Letters to the Editor

Pets aren’t service or support animals

A recent Sun Herald article and an incident witnessed in a store prompted me to write about four kinds of dogs.

Therapy dog: A friendly dog that allows your interaction and is usually taken to hospitals and nursing homes, but therapy dogs are for the comfort and support of others, not for your enjoyment.

Service dog: The Americans with Disabilities Act currently defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” The ADA permits special treatment for service dogs, including going places animals are generally not allowed. A guide dog trained to assist a blind person is an example of a service dog.

A business’s employees can ask only two questions of dog owners: “Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”

Emotional support animal: These animals provide comfort and support through affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions. Emotional support animals are different than service animals and are not afforded protection under the ADA, which is an important distinction.

And finally, the pet, which is the one causing a struggle: Sadly, most people looking for vests and certificates are just passing pets off as service dogs so they can take them everywhere. I am seeing way too many “service dogs.” In fact, I know someone who bought an untrained puppy that can’t provide any service, and it’s wearing a vest.

You can dress ’em up, but you can’t fool me.

Liz Serpa