How should people behave around an assistance dog?
The Americans With Disabilities Act guarantees people with disabilities the right to be accompanied by a service animal in all areas open to the general public. Service animal means any assistance dog or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Here are some tips to follow when meeting or approaching a working assistance dog and his or her partner:
- Don't touch the dog without asking permission first! This is a distraction and may prevent the dog from tending to the human partner. Be sensitive to the fact the dog is working and may be in the middle of a command or direction from its human partner. Most dogs need to be told to be “released” from work mode to interact with someone.
- Never feed the dog. It may be on a special diet. Canine Companions for Independence dogs are generally on a feeding schedule as well. Food is the ultimate distraction to the working dog and can jeopardize the working assistance dog team.
- Speak to the person, not the assistance dog. Most handlers do not mind talking about assistance dogs and their dog specifically if they have the time.
- Do not whistle or make sounds to the dog as this again may provide a dangerous distraction.
- Never make assumptions about the individual's intelligence, feelings or capabilities. Offers of help are appreciated, but ask first. Usually, the human/dog team can get the task done by themselves.
- Don't be afraid of the dog. There is no need to be afraid of a dog from a fully-accredited program like Canine Companions for Independence. Our dogs are carefully tested and selected for appropriate temperament. They have been professionally trained to have excellent manners. Always approach an assistance dog calmly and speak to their human partner before touching or addressing the dog.
Business owners: Some customers and employees may be anxious or nervous about an assistance dog in your establishment. Reassure them that the dog is thoroughly trained and has a legal right to be there under the ADA. People with assistance dogs deserve the same respect as any other customer. You do have the right to ask the dog to leave if it is not behaving.