While organizations like PATS offer therapy animals, they acknowledge that their animals deserve no special public access. (PATS)

Emotional support concept can harm legitimate service animals

True service animals are trained and certified

If you’ve read news accounts of emotional support animals and wondered if the world is literally going to the dogs (as well as peacocks, hamsters and even alligators), you’re not alone.

Tara Doherty, the communications manager for the Pacific Assistance Dog Society, is concerned the increasing movement to accept all manner of animals into public places on the premise that they provide emotional support to their owners is actually hurting the legitimate use of service dogs.

RELATED: Man claims alligator offers support

“It’s a real problem started down in the U.S. but we’re starting to see it up here. Someone will go online and for $25, buy a vest and maybe an ID of some kind and they think that they can now take little Fluffy into the grocery store, into their hotel room, or on an airplane,” said Doherty.

“Then one of our clients tries to go into the grocery and is asked to leave because the management is fed up with the foolishness.”

Doherty said true service dogs are covered under provincial legislation and require extensive, years-long training and certification.

“The dogs are issued with a vest and the owners carry a permit that looks very much like a B.C. driver’s license,” she said.

“We actually encourage business owners to ask for the ID because there has been so much abuse of the concept, and we’d like it to end.”

RELATED: Therapy dog banned

And while there’s no doubt that most pets can provide emotional support, it’s very different from a dog who has been trained to support someone suffering from a legitimate disability like PTSD.

“There are physical aspects to PTSD that the dogs are trained to recognize – disorientation or disassociation, for example.

“The dog senses what is going on and will guide his owner to a quiet place to sit down and stay with them to offer support,” said Doherty.

Stephane Marcotte, a 26-year veteran of the Armed Forces, can attest to the indispensable nature of his dog.

RELATED: Marcotte’s story

“I got Sarge 2½ years ago and he gave me my life back. He goes everywhere with me and it’s important that people realize the difference between what he does and whatever it is that an emotional support animal does,” said Marcotte.

“Sometimes I have really bad nightmares and Sarge is trained to wake me up. Or he will sense when I’m starting to zone out or have an episode and he’s there to help me through it.”

Marcotte added that he’s had some pushback from businesses like hotels who have started equating emotional support animals with service dogs.

“We need to educate people. Sure, maybe a bunny might comfort you, but so would a teddy bear. It’s not the same as a service dog,” he said.

Patty Whitehall, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Animal Therapy Society, tends to agree with the concern.

Her organization has provided dogs and other animals to organizations including seniors’ homes, schools, universities, and hospitals for more than 30 years, but she agreed that the fad of labelling animals as “emotional supports” is counterproductive.

“We recognize the value of introducing animals into certain environments to make people feel better, but we realize that our animals are not specially trained and have no special right of access to other locations like grocery stores,” said Whitehall.

Regardless, PATS still insists that the animals they use in their program are certified by a vet as having an appropriate temperament.

“Animals can be wonderful companions and some can provide emotional support, but when people try to equate that with true service dogs, it does a disservice to people who actually need the animals to live their lives,” said Doherty.



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Nuclear medicine temporarily suspended at KBRH

Upgrades expected to be in service by end of September

Early morning house fire in West Trail

19 firefighters responded to structure fire on Topping Street

Greater Trail Torch Run

Greater Trail RCMP and Special Olympics team up for annual Law Enforcement Torch Run.

CWL meets at Trail Legion for dinner

48 members and one guest attended June Holy Trinity CWL meeting

Nine fires burning in West Kootenay

All fires considered to be lightning caused.

PHOTOS: Elusive ‘ghost whale’ surfaces near Campbell River

Ecotourism operator captures images of the rare white orca

Victoria mom describes finding son ‘gone’ on first day of coroners inquest into overdose death

Resulting recommendations could change handling of youth records amidst the overdose crisis

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Most Read