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OP-ED: Quit abusing the system

Noelle Huffaker, Contributor

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You hear all the time about people abusing the system from a variety of aspects. There’s one system I’m completely exhausted from hearing about on the daily. I see it constantly abused. You see the abusers in grocery stores, in the library, on the street. You can’t go across campus without seeing one. If you guessed pseudo service animals, you are correct. Let me take a minute of your time to educate you on the matter at hand.

There is a very distinct difference between someone who relies on their service animal to keep them safe, and someone who just wants to take their pet to college. Service animals are trained to perform a specific task, such as a mobility service animal pushing a button to open the door for it’s handler. Service dogs are trained specifically for one person. They are required for their handler to be able to live their lives as normally as possible, while also providing assistance. This is not to be confused with an emotional support animal.

Where service animals are trained for one person, emotional support animals (ESA) are not. ESA’s are also not entitled by law to be allowed in a restaurant, theater, grocery store or any public building. Public buildings are off-limits to any animal that is not a legitimate service animal. However, an ESA may reside in a dwelling that has a “no pet policy.”

I understand college is stressful. I promise I have been where I want to take my dog to class with me. However, I refuse to abuse the system. I also know that having your dog with you is cool. I wanted a dog for so long after I moved to college. I chose to not adopt my dog until after I moved out of the dorms and into a pet-friendly apartment off-campus.

On campus, I have seen a dog run through the library away from its owner to greet everyone, wanted or not. I have witnessed some of the most misbehaved service dogs growl at a diabetic alert dog. This is not okay.

When I first came to Tarleton, I never heard of or saw any service animals. If I was just in my own world, I don’t know. Everywhere you turn now, there’s a dog wearing a vest, walking down Vanderbilt. Anyone can order a service dog vest off of Amazon. Anyone can slap it on their dog and call it a “service animal.” Did you know that by doing that, you could be causing problems for those students who have legitimate reasons for having a service animal?

I’ve witnessed the hardships the service dog handlers on campus have faced, like trying to prove that they weren’t some college kid trying to hoard their family pet in their dorm room. These handlers spend more time than they should defending their rights.

Just don’t ruin it for everyone else.

6 Comments

6 Responses to “OP-ED: Quit abusing the system”

  1. Braden on April 8th, 2017 12:18 am

    Emotional support animals are not allowed everywhere, but they ARE allowed in the dorms. (reference – https://esadoctors.com/emotional-support-animal-college-dorms/) Just because you may not suffer from a mental illness does not mean you should judge those that need ESAs. You are seeing more ESAs on campus now because therapists are finally realizing the benefits of animals in therapy. The times are changing, for the better in my opinion.

    [Reply]

    Sean Reply:

    Uh. I don’t think you understand your own point mate. ESO’s are allowed in the dorms, that’s not disputed. To get an emotional support animal, your therapist signs a waiver allowing you to have it, you get the form from the administration building. Your ESO can then live in your dorm room, yeah that’s normal, and that’s not what’s being discussed. The problem being discussed is the people who take their ESO, put a vest on it, and then walk it around campus like a service animal. If a person is blind or deaf, they NEED their animal with them at all times. If a person has a mental illness, they can get an ESO, but they should not be carrying it with them to class.

    [Reply]

  2. Service Dog Handler on April 8th, 2017 4:19 pm

    Absolutely! Faking your pet as a service dog is actually very harmful to those of us who have legitimate service dogs. Your poorly-behaved dogs and fake ID cards cause access problems – how would you like to be told you can’t go grocery shopping or dine with your friends just because you have a disability that you need the help of a highly-trained dog for? Fake service dogs have many times attacked legitimate service dogs, which can mean not only vet bills, but retraining or even retirement for the service dog. Do you realize it takes years and many thousands of dollars to get/train a service dog? Time when the handler who is without a dog could have their life in danger without medical alerts, a dog to guide them, a dog to prevent falls, or other reasons.

    And then think about yourself (which you obviously are doing when you pretend to have a disability so you can pretend your pet is a service dog). In Texas, it is a misdemeanor to fake your pet as a service dog. When caught, you will be fined $300 and have to do 30 hours of community service with disability organizations. I am sure that a misdemeanor won’t look too good to your future employers.

    You don’t want to be disabled, trust me. And your pet is happier without the stress of public environments it isn’t trained and suited for.

    [Reply]

  3. Kristin on April 12th, 2017 5:28 pm

    Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.

    Did ya ever stop to think that they might be training a service dog?
    OR MAYBE it’s a rescue dog that has severe separation anxiety issues? Maybe a couple hours spent on campus with their owner falsely labeled as an ESA or service dog is a better option than chewing their paws raw, salivating all over themselves to the point of dehydration, or causing any other self inflected harm to themselves?

    [Reply]

  4. D on April 25th, 2017 4:27 pm

    In response to the commenter who thinks the OP is out of line:

    A service dog in training should be labeled as such and is not at all the same thing as a NON SERVICE ANIMAL. An animal who has severe anxiety is exactly the opposite of the highly trained and medically necessary service dog who assists in things like mobility and life saving alerts. Having a problem pet does not entitle you to the same protections as someone who needs their $20,000 service animal by their side TO STAY ALIVE. By taking your emotionally damaged PET into non pet friendly areas you TRAMPLE the rights of the disabled in two ways; 1) your poorly behaved dog causes problems and makes business owners want to keep dogs out, even service dogs, because YOUR dog didn’t behave in a suitable way in public. This leaves legitimate handlers being denied access because you ruined it for them. 2) your emotionally unstable dog can distract or even ATTACK a legitimate working dog causing them to neglect their duties even for a FEW seconds which can lead to extreme life threatening danger for someone with an alert dog or other medical service dog.

    So no, it isn’t ok, it IS A CRIME, and those of us who care about the rights of the disabled will continue to report people we suspect of FRAUD like what you describe.

    [Reply]

  5. Jess on May 3rd, 2017 5:11 pm

    I went through a very traumatic event in my life and I have an ESA animal. I don’t go out much to begin with and I don’t believe I am abusing anything. One or two times a year I do have the vest on my dog and I can feel all the eyes looking at me wondering why a seemingly normal looking woman has a dog with an ESA vest. I don’t bring her to restaurants or anything of that nature. In a dangerous world I feel that having my dog by my side makes me feel safe. If only people knew what some other people have lived through they might re-consider and mind their own business.

    [Reply]

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