CABOT, Ark. (CNS) — Volunteers with A Veteran’s Best Friend nonprofit in Cabot said service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are often misunderstood by the public.
“They don’t see our disability,” said veteran David Grimm told the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is a civil right for those with disabilities to have a service dog by their side, despite “no pet policies” in places like restaurants and stores because federal guidelines are clear — service dogs are not pets.
According to the Department of Justice guidelines, a business is legally allowed to ask a person with a service dog:
— Is this a service dog?
— What tasks does the service animal perform?
A business cannot request or ask the following:
— Require special identification for the animal.
— Ask about the person’s disability.
— Charge additional fees because of the animal.
— Refuse admittance, isolate, segregate or treat a person with a service animal less favorably than other patrons.
A business can only ask a person to leave with his/her service animal if the animal is out of control and the owner cannot regain control or if the animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others, according to the guidelines.
If a person is out in public and sees a service dog wearing a vest, the veterans said people should not ask to pet them.
“You tell them, ‘No, he’s working.’ They have no clue what you’re talking about. They do get angry and frustrated, (and) huff off.”
Frances Kirk added they are “medical-alert dogs” and while she has occasionally let people pet Domino, it cannot happen all the time while he’s working.
“If my dog gets accustomed to, whenever we go out in public, he’s always looking to see who’s going to pet him next, then he’s not concentrating on me and he could miss some signs and that could get me in trouble,” Kirk said. “If we’re out in public, we’re probably a little on edge to start with and we need the dogs to do their job.”
Hanson is associate editor at the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock.