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Assistance Dogs and Etiquette Go Hand in Hand
People always have lots of questions about how to interact with an assistance dog and indeed what sort of laws surround the acceptance of an assistance dog inside a building, An assistance dog is primarily kept by someone who has a disability (such as blindness) in order to help that individual to move around freely from place to place.
The etiquette surround assistance dogs is varied and really up the individuals around the dog. We have put together a list of suggested behaviors that you might like to adopt when you are around an assistance dog. Laws of course are a different matter and are quite strict in some parts of the country. It is important to remember that laws vary from state to state and if there are specific legal questions that you have then you are probably best to contact your state attorney general, bar association or local association for people with disabilities.
The Americans With Disabilities Act guarantees that anyone who suffers from blindness, deafness, or is physically challenged has the legal right to be accompanied by an assistance or service dog in areas that are open to the public. An assistance or service dog means any guide dog, signal dog, or other dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including impaired vision, impaired hearing, providing minimal protection or rescue work or pulling a wheelchair.
In terms of etiquette you might like to adopt the following guidelines when meeting or approaching a working assistance dog and his partner:
Relax and do not be scared. These dogs have been carefully chosen and tested to conduct this work. They are selected for their temperament and ability to conduct this kind of work. They have been professionally trained to have excellent manners.
Do not touch the assistance dog as this can be a distraction for the dog and may prevent him or her from doing his or her job for the human partner.
Do not ever feed the dog because it may well be the subject of a special diet or feeding schedule. Food is a distraction for the working dog and can jeopardize the working assistance dog from doing what he needs to do for his or her human partner.
Speak to the dog owner and not the assistance dog. It is always polite to ask permission to make reference to the dog. Most assistance dog owners actually enjoy talking about their dog.