Larry Bigelow has severe spinal osteoporosis and spinal fractures. He depends on his highly trained Yellow Labrador, Buzz for the stability and physical support he needs to stay active.
Buzz is one of many legitimate service dogs trained by Hawaii Fi-Do. The organization has decided to take a stand against imposter service animals with their new web PSA ads.
It may seem harmless to purchase a knockoff service vest and slap it on your pup, but untrained service animals give the real ones a bad name and may even distract them from helping a truly disabled person. Bigelow recalls Buzz being barked and lunged at by a fake service dog while dining in a restaurant.
Although it is not technically illegal to pass your dog off as a service animal, Bigelow compares it to parking in a handicap spot. It is disrespectful and causes unwarranted suspicion of truly disabled people and their licensed service animals.
Public places including restaurants, shopping malls and theaters are required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to permit access to true service animals. All other animals – including therapy and emotional support dogs – are prohibited from entering establishments where food is sold.
The problem is that most restaurant and supermarket managers don’t know how to spot a fake service animal, and even if they suspect an imposter, they tend to keep quiet for fear of being accused of discrimination. Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs Executive Director, Jim Kennedy explained the issue further:
“You can’t say ‘are you disabled?’, you can’t say ‘prove to me that is a service dog’, you can’t say ‘give me identification’,” he told Hawaii News Now. “There are two questions that a person can ask: ‘Is this a service dog required because of a disability?’ and the other is ‘what specific tasks has this dog been trained to perform?'”
Many people use the terms “service dog” and “therapy dog” interchangeably, but the differences are quite drastic. The hope is that these cute, inoffensive PSAs will help to educate the public about service animals and discourage pet owners from exploiting laws designed to protect the disabled.
H/T to Hawaii News Now
Featured Image via Screenshot YouTube/Jim Kennedy