Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Service Dog Attacked by Walmart Customer

This morning I read a story (I think you have to be a member of this site to see it, so I'm not bothering with a link) about a woman that was shopping at Walmart in the middle of the night with her service dog and another customer, for no reason, kicked her dog. Hard. Hard enough to make the dog cry. The kicking customer later tried to say the service dog snapped at her and that's why she kicked him.

Walmart employees told the kicking customer to leave but she refused and kept ranting and raving about how dogs should not be in Walmart, so they called the cops. Thank goodness, the cops actually arrested the kicking customer. Apparently there is a law in Texas against injuring a service dog.

I'm absolutely horrified, not just because someone kicked a dog for no reason, but because something like this can potentially cause irreparable damage to a dog's ability to work as a service dog. He could become too fearful to work in public. Or, if he had bitten the kicking customer in response to being kicked (which would seem quite reasonable to me), he would have to be retired from working permanently. Two years of training and approximately $20,000 (the cost of training a service dog) would be down the drain and a person with a disability would likely have to wait another year or two in order to get another service dog.

Edited to add:  The service dog was seen by a vet and is not seriously injured.  He has to take it easy for a week and is on pain medication.  It's too soon to know how he will be affected emotionally.  If he becomes too fearful in stores or if he reacts to strangers in a suspicious manner, he could be unable to continue working.  There are people that have had that experience.  I've talked to a couple people who had service dogs that were attacked by other dogs (not service dogs) and essentially developed PTSD or something similar and were unable to continue working as service dogs because they were frightened or felt threatened when they saw other dogs and responded accordingly.

I think about how loving and trusting Isaac is and about how bewildered and frightened and hurt he would be if someone kicked him like that.  Good grief, he was horribly offended when Mike's cat Indigo swatted him on the nose and I am pretty sure that did not hurt at all.  I imagine if someone kicked Isaac in a store, he would get as close to me as possible for protection, which is pretty much what he did when Indigo swatted him.  He came running to me to save him.  I feel certain he wouldn't bite or respond in an aggressive manner.

But how would it affect him emotionally?  It's hard to say.  Isaac was always a bit wary of Indigo after she swatted him but he was not afraid of other cats.  And he seems to recover quickly from things.  For instance, I once cut one of his nails too short and it must have hurt because he yelped, and it also bled like crazy, and I was afraid he would be scared of getting his nails cut after that, but he wasn't.  He doesn't really like getting his nails cut but he didn't like it before that time, either.

I feel like it's difficult to explain how devastating something like this could be.  If Isaac was injured, whether physically or emotionally, and was therefore unable to continue working in public, I would be faced with a heart-wrenching decision.  I would have to decide whether to get another service dog, but here's the heart-wrenching part.  I could not afford to care for two dogs.  Caring for Isaac is a strain on my budget.  He is definitely worth the strain, but it would be impossible to come up with the money to care for a second dog.  I also live in a small apartment and don't have room for two dogs, plus my apartment complex has a one pet rule and I already got special permission to have Cayenne in addition to Isaac.  In order to get another service dog, I would have to re-home Isaac.

This has been on my mind all day and I am pretty sure I would just have to do without a service dog in order to keep Isaac.  And it could be possible that he could still do tasks for me at home, just not in public.  And honestly, he does more for me at home than out in public anyway.  For some people, it would be the opposite.  For instance, a blind person would rely on a guide dog much more out in public than in the home.  So at least I could manage more easily than some people without a service dog when I go places.  But it would be hard.

If I did decide I needed another service dog, I would have to raise the funds for it, and if it happened at this point in time, I imagine that would be really difficult since everyone I know has already donated as much as they can for Isaac.  I would find it really  hard to raise another $5000.  Of course, it would likely be a year at least before I could get another service dog.  There are long waiting lists.

I think there should be laws in every state, with very stiff penalties, for injuring a service dog.  Of course, I think there should be laws with stiffer penalties than currently exist for any kind of animal cruelty.  But injuring a service dog is a crime on a whole other level, I think.

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