EASLEY — Recently there have been two incidents involving service dogs and restaurants in the Pickens County community and according to business owners the issue stems from a lack of education.
The laws concerning service dogs have been established at the federal level and are associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but as of yet these laws do not address uniformity. There are no regulations concerning the registration of service animals being certified as such, including no requirements of documentation by the owner.
The stringent requirements of the Disabilities Act also make it difficult for business owners to ascertain the validity of a patron with a service animal in tow as inquiring about the patron’s disability or the specific purpose of the service animal are forbidden.
But, although the laws concerning service animals and their access to public locations, most specifically restaurants, there are certain expectations clearly defined by federal law management and ownership should be aware of.
As excerpted from U.S. Code of Federal Regulations § 36.202, there are two instances cited in federal law where a business may exclude a Service Dog according to the guidelines as established by statute:
1. The Service Dog is out of control and the handler isn’t doing anything about it
2. The Service Dog isn’t housebroken and urinates or defecates inappropriately
If a Service Dog team is asked to leave due to the dog’s behavior, the business must provide the unaccompanied handler the opportunity to obtain goods or services. Only the dog can be excluded from the premises.
If a dog’s behavior infringes on the ability of other patrons to enjoy a safe, routine experience similar to one they would experience without a Service Dog on-site, then a business may be perfectly within their right legally to ask the team to leave.
Before making that determination, though, check out the lists below detailing what Service Dogs in public should do and what Service Dogs in public shouldn’t do.
Service Dogs in public should:
• Focus on their handler at all times unless doing trained task work.
• Possess a stable, even temperament without anxiety, reactivity or aggression of any kind.
• Walk nicely on a leash without pulling, straining, lunging, lagging, circling or forging.
• Remain quietly by their handler’s side when their handler stops without wandering or losing focus.
• Lay quietly under the table or beside their handler’s chair without getting up or moving around excessively. Changing positions is fine; outright breaking stays to respond or engage with distractions or to wander off is not.
• Ignore distractions.
• Be quiet at all times unless performing specific, trained task work. Outside of trained and necessary task work, there should be NO other vocalization, including, but not limited to, whining, grumbling, wooing, barking, growling, whimpering or other noise. Unless working, Service Dogs should be seen by the public and not heard.
• Appear professional, well-groomed and well-taken care of. Your Service Dog is a representative of both you and the Service Dog community. She should always leave everyone she comes in contact with excellent impressions.
• Keep his or her nose to his or her self at all times, even if there is food, products or other interesting things readily accessible. Sniffing people, objects or food is not only rude, it’s a possible health hazard. Exceptions to this rule include Allergen Alert Dogs or other Service Dogs who rely on their nose to perform their work. However, the Service Dog’s sniffing should be directly related to task work and not random or merely “exploring.”
• Respond quickly and readily to the handler’s commands, cues or directions. Service Dogs should give off the appearance to anyone watching that they are highly trained and that they completely understand what’s being asked of them. Service Dogs should possess outstanding obedience skills and above-average manners and both should be readily apparent. A Service Dog’s demeanor, training and behavior should, without question, differentiate them from all but the best-trained pet dogs.
• Be able to do pertinent task work to mitigate their handler’s disability. In order to be considered a “Service Dog” under U.S. federal law, a dog must be partnered with an individual with a disability AND perform specific, trained task work to mitigate that disability. Task work is not optional. If a dog doesn’t perform task work, she’s not a Service Dog – she’s an Emotional Support Animal and she doesn’t belong in public.
As for behaviors that are unacceptable in public accommodations those are well defined and are the sole reasons in which an establishment may ask a service animal be removed from the premises though the owner may stay. The following is a breakdown under present regulations:
• Urinate or defecate inappropriately. If a dog isn’t house trained, she doesn’t belong in public, Service Dog or not.
• Whine, bark, grumble, growl or make other noises.
• Pick food or objects up off the floor or steal (or even show much interest in) food or items that are sitting out. Exceptions to the “picking objects up off the floor” rule include dogs who retrieve dropped items for their handlers or who are otherwise doing trained task work. In general, though, Service Dogs should not interact with distractions of any kind unless cued to or otherwise working.
• Sniff staff members, patrons, floors, tables, counters, surfaces, products, shelving or anything else unless the Service Dog is performing specific, trained task work, such as detecting allergens or other substances dangerous to their handler.
• Drag or pull their handler for any reason, unless the dog is performing specific mobility-related task work.
• Wander or move widely out of heel position unless cued to by their handler.
• Break “stays,” “unders,” or other fixed-position behaviors to investigate distractions, explore or other move around. Exceptions include Service Dogs who must perform task work that requires them to take the initiative to respond to their handler’s disability regardless of location or position or to retrieve assistance/medication/help.
• Be anxious, antsy, agitated or aggressive in any way, shape, form or fashion.
• Stink, smell or appear unkempt/ungroomed in any way.
• Engage with other dogs, people, children or distractions unless allowed to do so by their human partner. The key here is “allowed to do so by their human.”
• Jump, scratch, mouth or exhibit other “out of control” behavior. A Service Dog should NEVER exhibit rude, ill-mannered, untrained, or behaviors that are considered inappropriate or nuisances. They should NEVER infringe on other patron’s personal space in a way that appears untrained or impolite.
Knowledge is the key and should be readily available to business owners, especially those new to being a business owner and caution should be practiced when making decisions concerning service animals and public accommodations.