Stolen Service Dogs

Service dogs have full accessibility – they get to go where their human partner goes (with very limited exceptions – surgery, the X-ray room, the MRI room…).

According to the newest ADA guidelines and regulations, service dogs, when out in public, must be kept within 3 feet of their handler/partner. There are some exceptions if the dogs is actively performing a task for their human partner that requires them to move beyond the 3 foot limit, but for the most part, 3 feet is it. Our service dog leashes are short.

This inquiring mind wants to know why the people who were teamed up with these service dogs left them behind when they went into the stores where their service dogs were stolen.

There have been two recent instances of a service dog left behind when their handler went inside a store. One tied her dog up outside as if it were a pet.  The other left it in the car, again, as if it were a pet.

Service dogs are not pets.

Dogs that are treated like pets in some instances and not in others are not service dogs.

Either the dog is a service dog, and is treated like one, kept within 3 feet of the handler in public, full access, and all, or it is a pet and is tied up outside stores, left in cars, left at home, has no access rights at all. There is no middle ground of a dog that is sometimes a service dog and sometimes a pet dog.

We can’t have it both ways.  I know it’s sometimes inconvenient to attach that leash to the harness and wrangle the dog out of the car for short trips, but either the dog is a service dog and stays with you to provide that service, or it’s a pet dog and should stay home or in pet-friendly areas.

I know sometimes facing the world with a service dog by your side can be intimidating because other people make it a nerve-wracking experience, but wussing out and leaving the dog behind does no one any good at all. The dog expects to be by your side all the time. When you sometimes take the dog and sometimes leave it, you are sending mixed messages to the dog, weakening its training, and making it less able to be a service dog. If we want our lives back, with full access and activities, and that means relying on a dog to help us, then we need to suck it up and take that dog everywhere.

No halfsies.

If you needed a wheelchair to get around, would you tie it up outside because you didn’t want to deal with it in the store?

If you needed an oxygen tank to breathe, would you leave it in the car because it was too much hassle hauling it out of the car and into the store?

If you wouldn’t do those, then why do you leave your essential service dog tied up outside the store, or in the car?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Noddy
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 16:05:26

    Service dogs need to be treated like service dogs, and not pets. That means, unless there’s a good reason (medical procedures such as you mentioned, the dog being sick, that sort of thing) the dog goes where we go. Everywhere we go.

    I, too, have had people try to take Itzl from me. Mostly it’s because they want to play with him. They don’t seem to get it that service dogs aren’t pets. It doesn’t help when people with service dogs treat the dogs like pets (tying them up outside the store, letting people pet them, letting them wander off or exhibit pet-like behaviors).

    Part of this is that people who self-train their service dogs may not be as confident about their accessibility, may not know their full rights. Education is a Good Thing.

  2. dianawelsh13
    Dec 03, 2013 @ 22:55:13

    the only time I’ve left Sophie home was when I had to go into the ER. I can’t take her out and handle her properly attached to IV’s and breathing treatments and monitors and that’s not fair to her, and I’m often there for 5-7 hours before they even decide if they’re keeping me. Other than that, the only time I left her home she had been sick and I didn’t want her to get sick in the store (I think from the de-wormer).

    And yet still someone tried to take her out of my lap. I don’t know for what purpose. They didn’t succeed.

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