Dogs in restaurants are more common than ever, despite being illegal for mere pets, a trend that service dog owners don't like
Business owners can't ask a person in question for identification, because no federally or municipally approved uniform identifier exists, according to Hong. They can't ask what a customer's ailment is, because that question violates a privacy clause in the ADA.
While the restaurants are being unlawfully infiltrated, other areas around the city are experiencing atypical levels of canine traffic as well.
Buses? Sure, why not. As long as your dog has a muzzle, it can legally take part in the herkiest, jerkiest, most claustrophobic ride available in the Muni playground, at least according to the unbothered gentleman with his dog on the 47-Van Ness bus on a recent Saturday.
Cabs? Hop on in, Rover. The mall? Every dog could use an afternoon at Michael Kors. Grocery stores? Screw the food handling laws, dogs gotta eat too.
And if someone gets in the way of you and your pet canine's umbilical relationship? Just claim it's a service dog. Sure, it's considered a federal offense to misrepresent your pet as a service animal, but you can order a super-official looking vest off the Internet easier than you can order a book off of Amazon. The malfeasance is also nearly impossible to report.
Thus, the misrepresentation of service dogs is a rapidly growing problem, and one that seems to be trivialized by a large number of people.
Unfortunately for those who need legitimate service dogs, Hong said the general public has offered little opposition to the fakes. He said that there is no exact figure for dog-related complaints, because they don't consolidate them, but he also noted that many people are reluctant to speak out against the malfeasant service dog owners.
Whether it's because they think the business owners will handle the complaint (they won't, according to the CRA) or if they are just privately, rather than publicly, opposed to the trend (which Hong had said he thinks people are), it still leaves the owners of real service dogs in a tough place.
"We've been affected many times by fake service dogs," said Wallis Brozman, service dog owner from Corporate Advancement Assistant for Canine Companions for Independence, a service dog training academy located in Santa Rosa. "It's happened to us everywhere, we've been attacked right outside of restaurants. We've been denied service at restaurants, denied service at hotels."
Brozman says that she has been denied service at those institutions expressly because of the bad name that poorly trained service dogs have given to the whole industry.
But Brozman needs her dog. She uses a manual wheelchair full-time due to a condition called dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that causes extremely painful and involuntary muscle contractions. Even with her condition, she says that she has been made to pay pet deposits in hotels, even though her dog isn't even classified as a "pet" by the ADA.
And Caspin, Brozman's dog, is definitely not a pet. He understands both Sign Language and English, making him a bilingual dog (and more linguistically savvy than this writer). He's been trained to stay calm in loud, obnoxious public settings. He can pick up anything Brozman might drop. He's a talented dog, but he's no pet.
NOT JUST PETS
According to the California Penal Code Section 365.5, a "service dog means any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, minimal protection work, rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items."
Service dogs not only provide assistance when necessary, but they provide their handlers with a sense of autonomy that they can't achieve through other means. That's why service dogs were included in ADA of 1990.
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