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How to Advocate for your Service Dog

Hey guys! We visited Disney World a few days last week. Besides the obvious airline craziness that’s going on, we had some unfortunate encounters. Disney hired some new bus drivers for their parks and multiple times the bus drivers tried to deny us access to get on due to Jacob’s service dog. One driver even stood in front of the bus door blocking it while refusing to let us on in front of a big crowd. The Walt Disney World workers eventually made him. Another said she was allergic to dogs and wouldn’t let us on until my husband basically insisted and walked on (cause its illegal). Another one just made comments under his breath.

It was a major bummer to the boys, not to mention embarrassing. It’s hard to believe that people in the transportation business are unaware of service animal rights. But I know people don’t know what they don’t know. I just hate that for sweet Jakey and for anyone else that needs a service dog to be treated like that. It makes you feel very very small.

With that said, I thought maybe I would write another informative blog post about service animals for anyone interested. I always get some responses about people being mean about it because so many abuse the law and try to make their pets look like service animals. However, I truly believe that individuals with disabilities should not suffer because some people are breaking the law. Just like I wouldn't want anyone else to be judged based on the actions of others. I could go on and on about the other types of things we endure as a special need’s family, but I really just want to try and be helpful and informative. I hope for a future for my son that is more accepting and tolerant of people that are different. I hope that maybe sharing this information will help.

Did you know… 1. Service animals are considered “equipment” for individuals with special needs. No we don't view our dogs as a machine, but the law views them as this...think of it as a wheelchair. You wouldn’t deny someone access because they have a wheelchair.

2. Service animals are different than emotional support animals. Service animals perform a service. Jacob’s service dog tethers to him to prevent him from elopement. This keeps him safe in public, near water, in parking lots, and allows us to do simple things like go to the grocery store without holding him every second while he fights us and scratches and screams and eventually sometimes gets loose. Each time we try to go to events without Reid, we quickly remember why he is so important to Jacob. Jacob will wiggle out of our hands or throw horrible fits if he isn’t allowed to walk independently. He is an 11-year-old boy. Reid gives him independence, while keeping him safe. Other service dogs are trained to do things like smelling a change in someone’s sweat to detect a seizure.

3. Service animals should not have potty accidents in public, bark at people, bite or jump. They should be on a leash and under the control of their person at all times. These are good indicators that they are a service animal.

4. Service animals should be reasonably clean.

5. Service animals are allowed in all public spaces. The only legal place I have ever seen that is allowed to deny us in was specific areas in a zoo or aquarium for animal’s safety.

6. You should never pet a service dog. This isn’t because service dog owners are mean. Truly, we hate telling people no and seeming like we are huge meanies. A service dog should always be focused on their job while working. Being scratched and pet is such a fabulous experience for them, it gets their attention completely off their job.

7. We do not legally have to show papers our license or proof that the dog is a legal service dog, except for specific places like the airport. Sometimes we will offer, but you should not ask. There are only a few legal questions a business owner can ask like “Is this service dog required because of a disability?” You cannot ask the disability. And “What service or task has the dog been trained to perform?” If there is a question that someone is bringing their pet in because it has urinated or pooped in public, bit or barking nonstop, I would suggest calling the police. Trust me, we want them caught too cause they make us look bad!

8. Service dogs have rules other dogs don't, even while they are not working. We cannot pet Reid's belly, we can't play tug of war, we can't allow him free access to other dogs. We have to have lots of rules to make sure he maintains his training. But we do get to love him so much!

Thank you for taking the time to read this! Pass it on.

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