This is lovingly dedicated to all Veterans active duty, reserved and retired, and to the families who lost a loved one in the service of our country. “Thank you” for your service and sacrifice.
Sadly while researching for this blog I found several cases of discrimination against U.S. Veterans who tried to enter restaurants with their Service Dog. I find this particularly horrid and I think it’s a fitting starting point for any Service Dog discussion this Memorial Day weekend.
Over the years I watched my Dad and Uncles discuss “battle fatigue.” I saw Vietnam Veterans at my church talk about “flash-backs”. For these generations invisible wounds often went misunderstood, untreated, and even discounted as “all in your head.” In 1980 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recognized a group of survivor symptoms as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (see NH Fact Sheet). We now know that physical and mental consequences are brought about by a trauma outside the individual and these symptoms are not a sign of character weakness; Instead, they are a method the brain uses to process experiences. (For a full discussion of PTSD see the educational resources below).
“So what you are really saying mom, is, that wounded Veterans are now fully able to participate in life but, they are not allowed to because someone takes it upon themselves to say “NO DOGS?”
“Hello Goodee the Service Dog I can always count on you to bring the blog back to my original point. Yes, many social establishments try to exclude Service Dogs.”
“ “But Mom everyone CAN have a Service Dog with them, that’s the LAW”
“YES Goodee, that’s the Law but—“
“Oh I get it now mom ACCESS depends upon people KNOWING and APPLYING the LAW. Well, that’s different there’s a whole learning curve thing that goes on.”
“Goodee, what exactly is a “learning curve?”
“Well mom I’m not sure but that’s what Manger types say when they should have known the Service Dog Access law and told their employees about it but didn’t, or they think employees know about Service Dogs but find out later they didn’t.”
“Right Goodee. The new guy or Learning Curve, hmm... Let’s see it would probably only take us five minutes to educate people on the law that would help”
Let’s start with…
COMMON SENSE & CENTS
Nearly 1 in 5 American’s has a disability (US Census Bureau, 2010). Estimates suggests there are over 300, 00 Service Dogs in the U.S. specifically trained to mitigate a disability for their owner. Information from Guide Dog schools shows that less than 3% of the Service Dog population in the U.S. is used as a guide dog for someone who is blind (For Service Dog stats see the Service Dog Central link below). Taking all this into account, it is likely that at some point an eating establishment will be asked to serve a customer who has a Service Dog, and that person will be disabled but not blind.
“Wow, all that information sounds like a logic puzzle.”
“Yes Goodee the Service Dog, it is logical that Service Dogs are out there in the world helping people and it may not always be obvious that the person is disabled and/or that the dog is a Service Dog. , so the question becomes what to do when your restaurant encounters a Dog?”
“I know: Wouldn’t it be best to treat a person with a Service Dog just like you do any other person coming into your restaurant? Everyone has to eat and it’s a matter of Economics really whether your establishment can afford the penalties of violating Federal Laws which protect the access rights of Service Dog handlers.”
“YES, that’s it Goodee! That sounded like you have an Economics and Marketing Degree but that is the point. Interference with a Service Dog is not only poor customer service it is a violation of Federal Law (fines can range from $300 to $50,000 for a first offense, and in some cases can include jail time).
Points to remember about Service Dogs in eating establishments
- · Federal Law requires that a Service Dog and their handler be allowed in all areas of public access—there is no public health law or local rule to “trump” this.
- · While many Service Dogs have vests or ID Cards there are no documentation requirements for Service Dogs.
- · Business establishments may only ask:
1. Is this a Service Dog required because of a disability?
2. What work or tasks has the dog been trained to perform?
--- Please note that you should NOT say “You are not blind, are you?”, or ask “What’s WRONG with you?” Or even “Why do you have a Service Dog?” No one is allowed to ask for medically sensitive information.
It is also poor form to say “Is that all?”(Being able to stand or sit without assistance may be “nothing” to you but for someone who has been unable to do it there is a world of difference when they have a trained dog).
- · If a Service Dog disrupts business you may ask that the dog leave but you must allow the patron to try and correct the disruption and the patron has the right to stay in your place of business without their dog.
- · The best customer service practice is to ask the Service Dog handler where they would like to be seated. Each Service Dog Team works differently and only the handler knows what is best for their circumstances. --- Talk to the Human not the Dog. Talking to the dog distracts them from their job of taking care of the handler
- · Remember the Service Dog is a Medical Device to be treated like Durable Medical Equipment. You would not ask a customer to be without their eye glasses or cane, so DON’T EXCLUDE “THE DOG”. You would not stare at a customer’s wheelchair or ask them why they need to wear a mask… SO DON’T ASK about “THE DOG” or “STARE” at the person or dog. You would not casually ask a customer if they take Viagra so be careful how you ask a person about their Service Dog and how it works for them. You would not allow your employees to empty out of the kitchen and “check out this customer’s cool blood sugar meter” so DON’T allow employees to create a “side show” about the Service Dog.
- · Give the Service Dog and handler SPACE. Do you suddenly stop your family time or confidential business conversation to reply to twenty random questions from a total stranger?--- We don’t either so don’t expect us to do so!
- · DO NOT FEED the Service Dog unless you have ASKED and RECEIVED permission from the handler to do so.
For Every Action there is a Reaction
Team Goodee has been together since 2006. At first everywhere we went (especially where there was food) there was an “issue.” We are happy to report that things are better but, shocked to find there are some people who still don’t know Service Dog Access Laws.
We try our best to educate, forgive, and forget but, just like other consumers first impressions last a long time. Sometimes Team Goodee “bounces back” and allows food establishments to “get it right.” but there are times when things go so wrong we don’t even think of going back.
There is an entertainment venue that I use to patronize several times a year.—Team Goodee even went there for several years… Until--- One day everyone from the Parking Lot Attendant to the Food Service Manager wanted to refuse us service. I tried several different ways of educating everyone eventually I called the local police who thankfully took over the task of education and allowed us to TRY to enjoy ourselves.—this was an event with expensive tickets. I had family and friends with me. I didn’t NEED to have to stop what I was doing and defend myself. Even after a nice apology from the General Manager and his private number for future use, Team Goodee has not been back in over three years.
We recently corresponded with the mother of a young Service Dog friend about a bad experience-- The Manager of a local pizza establishment was not only rude but left the 11-year old year old boy in fear of his life.—Telling someone who has a life-threatening reaction to tree nuts that you will just start cooking with Peanut Oil to keep the dog away is as funny as playing Russian Roulette with loaded guns. What seems like “no big deal”, or “just a learning curve” to you may very well be an assault which causes real physical and emotional harm.
This blog has not used any business names. We don’t wish to cause a problem for anyone. Our mission is to educate and make life better for Service Dog Teams everywhere.
“Let’s close on that note mom and remind people that we have educational links below.”
“Good idea Goodee.
We welcome feedback by email.
When you see us out and about we often must say,
“Not Now We Are Working!”
DD & GOODEE
Educational Links and Further Reading
NIH Fact Sheets - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (NIH Fact Sheets - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD))
Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him By Fmr. Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan (with Bret Witter)
(One of the best books ever written about Understanding PTSD and the life-changing effects of a Service Dog. Available in many formats from fine book sellers everywhere. For more information see http://www.luiscarlosmontalvan.com/ )
Some of our friends who provide Service Dogs to U.S. Veterans include:
Shepherds for Lost Sheep Inc.
K9S for Warriors
Service Dog information and services for business owners:
Service Dog 411(Sue Kindred) http://www.servicedog411.com/G
Statistics about the Service Dog Population:
See Service Dog Central
Statistics about the Service Dog Population:
See Service Dog Central
U.S. Department of Justice: Service Dog Access FAQ’s
U.S. Department of Justice ADA Requirements: What is a Service Animal
For assistance with Service Dog Access contact the U.S. Dept. of Justice ADA Info line at:
For information on filing Service Dog Access Complaints see Service Dog Central