Monday, March 10, 2008

Double the pleasure: Service dogs welcome in VA and NY schools

Service dogs can assist folks who are blind, or deaf, or need assistance walking, among other needs. These dogs are not pets, but working dogs, who need to be focused on their partners. When someone says no touch, they are not being rude, but it is important not to distract the service dog. Some studies show that there are 15,000 service dogs in the US, but that number is probabally low. In the photo above and below the service dog is a guide dog trained to assist a PWD who is blind. Working with their partner allows PWDs great independence, and affords them an opportunity to participate in all activities others enjoy. Boty the federal ADA and local state laws provide broad protections for PWDs who use service animals, most of which are dogs. Some states have stronger protections, giving police powers to prevent interferrence with a PWDs use of a service dog. Mass law does not privide such protection. Fed law superceeds state law when the state law is weaker.

Service dogs can be banned if their behavior presents a threat or interrupts the activity, but that has been rare. however, recently, around the country, and especially here in cambridge there has been an effort to ban ALL service dogs, including guide dogs, based on their very presence. some folks just think dogs don't belong here, and are not healthy. That attitude belies all the health studies that show how dogs improve the health of prople, and therapy dogs are often brought into hospitals, nursing homes, and even to the Sr Center here in Cambridge.
Last month, the state of VA passed unanimously, and with the support of the Gov, two service dog laws that would permit service dogs in publ;ic schools. The law makes a distinction between public entity and public accomodation. Today news stories report that Simba, a service dog for a hearing impaired student must be allowed into the school.
This is good news for Persons with Severe Disabilities, and who rely on a service dog for their freedom. One thing I still haven't been able to understand is how some folks can make such a fuss over this idea. When folks tell me they are afraid of dogs, they were once bitten by a dog, I ask, have you ever been in a car accident, or seen one. Yes, they have always answered so far. Then, I ask, so, are you afraid of that car coming at us over there?
Thst usually gets me a big smile. Even my sister is warming up to my Shannon, and buys her treats, and invites her into the house! It is great to feel welcome, and if anyone thinks my Shannon's feelings are not hurt when we are yelled at in a hostile mannor, they should think again. But, then, these folks aren't really thinking at all, they are just reacting with a negativity that I really cannot understand.
So, congratulations to VA and NY, and I hope that eventually MA will heel to the Federal Civil Rights Law, or superceed it.

Marjorie Decker, who claims she i9s allergic to my service dog, Shannon, participates in a City Council Candidates debate for 3 hours, just 5 feet from my service dog, with no ill effects whatsoever.

The photo above shows one candidate who is tired, but Marjorie not only is not suffering from an allergic reaction to Shannon, my service dog only 5 feet away, but she is perky and animated!

Here is another shot of Marjorie Decker, the City Councillor who wants to ban guide dogs from City Council meetings. As you can see she is clear eyed, and breathing quite well. Marjorie stayed for the full debate, with Shannon only 5 feet away.


At Thursday, March 20, 2008 11:00:00 AM, Blogger Chemi Che-Mponda said...

Most of the Guide dogs and other service animals that I have come across have been well behaved. However, I did come across one that seemed not to like people of color. In fact it was at a place where I used to to work. Everytime the dog saw me it growled but didn't growl at white people. Well that dog was banned from the office when it bit another person of color who worked in the office. The blind lady was heart broken when she was forced to get another dog in order to continue working. The new one was much nicer and had a better temperament.

Now as to banning service dogs in Cambridge that would be absurd. But I would say that it is proof of the 'YUPPICATION' of Cambridge. This is not the same Cambridge of 15 years ago, where are the families? People have been pushed out of Cambridge because of Gentrication and Yuppification and of course to them people who don't meet their standards, "Don't fit in!" To them, Service dogs aren't Designer dogs.


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