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David Arrighi: Law on service dogs should be changed

To the editor:

After reading many articles in local newspapers concerning the service dog debate, I feel compelled to write about my feelings on this issue. First of all, let me express my deepest heartfelt thanks to all veterans for making my life safe and free. Being a retired veteran I know how much it means to me to hear someone say, “Thank you for your service.”

I also know that I would feel even more grateful to hear those words if I came home with a war-related injury. I believe the federal law concerning service dogs is too vague and needs to be changed. The law states that a proprietor of a business can ask if the animal is a service dog but cannot ask for certification. And the law also states that the owner of that dog does not have to show proof of certification. My question is, why not?

What personal infringements would be violated? If the owner is asked then the owner should be required to show proof. What reasoning is there for not having to do so? What is wrong with having to show a certification for an animal that you are so happy and proud to own? An animal that has been through intensive and lengthy training to make its owner more comfortable and safe. If I had a disability that required a service dog I would gladly and proudly display any form, card or badge on my person at all times. The owners/managers of businesses have their hands tied because they have to abide by state and local health board rules and be concerned about cleanliness and disease. They should have the right to ask and be assured that the dog has been properly trained and is there for the right reason.

My wallet is full of licenses and forms that I have to show to go about my daily life. It is not unreasonable to have to show documentation and have a much better outcome for both parties.

David Arrighi

Southampton

The writer served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962.

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Legacy Comments2

I will tell you why you (and stores) don't have the right to question someone about their need for a Service Dog, the same reason why when someone comes into a store with a cane or wheelchair they don't make them stand up to make sure that they really need them, the same reason why there is no one standing guard near the "riding carts" at wal mart, because a Service Dog is considered a piece of Durable Medical Equipment. How would you like to have to stop at the front door or customer service counter of EVERY store you go to every day to make sure that you are "allowed" to shop there? As a Service Dog handler I am as proud of can be of my dog, his training and the time and effort that goes into that, but that does not mean that I want to explain about my medical history to every manager and employee at stores who may decide that they need to know. When you see somone in a wheelchair, how often do you go up to them and ask them "What medical condition do you have?". The laws are written so that disabled people have the SAME RIGHT to privacy that the rest of the world gets to have. I find your article to be very condescending and honestly quite rude. What right does ANYONE have to ask ANYONE why they have to use the medical equipment that THEIR dr prescribed for them? Honestly the law that needs to be made is stiffer penalties for using a Service Dog when one does not have a disability. Trust me, you can tell a true SD from someones pet fifi that they decide they need to bring with them everywhere. If the laws were stricter on THAT then maybe there wouldn't be an issue.

Our organization trains service dogs for disabled veterans. Although we defend our dog/handler teams’ right to public access, we also sympathize with business owners who are uncertain how to follow the law while protecting their patrons from pets being passed off as service dogs. Durable medical equipment does not bite, growl, snap or sniff crotches. Badly trained dogs might. The Americans with Disabilities Act has honorable intentions, but many holes need plugging. Service dogs should meet a common standard, no matter who trains them or what methods they use. We have our own rigorous test that dogs and handlers must pass. The dog must be under the handler’s total control and be unobtrusive to everyone else. Our dogs wear identifying vests and our handlers display their licenses proudly. Phone numbers for the USDOJ and Canine Angels are on the license, along with a QR code to our webpage that shows all our service teams and their license numbers. We require retesting every two years. All of this can be done without asking one invasive question about anyone’s disability. The public has a right to know that an animal in their midst is safe, healthy and trained to the highest standards.

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