To me, this is one of the most disrespectful and deceitful things I've been noticing lately in Missoula.

Before we begin, I want to state that this article is in no way geared toward people with actual disabilities that have Service Dogs. It's the exact opposite. I want to talk to the people that are lying about the dog being a Service Animal so they can carry them around in their purses inside stores or simply just take them places where regular dogs are not allowed for various reasons. It could be a health and safety hazard on many levels.

Have you seen this around Missoula, or possibly nationwide? Dogs inside a restaurant, box store, bank, or a downtown event wearing a vest that clearly states "service dog"?  Well, what is a service dog exactly? The Americans With Disability Act States:

 ...dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities

The (ADA) also states that Service Animals have to be dogs of any breed or size and must be trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability. They also say:

Service Animals are not:

  • Required to be certified or go through a professional training program

  • Required to wear a vest or other ID that indicates they’re a service dog

Now, this is where things can kind of get touchy and confusing. As you just read, a service animal doesn't need any training or documentation.

Here is where we have a problem.

If a dog is untrained and doesn't/can't behave in a public setting, it can be a real problem. You can't have a dog that is going to cause a problem at a business or event because it's not properly housebroken or out of control.

This can also be very detrimental to someone that is in the same place with a medical condition that has as an actual Service Dog. The non-trained dog can become a distraction for the trained animal, and if the handler has a possible medical episode or problem, their dog may not be fully attentive, and might not be able to do their job properly.

It's become such a problem, Montana has tried to make it illegal to falsify your dog as a "Service Animal".

What about an emotional support dog?

Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs are not the same thing. Many places can deny your dog entry if it is a support animal. As a person that has an emotional support dog, I've gone over the fine print many times. Laws can differ when it comes to renting a home, but as far as the public goes, your emotional support dog can be denied entry.

What's the big deal, really?

This may not sound like a big problem, but the way I see it, people that are faking the status of their dog as being a Service Dog is just downright wrong. You are pretending to have a medical condition just so you can bring your dog to happy hour? Falsifying an illness or medical condition is so disrespectful and dangerous to people with actual conditions and Service Dogs.

Let's be clear, I absolutely love dogs.

This article isn't meant to berate any dog owner or come off as hateful to any dog. I don't know what I would do without my pup, and I know many of you are in the same boat. I do believe, however, we have a duty to other dog owners that need/use their dog just as any other medical device. When it comes right down to it, it's about respect for them and business. Please don't bring your untrained, or false Service Animal where they probably just don't belong. I'd love to bring mine with me everywhere, but for the reasons above, it just wouldn't be ok.

Adorable Dogs of Missoula

Missoulians submitted pictures of their dogs for National Dog Day. Enjoy!

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