Would I like more public places and businesses to allow "pet" dog access? Yes. But I'm not going to lie about Elka. Elka could technically, at this point, be considered my "in house" service dog. She has prevented numerous full-blown migraines for me. She can pick up items that I've dropped and retrieve items that I name. I taught her to brace when I lean on her, and she can help me up and even walk with me if I'm leaning. But have I trained her for public access? Not to a degree that I'm comfortable doing something like, say, taking her to a grocery store on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Yet, this past Saturday, somebody in my town did just that.
This individual's Doberman is, by all accounts, the sort of Doberman on whom the myths are formed, that they tell stories about. He is absolutely humongous, he is always straining at the end of his leash, he is always showing teeth (and this is from multiple people telling me; I haven't had the dubious pleasure of encountering this pair). One of my coworkers saw them at a local grocery store, in the middle of the Saturday afternoon rush. The dog had some kind of tags on him, obviously meant to denote him as a service dog. People were fleeing the aisles at his behavior.
From what my coworker described, there could be a number of reasons for this. First, especially based on his "super size", he does not seem to be a well bred dog. Bigger is not better; there is a breed standard for a reason. People who breed dogs out of standard for size also occasionally disregard things like temperament. People who buy a Big Huge Doberman to Protect Them From the Whole Wide World also let certain things fall by the wayside, like training and socialization. A well socialized dog is one who can make accurate and informed decisions about whether people can be trusted. An ill socialized dog will regard people with suspicion, and be reactive to their presence.
Second, the dog could be "in training". The owner, if I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, might be teaching him how to act in situations like that, and might have taken it too quickly. I unfortunately can't give her the benefit of the doubt, because she was apparently screaming "he's my therapy dog" at the top of her lungs.
Well. A therapy dog is a dog certified by an organization to make visits to facilities like hospitals and nursing homes. A therapy dog does not have access rights to a grocery store. These are hard things to keep track of, and I myself get them scrambled quite a lot. But, I know for certain that the purpose of a service dog is to mitigate a person's disability such that they can operate in the world. So, a seeing eye dog, a mobility assistance dog, a seizure alert dog, a peanut sniffing dog. Might the woman have agoraphobia, and use the dog to get past that? Judging from other behavior my coworkers have described to me? Perhaps. But, because of the reports of the dog's behavior, it sounds to me like they feed off of one another, getting nervous and snappy and reactive in human presence.
I feel that if the "therapy dog" (maybe she used the wrong words?) was for agoraphobia (my own speculation), that she should have a very calm, very well behaved, leash mannered, bomb proof dog. Can a Doberman be these things? Certainly. Is hers? No. And I'm disappointed that she isn't willing to take enough responsibility to make that judgement, because everybody who was at that store has had their opinions of the Doberman breed colored. Also, calling your dog a "service dog" when he or she is not is a prosecutable offense, and undermines the credibility of every individual who needs their service dog with them. People with service dogs have a hard enough time as it is; don't be selfish. To add to my frustration, the grocery store where this took place (and indeed, 3 of the 4 grocery stores in town) is 24 hour. I know I don't like shopping in a crowded store, and that's why I go at 11 o'clock at night. Maybe if this person had, even with her out of control dog, this scene could have been avoided.
From ada.gov :
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
I hope that the store managers who removed this woman from the store realized that she was "doing it wrong" and don't approach the next person who has a service dog with this incident in mind. I hope that the people who were there realize that this is not an example of how a Doberman should behave.