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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
10:36 PM Sat, Oct. 20th

Editorial: ‘Service’ or ‘comfort’ dogs, who knows?

Service dogs. We’ve heard how they face public scrutiny, especially since there also are “therapy” dogs and “comfort” dogs out there.

Telling the difference is a big deal.

The first performs an act of “service” for their human. This can range from opening doors, retrieving items, guiding, and detecting stress, even blood-sugar levels, among other tasks. The other dogs are in more of a gray area, giving “therapy” to the owner, while what I call “comfort” dogs are more of a companion only.

True service dogs – for which no national registry exists – go through months of training and are identifiable from their special vests. Problem is those vests, or something that looks similar, and identification cards and other items are easily obtained online.

The use of fake service dog products cheapens the dogs that are “real” service dogs; though, owners of the imposters would note that any dog provides some sort of service. The rub is that the comfort dogs wearing fake vests can sometimes be seen in grocery stores or other places where they really do not belong.

And, the scrutiny comes when the public – people without dogs – judge or question the presence of dogs, often thinking or saying aloud “I don’t see a disability.”

Confused yet?

Consider it is serious enough that a California non-profit group is circulating a petition trying to get the U.S. Department of Justice to crack down on fake service dog products, according to CBS News. Northwest Battle Buddies, a non-profit that helps veterans with PTSD by partnering them with trained and matched service dogs at no charge, say it’s a slippery slope but the problem is so bad something needs to be done.

“We see dogs out in public all the time and I know there is no way those dogs are trained service dogs. They’re just not, especially when the dog is exploding on leash,” said Shannon Walker, president and founder of Northwest Battle Buddies.

Also, the Arizona House has delayed voting on a measure that would give business owners more discretion under state law to ask people with misbehaving service animals to leave, the Associated Press reported. Many within the service animal community that opposed previous versions of the bill have since dropped their opposition while others have come around to support the measure they say will help educate police, employers and animal owners.

The bill would allow business owners to ask people to leave, if their service animals are out of control or are not housebroken. The House delayed voting on Senate Bill 1382 on Monday.

The Daily Courier has profiled people who own true service dogs. As some have said, their service dog was the glue that kept their family together. If only some owners of “fake” service dogs were willing to speak up, we’d understand their side better.

In the meantime, at a minimum, an official ID for service dogs is in order.