The June 16 editorial “Is this a service dog? Maybe” may have unintentionally conveyed the impression that service dogs must be professionally certified.
There is no such government certification.
We are accustomed to guide dogs and hearing dogs such as German shepherds and Labrador retrievers as service dogs.
But there are many other breeds, including small dogs, that assist people with various disabilities.
Epilepsy, diabetes and PTSD, to name a few, are disabilities for which service dogs provide meaningful and life-saving help for the disabled.
PTSD is caused not only by war experience; many people who have had traumatic events caused by illness, accidents, abuse and other issues may also experience it.
Partly because some have abused the law and claim their pets as service dogs, life is made more difficult for those with medical needs who are assisted by these marvelous creatures.
Organizations or individuals who specialize in training service animals do not train all service dogs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 allows for individuals to self-train service dogs for specific need(s).
On June 7, 2013, then-Gov. Rick Perry signed into law legislation that makes it a state crime to discriminate against a person by denying access or asking questions other than what service the dog provides.
The law mirrors ADA regulations and was an expansion of previous Texas laws.
The governor presented a rat terrier named Boots to illustrate a service dog.
The potential penalty for violating this law is a $300 fine and community service.
Those who falsely claim disabilities to justify their pets as service dogs also are subject to penalties under the law.
Those of us with conditions such as PTSD who do not look disabled and may have small service dogs are often accosted, even denied service because of public and professional lack of knowledge and understanding.
It is important that individuals without true medical need not create issues for those with genuine medical problems by pretending to have a service dog.
It is at least of equal importance that the public become knowledgeable about service dogs, especially those not fitting the image historically recognized, and not deny their use.
In March 2013, I was confronted in a local mall by a security guard and told to leave with my “pet.”
I attempted to explain that Bailey, a shih tzu, is a service dog.
The guard and his supervisor did not care.
Bailey, among other things, alerts me to and assists me with impending attacks. By law, no proof is required that she is a service dog.
Those involved in the mall incident claimed ignorance of ADA laws, and I requested police response expecting a different outcome.
Instead, the officers and even their sergeant told me to leave the mall with Bailey or be arrested. They also claimed ignorance of ADA laws.
I was issued a criminal trespass ticket. This treatment is not unusual for those with service dogs.
I don’t look disabled, and Bailey doesn’t look like a service dog; but I am disabled, and she is a service dog.
Many misconceptions exist about service dogs, but those of us who rely on them need everyone to understand and help us, not punish us.
Dave Richardson is a 40-year Arlington resident, entrepreneur, businessman and author who has been active in numerous community endeavors, including serving on the legislative committee of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.