Monday, December 21, 2009

Disability Etiquette

It took me a few minutes to recognize where this video on Disability Etiquette in the library was filmed. I knew it looked familiar, but for some reason, it just didn't sink in.

There are a few errors that I noticed in the Service Dog Etiquette section near the end. The handler states that service dogs will have a halter or vest and should be able to show you identification if asked. Missouri state law does not require this nor does the ADA. Many times, service dogs have no identification as there is no official paperwork required by the state to be carried by the dog or handler at all times. Any paperwork that someone might show you is not official and can be downloaded off of the web by anyone.

If you suspect that an animal is not a service dog, then you can ask if he is a service dog and if there is anything the dog can do for the person that the person can not do by themselves. (Emotional Support dogs are NOT the same as service dogs and do not qualify as such.) You may NOT ask what disability the person has. If you refuse service to someone who has a genuine need for a service animal, you can be sued and you will lose. Also, according to Columbia law, service animals are not required to be on a lead either though most will be for safety. (Esme has multiple canine friends who are service dogs.)

I know I have broken this cardinal rule about interacting with service animals when my friend comes in with her dog, but do not touch the dog, talk to him, or in any way try to distract him from his handler. Do not get between the two. Never offer the dog food, treats or water. If the dog appears thirsty, you CAN ask the handler if they would like water for the dog and then give it to the handler to give to the dog.

Dogs are not supposed to be petted when they are in "work" mode. If someone wantss to pet the service dog, the handler must take off their vest or other work gear and then give them a release command. This is a lot of work, so avoid doing it. If you see a young library patron trying to pet a service dog, stop them. More than once, I've stepped between a child and a dog in the library. You can then explain that the dog is at work and can't be distracted. I've yet to meet a handler that minds when we do this... and most prefer it.

Need more information on service animals? Service Dog Central


Kirsten and Cole said...

Truth be told, Esme and my service dog, Cole, have had a long time flirtation going on that we try to keep from Cole's housemate, Luna (who is very jealous). Cole works hard, which means to me that I have to make sure he plays just as hard. I sign him up for various doggy activities so he can be a regular dog and make friends when he isn't in his work gear. Cole and Esme met at a freestyle obedience club (a dance club for dogs).

Thanks for the nice post, Chriss!

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