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Disabled face discrimination as fake service dogs on the rise

Easy to purchase knock-off vests causing problems for disabled

 

Author: Paul Giorgio, Special Projects Producer

Oct. 19, 2014: It takes months of training and a major financial investment for a dog to become a certified service animal. But that’s not stopping able-bodied people from claiming their ordinary pets are trained service dogs.

via Disabled face discrimination as fake service dogs on the rise.

 

HOUSTON – It takes months of training and a major financial investment for a dog to become a certified service animal. But that’s not stopping able-bodied people from claiming their ordinary pets are trained service dogs.It’s the latest trend in pet accessories, and it’s based on deception. A growing number of dog owners are dressing their pets up in fake service vests to gain access to public spaces.Whether out of convenience or companionship, critics say it’s cutting into the rights of the disabled.

The vests are easily available online. One could be purchased along with 50 ID cards for $19.95. No proof of service dog training was required to make the purchase.

Kristie Baker knows the practice well. Baker, a polio survivor, has been using service dogs for over 20 years. She said the last five years or so there’s been a shift in how she’s treated by businesses.

Baker finds herself answering more questions from suspicious managers.

“We’ve been questioned probably ten times more since people have been able to get ‘I’m a working dog’ harnesses online,” said Baker. “All of a sudden it’s like, ‘What are you bringing that dog in for? Is it there to help you?'”

Baker worries that the rights of all disabled people are being eroded by uneducated and careless pet owners.

“The pet dogs misbehave, they’ll bark, they’ll growl at people or they’ll pee inside a building. Merchants are becoming a little bit cautious,” Baker said.

Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization that provides trained assistance dogs for the disabled, has drafted a petition asking the Justice Department for action.

The group hopes to have 50,000 signatures by March. At which time they hope to take the issue to local and national legislators.

Web Extra: View the petition

CCI instructor Jen Hanes trains service dogs. She said service dogs spend months at a facility learning how to stay calm and focused in crowded environments.

Hanes said without proper training pets can be nervous, anxious and defensive in crowded situations — a potentially dangerous combination for both the animal and patrons.

“They haven’t had any training out in public,” Hanes said. “So they go out, they’re exposed to another dog or exposed to different sounds, distractions in the environment and it causes inappropriate behavior. The dog is acting out. It could definitely be a threat to a disabled handler, someone who may not have the same amount of strength or reaction speed than an able bodied handler has.”

Hanes said a common excuse owners use is that the pet dog is there for emotional support. A distinction not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service dogs must be able to perform a task.

“If they say, ‘Oh well, the dog’s presence helps me,’ or, ‘I like having the dog near me.’ You want to make sure that it’s actually doing a task,” said Hanes.

Hanes said she’s seen first hand how the dogs she trains change lives. She’s worried that a few bad actors may take away some of her students’ new found independence.

“For them to come along with a legitimate service dog and be denied access because of the poor behavior the person before them or the dog before them is really unfortunate,” said Hanes. “Ultimately it doesn’t effect just you, it affects many other people.”

Advocates stop short of asking for a nationwide ID card or other government permit. They say a significant number of people train their own service dogs and added documentation could be an added burden.

Raising Hope With Your Help!

Alex and Hope are running two half Marathons this year to raise funds to train two service puppies to help two humans that really need them… and we need YOUR help!

There are two ways you can help!

Make A Donation:

We are always looking for donations to help Hope is Mine spread the word and awareness about service dogs and to help in getting dogs trained to help others in need.  You can simply click on the donate button on the right or go to our Fundraising page at http://www.firstgiving.com/hopeismine.

Run With Hope:

You can run in one of both of the marathons, have your friends and family sponsor you and make a huge difference to this great cause.

Here are the details of the two Half-Marathons.  Support the cause and help us raise the funds we need to help others in need.

The Disneyland® Half marathon on September 2nd 2012 in California.

The Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon on November 9th in Orlando.

Those who finish both are eligible for a third medal called the Coast to Coast Challenge so Hope is “hoping” to add three medals to her proud of me wall this year!  With your help, there’s no doubt she’ll be able to do it!

If you are interested in running either or both of the half marathons above, you need to do the following;

  1. Register on the Disney site for the marathon(s) you are interested in participating in. When you register make sure you say that you are on team “Hope is Mine”
  2. Register for free at www.firstgiving.com/hopeismine  (not active yet), fill out your profile and start to tell everyone that you are running and ask for their support.
  3. Join our Face Book page https://www.facebook.com/HopeIsMine and let us know how your training and fundraising is going. Remember we are all in this together so this will be a great source of support for you!
  4. Make sure to book your travel and accommodations early. We will probably do something as a group before and after the race so watch for details (coming soon!).
  5. If you have any talents or expertise you can donate to help make this an even greater success let us know! This is going to be a rocking event that we “Hope” to do every year, so help us make this first one a resounding success!

Be on the lookout for more information about these events.  In the mean time, please help us spread the word and raise some money.  Hope springs eternal with all of your support!

 

Anything’s Possible With… Hope.

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” ~Christopher Reeve

We’ve started training for the Vegas marathon albeit to a slow start. Hope’s in better shape than me….b%!ch!  Definitely going to have to go running today to keep upw with her.  Thankfully I only do this once a year.  We would appreciate any encouragement and/or support as we begin this journey. That and some back rubs wouldn’t hurt!!

Make It Yours