[tabi] Servicedogs come with responsibilities

  • From: "Sila Miller" <silam@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2013 20:21:13 -0400

"From the Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 8,
2013; reprinted with permission of the author."

Deborah Kendrick commentary: Service dogs come with

A lot of people in Oxford, Mass., are pretty stirred up
right now about a restaurant owner, Russell Ireland, who
greeted customer James Glaser and his dog at the door and
told him the dog wasn't welcome.
Glaser is a retired Air Force veteran and Jack, his Jack
Russell terrier, is his service dog.
From Facebook and Twitter to threatening phone calls,
sympathy seems to be pooling pretty much in Glaser's
camp.  People are outraged that a restaurant owner
wouldn't know that service dogs are protected by the law
and wouldn't show respect for a veteran. They have
reportedly threatened his establishment and his life.
The reactions seem excessive considering the crime. And are
we even sure that a "crime" was committed?
I worry that the implication of this incident will be
I don't know James Glaser or his dog, but when Ireland
says that the dog smelled bad and ate from a person's
plate and that the dog didn't lie unobtrusively out of
pedestrian traffic as other service dogs have done in his
diner, well, it raises some questions.
Dogs are trained to do remarkable things and have a proven
track record as support partners for people with a variety
of disabilities.  The most visible ones are the dogs
trained to guide blind people.  Others alert deaf handlers
to a baby's cry, a doorbell or an intruder.  People with
epilepsy and diabetes express gratitude for their dogs'
abilities to detect changes foreshadowing  seizures or
insulin shock.
James Glaser had his dog trained by a San Antonio
organization called Train a Dog, Save a Warrior, where dogs
are specifically trained to provide a calming influence for
veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
That organization's website supports the same standard of
conduct espoused by other reputable training
organizations.  To be acceptable in public accommodations
as a service dog, an animal should be clean, well-groomed,
calm and unobtrusive.  It should not vocalize unnecessarily
and should respond quickly to such basic obedience commands
as "sit" and "down."  It should remain with its
handler and not solicit attention from others.  Oh yeah,
and it should go potty on command in appropriately
designated spaces and should eat only its own food when
given by its human handler.
Now, these are my words, of course, but they are a fair
enough representation of what the Texas nonprofit serving
veterans with PTSD and any other self-respecting service-dog
training organization will tell you.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws
protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities do
not waive rules and replace them with placating
The law says a person with a disability can be accompanied
by a trained service dog in any public place that the person
might otherwise go.  But the rules - both legal and
cultural - still apply.
With rights come responsibilities, and each of us, whether
we have a disability or not, needs to play by the rules.
I have benefited from the partnership and confidence
afforded by beautifully trained guide dogs all my adult
life.  Sometimes they (and I) make mistakes, and I hope we
own them.  I have seen hundreds of other well-behaved
service dogs in the hands of their human handlers and never
yet found myself to be immune to the awe such partnerships
can inspire.
But just plain having a disability and just plain having a
dog to go with it is not a free pass.
I have been in facilities where a "service" dog was left
tied to a chair to bark and whine while its handler
socialized at the bar.
I have seen originally well-trained animals leap and lick
and sniff inappropriately while their human handlers smiled
Maybe Glaser's dog is perfectly behaved and Ireland made
an assumption and needs his fingers slapped accordingly.
And maybe Jack needs additional training.
What matters most here is that well-meaning supporters
understand the balance between rights and responsibilities
in the formula for equality.
I have a fondness for that country expression, "I've got
no dog in that fight."  Usually, its meaning is
metaphorical, but in this instance, we literally do. Any of
us who wants genuine equality will look at both sides of a
dog's tale before barking up the wrong tree.

Deborah Kendrick is a Cincinnati writer and advocate for
people with disabilities.

This column can be found online at:


Other related posts: