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djyee100

"Service dogs" in supermarkets

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Today while I was at the supermarket, a middle-aged woman with a dog passed by me. The dog was on a leash and had a "service dog" collar. The dog was not a seeing eye dog. More importantly, his owner appeared to have no physical disability whatsoever.

The dog routinely wandered away from his owner, jerking at the leash because he was curious about the food bins. When his owner stopped to talk to someone, oblivious to what her dog was doing, the dog stuck his head into a low-lying bin of meat products and sniffed around.

After I finished shopping, I went to the Customer Service Desk to complain that the store had allowed a dog like that inside. To my surprise, the Customer Service Rep was angrier about the situation than I was. She said that owners regularly brought in these "Service Dogs," especially lap dogs, and the store personnel were pissed off (her words) that they couldn't do anything about it. Apparently the law permits any kind of service dog into supermarkets and restaurants, and personnel can't even ask what kind of service dog it is.

I'm guessing that the owner I saw today was not disabled at all, and her dog was one of those service dogs that visit schools and senior centers--not trained anywhere as well as seeing eye dogs, for instance.

I was also angry that the woman appeared not to need the dog to do her shopping. If a person has a disability, of course he or she should have the dog inside. But from what the Customer Service Rep was telling me, too many service dog owners are abusing the law--which was intended to help disabled people--and they're bringing their pets into grocery stores for their own convenience.

Have you encountered this "service dog" situation in your supermarket or restaurant? Your thoughts?

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One of the men in my book club has a service dog that is always with him. He does not appear to be disabled but he is an epileptic and the dog can sense when he is about to have a seizure and can give him enough warning so he can sit down on the floor or ground and put a mouthpiece that he wears on a lanyard around his neck, between his teeth.

His companion is a French bulldog and was trained with him and he does look like a lap dog but he has saved him from significant injury - ones while climbing stairs and he could have been seriously injured if he had fallen.

I have a friend who is deaf and has a service dog to warn her of sirens while walking on the street and of other alarms, etc.

When I was still working, we had a patient, a woman with Parkinson's and at times she would get "stuck" in one position and would just stand in place, rocking back and forth. She got a service dog that will paw her leg or step on her foot when this happens and that interrupts the process that caused her to get into that mode.

There are some people who abuse the law but there are not as many as you may think.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Some may also be service dogs in training (I seem to recall from a previous topic here that regulations differ from city to city about whether these animals are permitted). Of course, the situation djyee100 describes doesn't sound like very good training, so hopefully that's not the case.


 

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A bit of googling suggests that this is another area where abuse occurs much like all the 18 year olds walking into a "clinic" and getting a medical marijuana card with a single statement that they suffer from insomnia. I imagine that those dealing with the ADA err on the side of caution; just a shame when there are blatant abusers. Not much different from struggling with a load of groceries to your car parked far away after having wrenched your back, only to see someone leap from their low-slung Porsche and walk with vigor to the market - after parking in the handicapped spot and with the tag on their mirror (and not with a disabled person they are assisting).

At a minimum I think the store owner would get clarification from their legal counsel as to whether they can enforce a rule requiring the dog to be "snout out of the food" from a public health standpoint.

The dogs in training I have seen at the market wear a yellow jacket that clearly states their status and are also clearly being supervised and trained. Always well behaved.

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the exact nature of some people's disabilities are not always readily apparent. relax and be grateful that you are not in their position

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There are some people who abuse the law but there are not as many as you may think.

This was not the first time I've encountered a poorly behaved service dog. On another occasion, I noticed a woman had brought her chihuahua into a supermarket. Again, the dog had that "service dog" collar. The woman was holding the dog in her arms as she leaned over some baked goods. Then, when she straightened up, without her noticing, the dog swiveled his head to a nearby shelf that held "hearth breads" in open wrappers and started sniffing around.

On another occasion, I was crossing a park when a small dog came running out from a nearby children's playground. No leash on him. He came right at me, barking, and started snapping at my heels. His owner showed up at a trot and said, "Don't worry! Don't worry! He's a service dog!"

???!!!!??

I'm willing to believe that dogs that have been specifically trained for disabilities are well-trained and behave well in public situations. They receive a lot of training--and so do their owners, in what is appropriate for their dogs. However, not all service dogs are the same. There appear to be some service dogs not well-trained and/or not intended to treat disabilities, and they are showing up where they shouldn't be, and behaving badly.

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i think it's fair to be annoyed by bad behavior and you should feel free to let store management know there's a problem because health dept rules should apply to the dog's comportment inside the supermarket. it just seems that you may be overestimating your ability to know for sure who is disabled and who is not.

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Big topic.

I posted about my experiences as a cafe owner regarding service dogs on another thread, and got a snootfullof responses.

My situation was a well behaved service dog--a puppy with appropriate doggie jacket and a cafe full of curious and somewht miffed customers. Up until that time, I had not heard of service dogs.

The fine for allowing non-service dogs in a food establishment in Vancouver, B.C. is $110.00. The dog owner does not get this fine, instead the fine goes to the food establishment owner. I took up correspondance with the Health dept. Tier response was that I had every right to demand to see the proper "service dog" license for the animal, but in the case of bone-fida license, must respect it.

I have had two cases of service animals in my cafe in the last 10 months, and I wish to make my perspective clear:

I have no issues with service dogs themselves. If the health dept. O.k.'s them,then it's fine by me.

However, and let me stress this very clearly:

No one, not the service dog owner, nor the kennels that train these animals have made any worthwhile attemtp to educate the general public on the validity of their animals.

In other words, no one knows that they are allowed in food service establsihments, and the geral public reacts in a negative way towards the mangement of the food establisment. I.E.: complaints, threats, and taking up the owner's time and patience.

It's not up to the food service owner to educate the public about these animals. I belive the O.P. illustrated this very clearly this in her opening post.

Then again, the reason I'm not popular with the two dog owners is because of circumstance: I operate a artisan chocolate and pastry shop with a Cafe element. When I explain to the dog owners that I have 28 varieties of chocolate available, with customers purchasing it in-store, and many of them consuming in-store, they (dog owners)get bored and say "So What"

Well, I explain with an Grinch-like grin, Chocolate, even in small quantities, can kill or seriously injure many breeds of dogs. And I can not guarantee that their animal will come into contact with chocolate in my chocolate shop. That gets them mad...........

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Edward J - the eating establishments and food purveyors here in Los Angeles at least must display a sign that say no dogs are allowed except service dogs. It is on the front door. Don't get me started on the big sign at the Farmers Market that has a dog with the big red line through it and people think if it is a "pocket dog" it is just fine to cruise the food aisles with it. I am a dog lover big time. This is just an issue of obeying the law and being appropriate and respectful of others in a food hygiene situation. Yes I know all about dogs mouths being way better than humans in terms of germs, but if there is a law it is not up to citizens to tailor it as they please. There are avenues to address it if they choose to.

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I see a lot of this behavior. And while many of these dogs MIGHT be "seizure sensing," I cannot help but think many more are named "Mr. Woogums." The owner cannot bear to be separated from the miserable "piss over everything" yappy little cur and feels entitled to bring their dog EVERYWHERE.

(As can probably be gleaned from the above, I am NOT a dog lover. Many dogs are fine, but many MORE are spoiled to the point of being a nuisance and a health hazard to the people in the grocery stores. And what of the people who are allergic? Why should someone have to be miserable in an airplane so "Mr. Woogums" can take a joyride with their enabling owner?)

I'm waiting for the day that I'm on a plane and the service animal turns out to be a miniature horse. How do you keep a horse from "answering the call of nature" on a five-hour flight? Worst plane trip I've ever taken was a long-haul with a damned CAT. The cat started crapping at take off, and the whole plane reeked like a litterbox for seven and a half hours.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Like others have said before, not all disabilities are apparent. Service dog can be a seeing eye dog, but it can also be for someone with emotional issues. Are there people who abuse it? Of course. But you just can't tell who has a need for a service dog just by looking at him or her.

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Like others have said before, not all disabilities are apparent. Service dog can be a seeing eye dog, but it can also be for someone with emotional issues.

I think the crux of the "I can't stand the people who apparently abuse the system" argument are those who's "emotional issue" is that they can't bear to be separated from their pet for 15 freakin' minutes.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Can anyone here clarify how easy it is to get a "service collar" for an animal? Is it very easy to just go anywhere and get one? Are there any fines for putting one on an animal that is not a service animal?

Like others have mentioned, I wouldn't pretend to be an expert on when an animal is a service animal or not and I would not even attempt to guess. However, I would have thought it was up to a store or restaurant to politely ask to see some proof that an animal is service animal if they have any suspicions. And I'm assuming that if someone could not produce proof, then the store or restaurant owner would be entitled to ask them to leave the animal outside.

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Like others have said before, not all disabilities are apparent. Service dog can be a seeing eye dog, but it can also be for someone with emotional issues.

I think the crux of the "I can't stand the people who apparently abuse the system" argument are those who's "emotional issue" is that they can't bear to be separated from their pet for 15 freakin' minutes.

There are people with real mental health issues and their service dog help them function day to day. They get judge so often by people who just don't get it. A little understand really goes a long way.

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I've never had a dog; I don't know how easy or how hard it is to "control" their behavior so I pose this question from a curiosity perspective: does a service dog have special training to not respond in a typical way to an external stimulus? The only way I can think to describe what I'm asking is when a seeing eye service dog is at a street corner waiting to help it's owner cross and sees another dog joyriding in a car and barking like crazy, does the service dog not start barking too?

How is it possible to not have the dog respond to the smells in a grocery store and start sniffing around (rhetorical question)? I don't want to ask people who need service dogs to not do everyday errands but it seems to me that when the general public is "at risk" (e.g., the dog sniffing/drooling over a produce bin) then this is the job of the health dept to get involved and not make the food establishment jump through hoops (I can see someone saying you have to have sneeze guards over a produce bin to protect the food from a service dog. This increases the costs for the food establishment.....) Just because you need a service dog doesn't mean the animal isn't expected to behave in a specific way or if the animal causes some damage or problem the owner should be responsible for it.

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the exact nature of some people's disabilities are not always readily apparent. relax and be grateful that you are not in their position

I feel like a moron after reading andiesenjis response I did not know about the epilepsy dogs....


Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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Can anyone here clarify how easy it is to get a "service collar" for an animal? Is it very easy to just go anywhere and get one? Are there any fines for putting one on an animal that is not a service animal?

Though I'm not a trainer, I do consider myself a responsible dog owner (and dog lover). My rescued French Bulldog is a Canine Good Citizen - we went through a round of training and special testing to earn the certificate, which allows me a discount on homeowner's insurance and the pride in knowing she's a good ambassador for the breed when in public. The American Kennel Club sets criteria for testing and has guidelines for the kind of dog this should be. She is not a therapy dog (that certification allows dogs to go into hospitals and nursing homes) and requires more testing; nor is she a service dog.

Speaking very generally for the US, there appears to be no standardized criteria or testing required to be a service dog. The ADA website recognizes that the dog may or may not have had training. There are more reputable organizations that require testing and hold dogs to a standard to reach their certification (Assistance Dogs International). Then there are others that list what the dog should be, let you click a box indicating that, sure, your dog is all of those things, and then purchase a nice certificate and official looking vest/collar with no required training.

As someone who spent a lot of time and some expense with training for the CGC, I can only imagine that the more reputable programs, that spend time and money training puppies and have waiting lists of people who genuinely need a service animal, do not like the latter type of organization. I've seen the good work that service dogs can do for those who need them, whether it's a visible disability or not, and it's a shame that a few irresponsible owners leave such a bad impression.


Edited by lights19 (log)

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Looking on wikipedia I did find a link that includes these little snippets (read in full here):

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.

People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

So it looks like it is difficult to prevent people from "faking" service animals as you are not allowed to ask for ID. However, it does seem that businesses can claim back for damages caused by misbehaving animals and can ask a customer to leave if they fail to control their animal.

So I presume a store could charge for any goods that an animal rendered unsellable (by licking, nibbling, etc.) and could possibly take action if an owner repeatedly did not stop a dog from barking/going to the toilet/ etc. in a restaurant or store.


Edited by Jenni (log)

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I work for an agency that investigates and prosecutes those who do not comply with the ADA. What Jenni found is a pretty good summary. No one with a service animal is required to "show their papers" although many people with service animals do carry an identification card because they often get harassed. The public is not well educated on the topic. But resources are scarce and I don't believe there is much support for training funds in this area.

While I am certain that there are people who abuse the system, the vast majority of those who require service animals have well-trained animals and are respectful of others. And they need those animals for many different reasons, often not readily apparent.

I had a friend with severe Type I diabetes who had had multiple surgeries, was on dialysis, was very weak and fragile, and therefore had a handicapped parking permit. She parked at the grocery store one day and was accosted by a man who said "you don't look disabled, why are you parking in the handicapped spot?" Instead of arguing with him she raised her shirt and displayed the scars that criss-crossed her torso. She then explained that not all disabilities are readily apparent (I believe she used some salty language to further convey the message). She has since died from her disease but kept working and trying to lead as normal a life as possible until she finally succumbed. So how about showing a little compassion for those less fortunate?

Personally I am more concerned about people who sneeze without covering their face, pick their noses and then handle the produce, or let their heathen children careen wildly around the store touching everything than I am about a doggie sniffing at the meat.

If the dog was really being disruptive or posing a health hazard the store manager could have spoken to the person and asked her to keep the dog on a tighter leash.

Finally, I'm curious - what kind of meat is stored in a low-lying bin that a dog can get his head into?

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I work for an agency that investigates and prosecutes those who do not comply with the ADA. What Jenni found is a pretty good summary. No one with a service animal is required to "show their papers" although many people with service animals do carry an identification card because they often get harassed. The public is not well educated on the topic. But resources are scarce and I don't believe there is much support for training funds in this area.

Thank you for that Darcie. The key phrase you used is "The public is not well educated on this topic".

Most of the resistance I meet is from the general public simply because they are not educted on this subject. This is a duty--a privilage really--that falls squarely on the training kennels and the dog owners.

Can they go to schools and shopping centers and educate?

Can they go through media to educate?

But seriously, when a regular customer leaves my establishment visibly upset becasue I allow service dogs and the customer can't understand why, it affects me greatly.

Educating the general public about service dogs is not the food establishment owner's responsiblity

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the exact nature of some people's disabilities are not always readily apparent. relax and be grateful that you are not in their position

I feel like a moron after reading andiesenjis response I did not know about the epilepsy dogs....

You shouldn't feel at all bad. It is not well known, although there have been some shows on PBS and on Animal Planet about them.

I know because of my friend. When I first met him, I thought Gaston was just a pet but when I saw him in action in the library - fortunately it was a petit mal seizure and not grand mal - he explained the dog's actions when he recovered.

He told us that while he was in training with the dog, a young girl who had numerous seizures daily, was also in training and not only was the dog important in warning of a seizure, the number of episodes actually decreased significantly and they believe it was because she was not so apprehensive once she was comfortable with the dog.

My deaf friend's dog is a Westie and ordinarily very playful but when he hears a siren or a smoke alarm when at home, he runs to a big button, smacks his paws on it and lights in every room flash so she knows something is amiss. On the street he will bat at her legs with his paws only if he hears a siren.

He is also trained to hit a button attached to the telephone if she is unresponsive and this summons aid.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Kudos to those that have pointed out that disabilities are not always evident and that the trained skills of a service animal can be equally subtle, until the service animal has to act.

I was "amused" by an ill-informed rent-a-cop that complained that a service animal at my feet, "just lies there when I step over it." Yes, that is what she is trained to do -- there was nothing occurring that she had been trained to alert to and she was doing her job -- staying vigilant and non-reactive to an environment that was, at the time, non-threatening.

While many service dogs are larger breeds like Labradors or German Shepherds, especially for tasks that do not require a physically strong animal, there is not a breed restriction. People joke about "service ponies" but imagine the value of a sturdier service animal to a physically handicapped individual in bracing them or assisting them up and down stairs. In short, except for recent changes related to air travel, don't expect that a service animal is a specific kind of dog.

Service animals can be trained to provide assistance for any kind of disability, not just those physically handicapped or visually impaired. Many of the disabilities that dogs are trained to assist with do not manifest any symptoms, even for a trained observer; seizures and other episodic disorders are one class of them. In some cases, the service animal may be trained to detect the imminent onset of an episode in ways that conventional medical devices cannot. One moment it is just a happy lap dog; the next it is alerting its handler to a potential danger that could kill them in moments.

For those interested, at the US Federal level, there are two primary laws that cover access; ADA (42 USC §12111 et. seq.) which, interestingly, doesn't cover air travel, as that was covered prior to the ADA's enactment in 14 CFR 382, Non-Discrimination On The Basis Of Disability In Air Travel.

In California, CA Civil Code §54 and CA Penal Code §365 are very applicable to service animals.

Local health codes can not be any more strict than to meet the requirements of the ADA.

Typically, there are penalties for misrepresenting an animal as a service animal (or being trained for use as a service animal) if it is not.

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This is a duty--a privilage really--that falls squarely on the training kennels and the dog owners.

[...]

But seriously, when a regular customer leaves my establishment visibly upset becasue I allow service dogs and the customer can't understand why, it affects me greatly.

Educating the general public about service dogs is not the food establishment owner's responsiblity

While common, this attitude is considered very discriminatory. You are asking for the disabled customer to do more than you would from any non-disabled customer.

Do you ask your customers with small children to explain their misbehavior at the table? Why they leave soiled diapers at their tables or change their children on the chair they dragged into the bathroom? What about that guy that reeks like cigarette smoke? Or the one with too much cologne or perfume?

There is a reason why a service animal does not need to be distinctly marked -- imagine if everywhere you walked you had a sign attached to you that says WARNING, STAY AWAY, SERIOUSLY DISABLED when you are already dealing with your own internal feelings associated with that knowledge. For many, the most incredible moments of living with a disability are those moments when you can forget that there are things that most everyone else can do, that you can't, and just live a "normal" life.

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No, no, no.

You've got me all wrong.

The service animal has a job to do. Fair enough, that's not the issue.

Look, someone, or some organization a loong time ago did a bang-up job educating the public on seeing-eye dogs. The dogs are accepted and respected in just about every facet of daily life.

But look at the comments from posters on this forum. Upset that dogs are in supermarkets, cafes, etc. If the dogs in question had a seeing-eye harness, there would be no complaints.

From my point of view, I face a $110 fine for allowing non service animals in my establishment, and great anger, verbal abuse, and other threats when I do my due diligenece in requesting to see the license of the animals.

The service dogs have a job to do, fair enough. If you want the public to accept this, you'd better do some PR work. Fines and threats are one thing, but when dealing with the public, a carrot is far better than a stick.

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