I realize I’m no longer a SD handler but I still try to keep an eye on that world, stick up for other handlers and educate where I can. This is why I feel it my civic duty to call some attention to the misguided effort that the service dog group, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is putting into calling for a cease in the selling of “fake” SD equipment.

This really, truly hits a nerve. CCI would put an end to the selling of SD equipment over the internet, supposedly with the idea in mind that this will help put a stop to fakers. Sorry, I believe that is akin to gun control putting a stop to gun violence. It simply doesn’t work.

When I was owner training I bought my equipment over the internet. I was legitimately disabled, my dog was by the legal definition a Service Dog, I had every right to use the products I had. There are many, many handlers like me. They buy their vests and patches online, they OT and as such are not affiliated with any program, why on earth should their decision to do for themselves be made more difficult?

This, of course, ultimately becomes a matter of the time honored debate of required SD certification vs. a lack thereof.

In my opinion (which is only my own personal belief, based on my personal experience) certification is not the answer. When the government begins to regulate things like health care there arises the problem of bureaucracy. SDs are a health care tool, if we get down to the heart of the matter. They are akin to a cane, wheelchair, or inhaler. They perform tasks for their handler to assist the handler in living the independent day-to-day life. Is it appropriate for the government to tell someone who has a legitimate need for a cane how that cane should be used? No.

There are laws that clearly state who has the right to use a SD. There are laws concerning the rights of stores to remove SDs that display inappropriate behavior. There are two legal questions that may be asked, and repercussions to punish people who fake, or people who refuse a SD handler their rights. That is, in my belief as far as the government may go in the matter.

So, the question remains, how do we prevent people from bringing their pet dogs wherever they wish under the guise of a SD? In my opinion, the answer is education. The more the public is educated as to appropriate SD behavior, the laws (and penalties) surrounding SDs, and that these dogs are not out and about for the fun of it, but rather to serve as a piece of medical equipment for the handler, the more (I believe) the public will respect SDs and the laws surrounding them.

Perhaps this is a little hopeful. But the last thing that SD handlers need in another hoop to jump through as they attempt to go about the business of living their lives as independently as possible. Like I said, this opinion is based solely on my own experience, it does not necessarily hold true for other SD people, trainers, or organizations.

Just some food for thought.

Until Later!
Kat, Holly & Bri

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