Common Challenges for Service Dog Handlers

As a service dog trainer the number one question that I am asked is what to do when an establishment denies a service dog’s access. First things first, make sure that you are in compliance with the law. It sounds silly for me to even state this, but I’ve worked with many people and dogs and have seen a lot. For example, not all states support a service dog in training (SDiT) when it comes to public access. If the dog is being disruptive, they can ask you to remove the dog. The dog can’t be off leash.

  • Keep in mind that they may not know the laws, so you will have to educate them. There are business cards that you can get that have the laws written on them if you struggle with confrontation. Unfortunately, people that have invisible disabilities will get questioned more than someone like me. I have both visible and invisible disabilities.
  • It’s unnerving to get questioned, plain and simple. Being prepared for it will help.
  • I have been questioned more when it comes to corporate companies. My most recent “confrontation and demand of paperwork” came from a well known restaurant chain. I explained the law to the manager and I most definitely contacted the corporate office.
  • Document everything. Every time I go to work a dog in public, the dog is wearing a GoPro. The GoPro isn’t necessary when it comes to documenting, but it is an option.

Another issue you will encounter is when people are talking to the dog. In my personal experience, I have the most issues when a vest is decorated vs basic. People don’t always read what is on the vest, collar or leash. Another example is when a poodle has a different haircut or colored hair or even if you have a different breed. That will most definitely call attention. There is nothing wrong with either of these, just remember that you may need to ask people to not distract your dog more than usual.

Certificates, IDs, papers, documentation are NOT requirements. A vest is not even required. It is a requirement that the dog performs a task to mitigate your disabilities according to the ADA. The problem with showing the fake cards and registering means that it will be hard on the next person.

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