws and etiquette around service animals, I cannot seriously imagine that there could possibly be many people "faking it" with pets posing as service animals.

It really seems tough and uncomfortable to have to explain yourself on a daily basis, be stared at, and hear a bunch of comments about what you're doing. Parents often don't even know to tell their kids not to pet or otherwise distract service animals when they're working.

What I found really interesting is that service animals are basically treated as essential equipment for a disabled person. So just as you can't require a person using a wheelchair to provide proof that the wheelchair is real and necessary because that would make their access dependent on carrying proof with them, you cannot require service animal handlers to produce papers about their service animals. To do so would violate what I understand to be the assumptions behind the ADA, that the right to access is inherent and not dependent on something else you've bought, carry with you, or earned. People are often concerned that this means that a lot of fake service animals will get through, but I really doubt it. If a service animal, real or fake, acts up or is disruptive, it can be legally denied access in the first place or removed. That seems to solve all the potential problems right there. If the animal is a problem, it goes.

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I think the lack of an official certification system is unsustainable, especially in light of all the psychological disabilities out there. For example, in New York City there have been several successful ADA claims by owners of "emotional support assistance animals," (none that I know of in restaurants, but in other public accommodation situations so it's just a matter of time) in other words animals where the function is to help ease the effects of the disability of depression. I mean, the regulations as written are so easy to abuse: restaurants have to admit anybody who makes a claim that an animal is a service animal, or they risk fines and bad publicity. A standardized certification and identification system, where you're committing a crime if you fake an ID, seems like the only rational solution.

clarification of a few points here...

there is a huge difference between a psych service dog/animal and an emotional support animal. emotional support animals have no public access rights, with the exception of airline flight cabins with a doctor's prescription. they are not trained service animals. a person with disabilities [whatever their disabilities may be: blind, deaf, mobility or psych], using a service animal specifically trained for them is allowed public access almost anywhere, with very few exceptions [such as certain areas of a hospital like the operating room]. however, any employee may inquire: are you disabled? is that your service dog? what tasks does the service animal performs for you? but they cannot require one to state what their disabilities are, specifically. privacy... like any of you would want to tell everyone your medical history just because they ask. a psych service animal has tasks that go far beyond ''comfort'' for the person to function in public because they are ''depressed''.

the logistics of a national certification system are so complex it would boggle your mind if you took time to consider that. the tasks a service animal performs are widely varied, based on what the person with disabilities [pwd] needs. the ada was written to accomodate people who receive service animals from an org or trainer, or who train a service animal for themselves. there is no system or certification for trainers, thus no certification is required for a trained service animal. who would be responsible for this certification? the additional cost of a national certification program would be prohibitive for many people who need the service animals. any service animal that is misbehaving or interfering in some way with the basic functionality of an establishment can be asked to leave the premises. i have to comment here that i wish a lot of parents would expect their children to be as well-behaved as service animals are. :wink:

since i started this reply i see others have said much of what i have said. i have been fortunate to not have to put up with a lot of hassle about public access with quinn, my service dog pictured in my avatar. without him i could not live independently, walk down the street, buy my own groceries, cook for myself on a regular basis, be responsible for my own health maintainence, or enjoy life as i do today. invisible disabilities, such as deafness, tend to raise more questions. people want to know why one ''gets''' to take their dog everywhere. believe me, i love my service dog, quinn... but if you think we wouldn't trade that for not having to rely on a service animal, think again.

it is true that many people do not know what is proper conduct around a service animal, but more are learning all the time. in my experience the majority of us who rely on a service animal, most frequently a service dog [sd], are more than pleased to try to educate others when we have the chance. when we're trying to get to a dinner reservation or other appointment on time it may not be the best opportunity for that. and yeah, we just love it when whole families and groups of people gather around and point us out to each other. :raz:

  I once went a buffet with a dog in training and it was remarkable how well-behaved it was as it guided its owner around all the food. It was a collie, pretty tall, and all the food was at about its eye level, yet it was not tempted.

and that was a fantastic buffet wasn't it, kent? tempted? :laugh: oh i'm sure quinn was tempted, but then we are all tempted at times. it's how we act on it that matters and he was so perfect that day. you should see him in action now. :biggrin:

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

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The guidelines currently state "Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person's disability." So, today, I can interrogate a disabled person: "Explain what your dog does?" How is that not inquiring about the person's disability? How can you answer that question, e.g., "The dog sounds an alert if I have a seizure" without revealing intimate details of your life? If that ridiculous non-protection were replaced with an ID card system, there would be no discussion. Here's my dog's ID, he's a service animal, give us access, end of discussion, I'm not going to explain what the dog does because it's none of your damn business.

Bureaucracy just doesn't seem like a credible basis on which to oppose such a system. For one thing, the ADA bureaucracy is already quite large and can easily accommodate all sorts of tracking and registration. For another thing, plenty of service animals are already being trained and certified by organizations and states, so the bulk of the licensing process is already being taken care of. It's really only the owner-trained service dogs that would require any sort of review, and that one-time review is certainly less intrusive than an explanation every time one goes to a restaurant, retail establishment, on a bus, etc.

And people definitely are taking advantage of the current system, especially using the emotional support assistance justification. On 14 May 2006, there was a story in the New York Times titled, "Wagging the Dog, and a Finger," that reported on the fallout of a 2003 Department of Transportation ruling:

But recently a number of New York restaurateurs have noticed a surge in the number of diners seeking to bring dogs inside for emotional support, where previously restaurants had accommodated only dogs for the blind.

"I had never heard of emotional support animals before," said Steve Hanson, an owner of 12 restaurants including Blue Fin and Blue Water Grill in Manhattan. "And now all of a sudden in the last several months, we're hearing this."

The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants — as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas — goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.
"The D.O.T. guidance document was an outrageous decision," said Joan Froling, chairwoman of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a nonprofit organization representing people who depend on service dogs. "Instead of clarifying the difference between emotional support animals who provide comfort by their mere presence and animals trained to perform specific services for the disabled, they decided that support animals were service animals."

I believe the story is only available in the premium archive, but this is the link: http://travel.nytimes.com/2006/05/14/fashi...ml?pagewanted=1

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Many people do carry explanatory cards with them or on their dogs. But requiring such a card isn't just a matter of avoiding bureacracy -- it would change the nature of what rights to access a disabled person has. Those rights cannot depend on carrying something with you. The fact that one NYT story has been done on this doesn't mean a real problem exists with the current system. Any dog that is disruptive at all can still be made to leave. There is also no access requirement for therapy dogs; only service dogs who perform specific tasks for their handlers. If some restaraunts have only been allowing guide dogs for the blind, then they have been in the wrong for a while now.

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This is a fascinating thread. I don't know if you have learned much, Craig, but I sure have. I'm particularly curious about other service animals besides dogs in restaurants and reading of any specific experiences there.

Yes, I have learned a bit, gotten a few leads that have led me down the Google rabbit hole, and I will be able to quote Mr. Shaw's comments on certification. I will post the finished article here when it is published.

I'd still like to hear from restaurateurs on their policies and training.

Remember: No rules in the bedroom or kitchen,

Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn

http://amazingribs.com - The Zen of Ribs

http://amazingribs.com/smoke_signals_newsletter - "Smoke Signals" BBQ Newsletter

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I'm very much on board with the principle that the rights of people with disabilities shouldn't depend on an ID card, however I'd choose an ID card over an interrogation every time. Since that seems to be the choice, I lean towards ID card, especially since the ID card dramatically reduces the potential for fraud.

Right now, assuming there's no readily apparent disability, the de facto standard is how persuasive a person with a disability can be about the function of the animal. The person asking the questions is likely to be a low-level restaurant employee. It's silly to place the burden of judgment there. It's an invitation to conflict, police involvement and lawsuits that prove nothing except that the average host or hostess at a restaurant is not equipped to make such personal judgments.

It takes years to train a service animal, and applying for a license is a totally insignificant burden compared to that training burden. It doesn't even have to be a card. It can be a tag worn on the animal's collar, next to the other required tags like the rabies vaccination tag and annual state license tag. A licensing system isn't a statement that the rights of people with disabilities depend on the license, but rather it's a way to avoid embarrassment and limit fraud. The card or tag shouldn't even have to say what the animal does.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some years ago I was managing a fast-casual restaurant in Asheville, NC. Let me preface this by saying I've lived in Asheville for many years and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else-BUT some people in this area seem prone to many strange allergies and maladies which probably are not found elsewhere and possibly do not exist at all.....at any rate, one day one of my employees came and got me saying that there was a lady in the restaurant with a dog, and it did not appear that she was blind or otherwise handicapped. So I went out front and observed this lady and dog for a few minutes-the dog was a medium-sized mongrel-type dog wearing a dog pack ,out of which protruded a bottle of water....the lady seemed to be a typical sort of new-ager, judging from her apparel...the woman indeed did not seem to be differently-abled in any way, and the dog appeared to be serving no purpose (aside from just being a dog) besides toting a water bottle. Now let me say here that I'd never received any training or seen any guidelines about service animals. So I approached the woman as discreetly as I could, and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but I'm going to have to ask you to take your dog outside."Well, it was if this person had been waiting all day for this opportunity-she began to berate me rather loudly, insisting that her dog was a SERVICE ANIMAL which she had to have with her at all times! Due to her medical condition! That dog was her support system! She had every right to have the dog with her! ETC. Well, I was stunned at first and then pissed off-I had tried to be discreet and professional, and she was making a huge public scene-so I said,"So what's that dog doing for you exactly?'So she says, "I HAVE ALLERGIES,AND THE DOG HAS MY MEDICATIONS!" Wow. So from there I just had to back down....she must have called the toll-free corporate hotline, because we received very shortly thereafter a set of guidelines concerning service animals which states as I recall that a service animal can be anything at all pretty much and YOU CANNOT EVEN ASK IF IT IS IN FACT A SERVICE ANIMAL. And all this lady's dog had been doing was carrying her pills around for her, like a self-propelled handbag. Well, I thought it was B.S. then and I think it's B.S. now.

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I am new to this forum and trying to catch up with existing threads so I was really glad to read the first 12 entires of this discussion and see that "service animals" was not about waiters and waitresses.

(I have had too many conversations with restaurant chefs, owners, and managers who would feel that phrase accurately describes servers.)

David Cyrelson

www.greattips.net

The ultimate "how to" manual by servers for servers.

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