Many people have a vague sense of awareness that Service Dogs “help” their person and that they’re allowed to be in public, but there’s a lot more to Service Dog teams (the dog and handler). To help educate the general public, here are the things Service Dog handlers want everyone to know and understand.
1. My Service Dog Is Working
When you see my partner and I out and about in public, please understand that he/she’s doing vital work for me, even if it doesn’t “look like” he/she’s working to you. Just like when you’re working, he/she just wants (and needs) to be left alone to do their job. Please don’t distract my Service Dog from their job by talking to him/her, using baby talk, touching them, touching their equipment, crowding him/her, whistling or barking at him/her, or doing anything except politely ignoring him/her.
2. My Service Dog Is My Lifeline
Depending on my disability, my Service Dog may be the only thing standing between me and death. He/she’s my lifeline and means the world to me. Please don’t distract him/ her from doing their job or tasks because my life, health, and peace of mind, rests in his/her paws. If you distract him/her and he/she isn’t able to respond appropriately, my ensuing illness or injury is YOUR fault. Please just ignore him/her entirely and let him/her focus on their job, which is keeping me safe.
3. I Don’t Always Want to Answer Questions
My Service Dog has made a huge difference in my life, but I don’t always want to stop and talk to every single person who wants to ask me about him/her. Sometimes, I just want to run a quick errand and go home, just like you. Please keep in mind that almost every person who sees me out in public with my Service Dog wants to ask me about his/her job, purpose, name, breed, where they were trained, what he/she does, how old they are, and a plethora of other questions. Please don’t be offended if I’m slightly short or dodge your questions. Most of the time, they’re personal questions anyways and shouldn’t be asked.
4. My Service Dog Is Medical Equipment
My Service Dog is medical equipment, just like a wheelchair, crutches or an oxygen tank. He/she is medically necessary and anywhere in public medical equipment is allowed, so is my Service Dog. Additionally, please treat him/her like medical equipment. You wouldn’t walk up to someone you didn’t know and just randomly start pushing their wheelchair or talk to a little old lady’s cane, so please don’t touch, talk to, pet or otherwise engage with my partner.
5. My Service Dog Is Loved
Please don’t tell me you “feel sorry” for my Service Dog because he/she has to work all the time. He/she’s incredibly loved and does in fact enjoy “time off” so he/she can just be a dog. He/she does get treats, does get to play and sometimes, when he/she’s off duty, enjoys getting the “zoomies” and running around in massive circles like he/she’s lost her connection to the mothership and is trying to re-establish the signal. He/she’s very well taken care of and better off than most pet dogs because he/she’s well-adjusted, highly trained and well socialized.
6. I’d Rather Not Have A Service Dog
Please don’t tell me you’d “like to have a Service Dog.” In order to have a Service Dog, you have to be disabled as defined by U.S. federal law. Every time you say, “I wish I had a Service Dog,” you’re saying, “I wish whatever is wrong with you was wrong with me, too!” Also, please don’t tell me you “wish your dog could go everywhere with you.” Again, that requires SO MUCH MORE than you think it does, not the least of which is thousands of hours of training and socialization. It’s not easy and while my partner is completely worth it, I’d rather not need her.
7. My Service Dog Is Protected Under Law
United States federal law protects my Service Dog’s access rights. Federal law allows my Service Dog and I to go ANYWHERE in public people are allowed to frequent. The only times my Service Dog could be excluded from any public place is if he/she is out of control and I’m not doing anything about it.