Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guarding the Service Dog

Every since hearing about the service dog that was attacked by a customer in Walmart, I've been a bit more wary than normal when I'm shopping with Isaac.  This was not the first story I've heard of a service dog being attacked but for some reason it stands out in my mind.

Service dogs are sometimes attacked by other dogs and sometimes by humans.  It certainly doesn't happen every day, but it's a common enough occurrence that it's a common topic of discussion among service dog handlers.  Not just that attacks, but how to prevent them and how to protect your dog.

Some service dog handlers carry pepper spray.  Apparently pepper spray is not legal in all areas, or at least not pepper spray of a certain strength.  Some service dog handlers suggest carrying a stun gun, which is also not legal in all areas.  A commonly-heard suggestion is to carry an umbrella, the kind that pops open when you push a button.  An umbrella may not be much of a defense against violent humans, but if an aggressive dog is coming toward your dog, you can point the umbrella at the aggressive dog and push the button so it pops open, forming a barrier between your dog and the aggressive dog and also startling the approaching, aggressive dog, hopefully stopping him in his tracks.

While an umbrella might be fairly effective protection against aggressive, uncontrolled dogs (that shouldn't be in public places anyway), logistically it seems awkward at best to me.  I thought about it the other day while grocery shopping with Isaac.  I have only two hands.  While grocery shopping with Isaac, I must hold Isaac's leash, push the shopping cart, hold my shopping list and still manage to pick up items and put them in my cart.  How would I hold an umbrella at the same time?  Just putting the umbrella in my cart wouldn't be effective.  I'd need to have the umbrella ready to pop it open at any moment.  I'd have to have another hand. 

You're probably thinking, why would a service dog be attacked by another dog in a grocery store?  Dogs aren't allowed in grocery stores, right?  But there are people claiming their dogs are service dogs that bring aggressive dogs into public places where they shouldn't be.  I know a service dog handler that is currently dealing with an issue on her college campus.  Another student has a dog she claims is a service dog that has attacked a couple of legitimate service dogs on the campus.  I don't know why the university disability services continues to allow her to bring her dog onto the campus.  But anyway, it happens.

It's a ridiculous thing to have to worry about when you're out shopping with your service dog.  But as I was shopping the other day, I was aware of the risk.

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