Flashback Friday: What Do I Do With My Dog When…? Part III

Original Post Date: 6/6/2009

Picking up from where I left off a couple weeks ago from an old blog post that was the definition of TLDR,

Catch up on the series with Part I and Part IItoday’s topic is access. Where can service dogs go?

THe short answer is “everywhere the general public is permitted, a service dog may go.” But there are always exceptions, questions, and grey areas so let me provide a little more clarity.

This is a link to the section of the Americans with Disabiliteis Act that defines a service dog and the rights of service dog owners. And This is a link to the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) that elucidates and expounds upon the information in the ADA. And below is my take on both.

Public Access

Apartments, transit systems, ride and home-sharing facilities, restaurants, public facilities, businesses, medical facilities, entertainment facilities and more fall under the “service dogs welcome” category with the following exceptions;

  • a B&B with fewer than five bedrooms and where the owner resides on the premises (this excludes things like Airbnb, btw).
  • Locations where sterilization is required for the safety of high-risk individuals (ICUs, burn units, ORs, et centers).
  • Food preparation areas in restaurants (though I believe this could be challenged if the dog’s breed is considered hypo-allergenic, which opens doors for blind chefs and bottle washers).

Private Residences

Someone can deny a service dog entrance to her residence. Note that the heading says “private residence,” not “private property.” Someone who lives in an apartment can deny me entrance to their unit. Someone who owns land on which they run a business may not deny me and my dog entrance.

Some interesting rules I discovered while researching for this post:

1.    Law enforcement officers such as police, TSA, and even the Secret Service may not forcibly separate a service dog from its handler unless the dog is out of control and the handler has made no effort or appears to be incapable of controlling the dog.

2. A cab driver (and I assume this applies to bus and ride-sharing drivers) may not refuse to carry a service dog on grounds of having a pet hair allergy unless the allergy is noted in the personnel file. If this is the case the driver is required to stay with the working team until a replacement driver arrives on scene.

Service Dog Identification

These days, with the number of businesses declaring themselves “pet friendly” increasing in droves you can’t guarantee that every dog you see, not even every dog you see in harness, is a working dog. Employees at businesses that don’t welcome pets may ask the following — and only the following — to determine if the dog entering their establishment meets the definitions set forth in the ADA.

1. “Is this a service dog?”

2. “What task is the dog trained to perform?”

They may not ask for proof that the dog is a service dog, either in the form of an ID card or patch or vest, or having the dog demonstrate its proficiency.

THe lack of consistent legal identification for service dogs is a pretty hot topic right now because of the rise and problems of fake service dogs. The rights of service dog owners are predicated on the excellent behavior of their canine partners, and someone who cuts corners to get permission for their purse pooch to come along with them isn’t likely to put in the consistent effort required to maintain that level of behavior. Thus, their existence and prevalence damages the reputation and reception of those with legitimate needs.

However, having your dog officially registered with the government means that now the government has yet another identifying database registering persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, governments have historically treated persons with disabilities as commodities, or worse, disposable. With rights and protections for this vulnerable population so recently established it shouldn’t surprise anyone that many of us are not eager to end up on some kind of registry. It takes time to reconcile after trust has been broken. It takes more time to reconcile if trust was never established in the first place.

What should I do if someone denies me entrance to a business or public building because of my dog?

We received an entire lecture dedicated to resolving access issues. The advice was pretty straight-forward conflict resolution stuff.

Stay calm and respectful but hold your ground.

Ask to speak with a manager or supervisor — it’s their job to educate their staff, not yours.

Know your rights thoroughly enough to educate said manager or supervisor if necessary.

Allow your dog’s excellent behavior to speak for its qualifications.

That last one is the source of my world-ending anxiety spiral regarding Greta’s behavior. Remember This post?

“So, obviously Flashback Anneliese, getting her first dog, hasn’t had any access issues. But has Today Anneliese had any?”

Yes, several.

A store manager suddenly noticed that Prada and I had been in her store after twenty minutes of Prada sleeping at my feet while I ran my fingertips lightly over a display of cheap but delightfully quirky earrings. And the owner of an Asian-fusion restaurant refused to seat us indoors.

The former yelled at me so I left and called the district office. The latter refused to accept the print-outs of the relevant laws I offered him so I wrote letters to the local Better Business Buearou and Chamber of Commers and state DoJ. Management of both establishments changed shortly after those incidents.

In the future I’ll write a post about how to research and compose letters challenging discrimination. It’s the kind of thing that seems insurmountably complicated and stressful, until you do it. I had a lot of encouragement tackling my first letter, and I’d like to pay that forward.

“Has anyone ever denied your dog entrance to a private home?”

Yes, several times, for different reasons.

In the first instance Prada was dis-invited to a college singles Bible study because the hostess told me she just didn’t want animals in her house. THat’s her right. It was also my right to refuse to attend the study, and we both exercised the privileges of living in America. I won’t bother going into the pressure she put on me to attend as a single Christian female, though, or how it made me feel like I was narrowly avoiding a speed-dating event. Oh…I guess I just did mention it, didn’t I?

Several people have cautiously expressed concern to me about how their dogs might interact with Prada, and later Greta. We solved that problem in a variety of ways, ranging from the dogs meeting at a park, host dogs staying cooped up or Prada or Greta staying home to avoid stressing an aged and/or ailing dog. We matched our actions to each other’s needs with courtesy and openness.

Another memorable instance happened when someone very shame-facedly asked me to leave Greta at home because the house was brand new and in a pristine state of cleanliness it would never see again. While I have had negative experiences with peoples’ house-worship, I considered this to be a special circumstance and agreed. My hostess went overboard to ensure all my needs were met, even providing a startlingly beautiful array of allergy-friendly snacks. Courtesy and snacks go a long way with me.

Rights and Respect

I often call ahead to businesses known to have a tenuous grasp on service dog rights, like hotels and Uber rides. I’m not required to do this, but I often do because it improves my customer experience. I’d much rather hear “Welcome to Best Western! What name is your reservation under?” When I walk into a lobby after a long flight than “uh…we don’t allow pets in here…”

I also do it because it gives people the chance to ask questions before they’re suddenly confronted with the unexpected sight of a big-eared German shepherd prancing into their lives. People just aren’t used to seeing persons with disabilities out and about, in general, and are often flustered by a sudden internal monologue about how to be helpful without getting in trouble, either with their boss or their prospective customer.

I like to think of it as contributing to the overall evolution of my culture into one of inclusivity. It takes time, time I’m willing to invest up front, for people to adapt internal belief scheme to one of total inclusivity.

Now, what I do object to is people arbitrarily doing this for me. Several times I have found out after the fact that family members or friends have called ahead to inform businesses that I would come with a canine teammate. This is patronizing at best and destructively rude at worst.It’s n

It’s not the phone call that bothers me, but rather people usurping a conversation that rightfully belongs to me. I can’t speculate as to motive, but the message it conveys is that these people either think I can’t, or won’t do this for myself.

It presents the image of one of the following:

  • Apologizing for the presence of a service dog and/or a person with a disability.
  • Apologizing for my presumption in assuming people will accept us.
  • Smoothing my path because I can’t handle the responsibility, or the potential conflict.
  • Presenting me as having fewer rights than others by absorbing my right to fail and learn through consequences, or to have a different opinion about how things ought to be handled.

I’ve stated before that i prefer people to offer help so I know it’s available, even if I turn it down. THe key word in this phrase is ‘offer.” Stepping in and providing assistance without invitation or request is intrusive, insulting, potentially harmful, and exclusionary, in that it excludes me from the category of “adult who is capable like me.”

Access is a complicated issue because it involves humans. Ultimately, it boils down to a system that only works because of mutual respect. I respect a business owner’s concerns about health codes and safe operations of her business by being clear, polite, and controlling my dog. People respect me by assuming a basic level of competence in persons with disabilities, assuming that our dogs, and by extension ourselves, are innocent until proven guilty of disruption like everyone else, and respectfully listening to needs and information that might be unfamiliar to them when it’s presented.

I’ll write more in detail in the future about some peculiar access situations I’ve encountered and how I handled them. I’ll write about how business owners, private citizens, and public servants have made life easier, and harder, on me and my partners. I’ll answer any reader questions about access issues, though none of my posts or answers should be construed as legal advice because I am not a lawyer or legal expert of any kind. But right now I’ll leave you with this final thought:

Your favorite blindfluencer asks that you think of one activity you can’t imagine a service dog in, then assume it’s possible and try to figure out what makes it work. Assuming possibility is a foundational principle of inclusivity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: