Honoring Our Four-Legged Heroes in PublicAug 11, 2023 06:45PM ● By Cristi Mc Kee
As the calendar flips to September, Tallahassee joins the nation in celebrating National Assistance Dog Month, a time dedicated to recognizing the incredible contributions of service dogs and their selfless dedication to helping people with disabilities.
These furry companions play an invaluable role in enhancing the lives of their dog parents, and it's essential that we, as a community, learn how to treat these heroes with the respect and kindness they deserve when encountering them in public spaces.
When encountering a service dog in public, remember to treat them with the same courtesy you would offer to their human partner.
Always ask for permission before interacting with the dog, as distracting them from their duties can be dangerous for their handler.
It's vital to resist the temptation to pet or play with the dog, as their focus should remain solely on assisting their partner.
If you see a service dog without its handler nearby, resist the urge to approach or call the dog, as they may be working to find help or retrieve something for their partner.
Fun facts about service/assistance dogs:
Diverse Skill Sets: Service dogs are not a one-size-fits-all solution; they are trained to perform specific tasks based on their handler's needs. Some dogs are trained to guide the visually impaired, while others assist individuals with mobility challenges or provide support for those with psychiatric conditions like PTSD.
Extensive Training: The training of a service dog is rigorous and time-consuming. It often takes months or even years to fully prepare a service dog for their duties. They undergo intensive training to learn obedience, task-specific skills, and how to navigate public spaces with their handler safely.
Canine Intelligence: Service dogs are incredibly intelligent animals, but their training extends beyond basic obedience. They can learn to open doors, turn on lights, retrieve specific items, and even dial emergency numbers on a phone. Their capacity to learn complex tasks is awe-inspiring.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs and their handlers have certain rights and protections. Public spaces, including restaurants, stores, and public transportation, must allow service dogs to accompany their handlers at all times, even if there is a "no pets" policy.
As we celebrate National Assistance Dog Month, let's take a moment to appreciate the unwavering loyalty, incredible intelligence, and boundless love these service dogs bring into the lives of their handlers.
By understanding how to treat service dogs in public and adhering to proper etiquette, we can contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive community for both the handlers and their remarkable four-legged companions.
Let this month be a reminder to honor these heroes not just in September but all year round.