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Service-Dog Dilemma

I am a disabled woman who requires a certified service dog to assist me. I find that if I take my dog where other dogs are, some owners think that a service-dog vest ensures that my dog won’t bite theirs, and they allow their dogs to maul mine, climb all over her and essentially have no boundaries. This prevents her from working and quite frankly, scares her. When I have asked nicely for the dogs to be removed, I often get “bitten” by the owners, who make sure everyone in the vicinity knows what a problem I am. Who does one call in any matter concerning service dogs who are not allowed to perform their jobs? Who protects the legally trained, certified, registered service dogs and/or their owners? Perhaps your readers would like to comment, or have solutions.

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Submitted by Anonymous | February 8 2013 |

I have learned there are two types of dog owners those that believe their dog should have manners at home and in public and those that don't know what dog manners are. My dog enjoys his space and doesn't appreciate an out of control dog getting in his face. So when he growls to tell the other dog back off buddy I don't know you. I get yelled at for him being aggressive and having bad behavior. It's like hello do you go charging around hugging everyone you meet. Probably not because not everyone would like that. So, at some level I understand your frustration and can only imagine how this would impact a service dog. I can only think that public education about service dogs would help. I see so many people trying to pet the dogs while they are working which is also a distraction from their job.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 10 2013 |

I work at a pet store and see this so often. I wouldn't assume they have any expectations about the service vest. I think most people let their dogs run up on every dog they see. It's not malicious. Just not knowledgable.

My rec would be to look at your vest to see if it is obvious enough. I've seen some subtle ones and not so subtle ones. If you can change to a more obvious one, I would.

Submitted by Anonymous in FL | February 11 2013 |

Dear Cynthia,

Yes, I despise people with no dog manners as well. The possible sources of the protection you need, is the police or department of justice depending. I would look into your local and state laws regarding people interfering with or disrupting your service dog. The dog is a 'tool', I say that in the kindest way. The SD is like a cane, wheelchair, or any other mitigating device in that it is working animal and can not be bothered, petted (without asked permission), or mauled by humans or other dogs. Its function is as a 'tool' and is how it has protections under the ADA just as any other device does. I took my service dog in-training out today for some wheelchair work and had people bothering me with tons of questions, comments, and stares. It's annoying, it interferes with your life, with working your dog, it will test your limits, and you might have to be firm to the point of mean with people who do not respect you and your SD.

Here is the FL law for a reference into how severe the punishment can be for the public bothering or harming a SD in our state.

"413.081 Interference with or injury to a service animal; penalties; restitution.–

(1) A person who, with reckless disregard, interferes with, or permits a dog that he or she owns or is in the immediate control of to interfere with, the use of a service animal by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of the service animal or its user commits a misdemeanor of the second degree for the first offense and a misdemeanor of the first degree for each subsequent offense, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(2) A person who, with reckless disregard, injures or kills, or permits a dog that he or she owns or is in the immediate control of to injure or kill, a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(3) A person who intentionally injures or kills, or permits a dog that he or she owns or is in the immediate control of to injure or kill, a service animal commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.


The rest can be looked up accordingly under FL state ADA laws. Some SD handlers will print out the ADA and state laws and keep them with them for reference just in case they need to clarify something. Might be a good idea.

Take care, and best wishes to you and your SD.

Submitted by Russell Hartstein | February 11 2013 |

You may find the resources you are looking for on my resources page at Funpawcare dot com

Russell Hartstein CPDT

Submitted by Anonymous | February 13 2013 |

I had my dog in Petco working on some training. She had her vest on. She's also only 18 lbs, so on the small side. She was doing great, no problems, I was pushing a cart with her right by me. A girl lets her 100+ pound American bulldog drag her all over the store while she laughs, then giggles when he "wants to say hi" to my service dog. We told her, please pull your dog away, my dog is a working service dog. She replies with, "Oh, but it's okay he just wants to play." We said again, she is a working service dog, and to please take your dog away from her. She does, only after letting him nearly trample her. As the woman walked away(er, got dragged away by her 100% untrained dog) she was huffing and puffing over how "rude some people can be." You got that right, lady, so why don't you fix that!

The only help I have found in these situations is just being firm and assertive with these people. They really have no clue!!

Submitted by Cinda | June 5 2013 |

I get so frustrated at people! My SD is very large, very docile and an oddity for most people to see. It is like they are at a petting zoo! Here they come to ask questions, to pet him without permission and to make comments. I need him for several reasons, one being to keep me focused on tasks and when I am constantly interrupted by these people I cannot get anything done. They want to engage me with their stories and information, questions and hints, I find it rude and disturbing. I usually do not answer or respond to any of them, like I can't hear or see them and I actually don't.Fortunately my SD does not react to them either. Today not only did a woman pet my SD, but she patted me several times. She also asked to take my picture...I am not on display...I have enough problems! The only people that seem to understand are people that have real service animals of their own, not the people trying to sneak their cats, birds and ferrets into shopping malls or other public places that pets are not allowed. This BTW gets me dirty looks when I am not questioned and they are...

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