The Dog in Your Business

When someone enters your business with a dog, how can you tell if it is a service dog?  Guide dogs are fairly easy; we know they generally have harnesses used by their partners who are blind or visually impaired.  Service dogs are a little trickier to identify.

Federal law does not require service dogs to sport any kind of official gear, nor does it require the human partner to carry any kind of official identification.  It does allow you to ask three questions:

Is that a pet?

Is dog task-trained?

What is the dog trained to do for you?

The answer to the first question should be no, the dog is a service or assistance dog.  The answer to the second question should be yes.  The law does not allow you to inquire as to the nature of the person’s disability, so the third question is tricky.  After all, if I explain that my dog is trained to alert me to sounds around me, you now know I have am Deaf or hard of hearing.  If I explain the dog is trained to pick things up for me you might surmise I have a mobility disability.  Please do not probe too deeply.

If the dog is wearing identifying gear, there is no need to ask any of these questions unless you suspect the dog is a fraud.  Such suspicions might be raised if the dog is behaving badly: barking, urinating indoors or acting aggressive.  In such cases you have every right to ask the person to take the dog out of your business.

Most service dogs are the real deal and work very hard to help their partners.  Welcome them.

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