Cura and I have been together since 2009. We want to thank all of you who followed the early days as well as those who popped back on occasion during the long hiatus. Training was done, the days passed, and we were settling into our life together.
Fast forward: Cura is slowing down and a new member of the family is in training. On top of that, we are all busy with our new calling . . . Running the Training Department for Paws and Stripes. Join us on our journey!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Traveling with a Service Dog . . .

In April, Nonna Ear Rubs and I will be attending a conference that will require us to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights. Nonna Ear Rubs made the accommodations reservations and, to smooth the waters a bit, informed the hotel that we would have a Service Dog with us. The person on the phone immediately informed her that we would need to provide Service Dog Certification when we arrived. The implication being that if I did not provide a certificate, we would be turned away. This is actually illegal.

First, let me just say that, as a rule, I inform businesses that I have a Service Dog as soon as possible because it tends to head off any negative reactions to my having a dog with me. It is for this same reason that I make sure that Cura has either her vest or pack, complete with patches, on when we are in public. At the VERY least she has a Service Dog tag on her collar. But, NONE of this is required by law. The ADA does not require that Service Dogs be certified or registered. Nor does it require that the animal wear any kind of identifying equipment.

Now, in addition to making sure that Cura wears clear identification that she is a Service Animal, when Cura came home, I did go to the trouble to purchase a "certificate" for her. It took my doctor and a vet filling out a form that I submitted with my fee and the certificate was issued. The fee was minimal -- not one of those companies that charge hundreds of dollars. But, the reality of the situation is that this 'Service Dog Certificate' was issued by an an organization that not only did nothing to train Cura in her skills, but did not personally evaluate her performance as a Service Dog. Anyone who could get their doctor to say that they need a Service Animal and a vet that would say that their animal was not a danger to society could get this certificate. Does this mean that the animal is actually able to act as a Service Animal? -- NO!
Will I take a copy of Cura's certification with us on the trip? Yes, the hotel indicated that it should be brought, so I will bring it, in order to avoid conflict. However, upon check in, I will be having a discussion with the manager (and, depending on how that goes, following up with some kind of written correspondence) about the illegality of their requests. If I run into too much trouble, I will call the appropriate authorities and report them.  Do I want it to come to that? Of course not. But, at the same time, they are asking for information that they are not legally permitted to require. I hope that it doesn't escalate, but I have plenty of time to prepare for any eventuality.

Nonna Ear Rubs wanted to know why we bothered to inform them that we would have a Service Dog with us when we made the reservation if we didn't have to.  It is all about making things easier. If the organization knows that I will have a Service Dog, when I show up with Cura, there is a good(ish) chance that she will be expected and I will not run into the initial 'No Dogs Allowed' mentality. I am all for avoiding conflict if possible -- but I will not tfacilitate illegal behavior. I plan to inform them that their request was illegal. If they insist on seeing a certificate, I might just get the authorities involved -- not because I do not have a certificate, but because they have no legal grounds to require one.

Well, the conference is not until April so there is time . . . for all I know, I am getting worked up about nothing because as soon as I make it clear that I know the law and my rights, they will back down. Who knows? But I will be sure to let you know what happens.

2 comments: said...

Remember you standing up for yourself helps others that cant as well. What they are doing is wrong - and perhaps this is a good time for them to do some internal training.
Great post.

Cura's Mom said...

Thanks info -- one of the things that helps me to deal with these types of things is that it may help the next person have a smoother experience.