|A sign hanging at Oscar's in Pacific Beach|
I should begin by saying that I'm not really a "dog person", nor a "people person", for that matter. That's not to say I don't inherently like dogs or people, it's that I'm selective and prefer that a dog or a person be clean, somewhat quiet, nicely groomed and well mannered, especially if I have to dine near them. Now, as the subject of this post suggests, I'm perturbed by the bring-your-dogs-everywhere-and-claim-they-are-service-animals trend that is pervading San Diego and beyond. It's totally, completely, ridiculously, offensively out of control, and unfortunately for everyone else like me, the law is on the side of the canine-obsessed. Here I break down the service animal situation so that public businesses are aware and, conversely and completely unintentionally, so that the cheaters can cheat with even greater ease.
|Brody "Pop Pop" Lewis|
Now before you start blasting me, let's get this straight: I have absolutely no issue with true service dogs - those that are performing some necessary task for their physically-disabled and/or seriously emotionally plagued human. If a person is blind, deaf, in need of a medical alert, has serious PTSD, or has any other serious health issue for which a dog reasonably may provide assistance, then of course they should be entitled to bring their professionally trained canine along. But let's be real, about 90% of those touting their animals 'service dogs' are full of it, and they are abusing a privilege that was meant to grant access to those in serious need. Even the law seems far too expansive with regard to what afflictions may require a service animal and what constitutes an adequately trained dog, allowing for these fraudulent abuses to take place on a pervasive scale.
So how does a dog or mini-horse become a service animal? Is it an extensive multi-year program akin to a human becoming a therapist? Nope. While various online sites offer the accreditation for a small fee, like this one here, the sole legal requirement for a service animal is that it be "individually trained to benefit the person with a covered disability." The animal doesn't even have to be trained by a professional, rather it may be 'trained' by a neighbor, friend, local transient, a family member, or even the person with the alleged disability. It does not have to be tested or registered, it does not have to wear a special tag or vest, or be identified at all as a service animal. Yes, true service dogs must undergo extensive training to perform their functions, but that is not what I'm discussing here. I'm talking about "service" dogs NOT service dogs.
California and federal law, businesses that serve the general public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, may only ask two questions when someone brings their pup or mini-horse into their establishment: “Is this a service animal for a disability?” (do not dare ask specifics about the disability!) AND “What service is it trained to perform?” Any inquiry beyond those two questions and the business may expose themselves to possible civil litigation and criminal fines (up to $2,500 in CA). The public place cannot require and it is not advisable that they even ask a person to prove that their dog is a service animal. Although those lying about a service dog may be charged with a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 (and/or up to six months imprisonment), who is actually enforcing this and how?
|Service dogs EVERYWHERE!|
|Not sure that's actually a fact.|
So what's the problem with dogs being permitted in public places, specifically restaurants, anyway? It's been going on forever in Europe, you know. If it doesn't hurt anybody, blah blah blah. Personally, my biggest problem with it is CLEANLINESS. And I don't want to hear anything like "dogs' mouths are cleaner than humans" or "my dog is cleaner and better behaved than your kid." Nonsense. Dogs are trekking all over town, pooping and peeing in public with their bare feet, stomping around the streets, sniffing and licking garbage, other dogs' butts, possibly eating feces, and who knows what else. Furthermore, are you familiar with people having allergies to dogs? People that are anxious around dogs? Who is protecting these people?
I welcome any thoughts and comments on this issue. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the links below for more information.