Disabled people have rights, true. They have the right to have a service dog and to bring their legitimate service dog into most any establishment, as long as the dog behaves as it should. However, business owners and managers have rights too, and so do the other customers who use those establishments.
I think it's pretty clear that a lot of people are on to the fact that there are some people out there who are stooping to new lows, and will stop at nothing to take their pets wherever they want to go. However, in order to do this, they have to break the law; and make no mistake....impersonating a disabled person, and slapping a vest on your dog to call it a "service dog" without the proper training, is a crime. It is Felony fraud and will be treated as such, when, not if, but WHEN you are caught.
1. Amount of Schooling: an assistance dog should be given a minimum of one hundred twenty (120) hours of schooling over a period of Six Months or more.* At least thirty (30) hours should be devoted to outings that will prepare the dog to work obediently and unobtrusively in public places.**
2. Obedience Training: a dog must master the basic obedience skills: "Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Heel" and a dropped leash recall in a store in response to verbal commands and/or hand signals.
3. Manners: a dog must acquire proper social behavior skills. It includes at a minimum:
- No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals - no biting, snapping, snarling, growling or lunging and barking at them when working off your property.
- No soliciting food or petting from other people while on duty.
- No sniffing merchandise or people or intruding into another dog’s space while on duty.
- Socialize to tolerate strange sights, sounds, odors etc. in a wide variety of public settings.
- Ignores food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity while working outside the home.
- Works calmly on leash. No unruly behavior or unnecessary vocalizations in public settings.
- No urinating or defecating in public unless given a specific command or signal to toilet in an appropriate place.
For a definition of a "task" and "individually trained,” and “what is not a task” and many examples of tasks performed by different kinds of assistance dogs, Click Here.
5. Prohibited Training: Any training that arouses a dog’s prey drive or fear to elicit a display of aggression for guard or defense purposes is strictly prohibited. Non aggressive barking as a trained behavior is permitted in appropriate situations. (See IAADP’s ban on the enrollment of protection trained, attack trained or aggressive dogs as an assistance dog with our organization. Click Here)
6. A Trainer’s Responsibilities: Trainers function as ambassadors for the assistance dog movement. This includes a disabled owner trainer, a provider’s staff or a volunteer with a puppy or adult dog “in training.” It also includes an assistance dog partner or able bodied facilitator helping a disabled loved one to keep up an assistance dog’s training. At a minimum, you should:
- Know pertinent canine laws (i.e. leash laws and public access laws)
- Ensure the dog is healthy, flea free and the rabies vaccination is up to date
- Take time to make sure your dog is well groomed and free of any foul odor
- Show respect and consideration to other people and property.
- Use humane training methods; monitor the dog’s stress level; provide rest breaks.
- Carry clean up materials. Arrange for prompt clean up if a dog eliminates or gets sick.
- Be polite and willing to educate the public about assistance dogs and access rights.
How will you know when your dog is ready to graduate from an "in training" status to the status of a full fledged assistance dog with whom you are entitled to have public access rights?
An excellent tool for evaluating a team's readiness to graduate [e.g. finish up formal training] is the Public Access Certification Test (PACT) which can be found on the website of Assistance Dogs International at www.adionline.org The ADI Public Access Certification Test was developed over 15 years ago as a consumer protection measure by the ADI Team Testing Committee, which included input from both providers and IAADP Partner members. Overall, the goal of the test is to discover whether or not a particular team is ready to go places out in public without trainer supervision. The safety of the dog, the handler and the public were the main considerations in developing the specific exercises for testing the team.
This test creates a level playing field, since it does not matter whether it is a guide, hearing or service dog team being tested or who trained the dog. What matters is the team’s performance. Every ADI program is required to administer this test before graduating and credentialing a team.
Disability mitigating tasks or work are not critiqued during the test. However, to establish a dog’s eligibility to take this test to become an assistance dog, ADI programs would ask for a demo in advance of at least three service dog tasks, three hearing dog sound alerts or a series of tasks known as “guide dog work.” To document the dog performs tasks in the home such as seizure response work, alerting to an attack of hypoglycemia late at night or fetching a portable phone or beverage, a program may ask the client to submit a video tape of the task(s).
The Public Access Test evaluates the dog's obedience and manners and the handler's skills in a variety of situations which include:
A. The handler's abilities to: ( 1 ) safely load and unload the dog from a vehicle; ( 2 ) enter a public place without losing control of the dog; ( 3 ) to recover the leash if accidently dropped, and ( 4 ) to cope calmly with an access problem if an employee or customer questions the individual’s right to bring a dog into that establishment.
B. The dog's ability to: ( 1 ) safely cross a parking lot, halt for traffic, and ignore distractions; ( 2 ) heel through narrow aisles; ( 3 ) hold a Sit-Stay when a shopping cart passes by or when a person stops to chat and pets the dog; (4 ) hold a Down Stay when a child approaches and briefly pets the dog; ( 5 ) hold a Sit Stay when someone drops food on the floor; hold a Down Stay when someone sets a plate of food on the floor within 18" of the dog, then removes it a minute later. [the handler may say “Leave It” to help the dog resist the temptation.] ( 6 ) remain calm if someone else holds the leash while the handler moves 20 ft. away; ( 7 ) remain calm while another dog passes within 6 ft. of the team during the test. This can occur in a parking lot or store. Alternatively, you could arrange for a neighbor with a pet dog to stroll past your residence while you load your dog into a vehicle at the beginning of the test.