Ranger, as I've mentioned before, is a Registered Therapy Dog with Therapy Dog International. He is not a Service Dog although the training and expectations for behavior are similar in many respects. He is also a Pet Dog. There are legal distinctions between all of these. Service Dogs, by law, are allowed in any public space that their humans can go. Therapy Dogs do not have the same legal right to be anywhere their humans are; Therapy Dogs can only go where they have permission. Pet dogs are even more limited in the places they are allowed to go; pets can only go where an open pet policy exists.
Yesterday, I was at one of my favorite thrift shops, Value Village, and noticed that there were several dogs in the store, these were all small purse sized dogs and none of them were wearing anything to identify them as Service animals. After seeing my third dog in the shop I decided to ask when I checked out--maybe Value Village was actually a dog friendly venue. If so then, Yah!, one more place I could safely take Ranger so that he's exposed to more places where he has to behave. And to be honest more convenient for me if I can take him out for a hike then stop and shop on my way home without having to be mindful of the weather or where I park. I try very hard to be mindful of condition so I don't like to leave Ranger in the car unless it is very overcast and even then I'll only leave him until the temperature hits 60 degrees F. If it is sunny I try to park in the shade and again the 60 degree rule applies. But, getting back to my story. As I was checking out I asked if Value Village was a dog friendly establishment commenting that I'd seen several dogs that day. I got the standard "Service Dogs are welcome" and a lot of complaints about people bringing in their dogs who then urinate or defecate on the floor and the owners don't clean it up. I said I was asking because my dog is a registered Therapy Dog and I'm always looking for more places I can take him.
"Oh, Service Dogs are fine," they said.
"But he isn't a Service Dog he is a Therapy Dog, the difference is that by law a Service Dog can go anywhere I can but a Therapy Dog can only go where he has permission," I try to explain.
"If you need him you're welcome to bring him in," comes the response.
"I don't need him, but his job is visiting so I'm always please, when I can find a place he's welcome so I can keep him in practice," I say trying to explain further.
"Sure, you can bring him for socialization," they respond.
"I should mention that he's a big guy about 90 lbs." I add.
"No, problem. You can bring your Service Dog," I'm told.
Frankly, I was surprised at how little understanding of the distinctions there was. I'm not sure that there was enough understanding to give me informed permission to bring Ranger shopping with me in Value Village. I probably won't until I've talked to them further and made sure they understand that they can say "No."
I'm sure the lack of understanding is partly due to the very open way the law is written in the great state of Washington. Here there is no requirement that a Service Animal be identified in anyway, the animal doesn't have to wear a vest, cape, bandanna, tag or anything else. If the human partner declares the animal is a Service Animal the shop owner/manager/staff must accept that.
I've noticed, however, that people who are using a Service Animal because they need the assistance the animal provides are careful to identify their animal with a vest, cape, or bandanna. When he's working Ranger wears bandanna identification, we also carry an official identification card with his photo and he has a easily spotted yellow tag that identifies him as a Therapy Dog. You can see it in the photo below.
So what I'm wondering is why, since the actual partners of Service Animals already do, we can't change the law to require that a Service Animal actually wear some form of identification. If nothing else it would force unscrupulous people who just want to bring their pet shopping with them to actually plan their deception and buy some form of Service Animal ID. It might cut down on some of the idiots whose thoughtless misuse of the term Service Animal give those who genuinely depend on their assistance a bad rap. What do you think?