Thursday, May 22, 2014

Service Dogs That Don't Belong in Schools

I read an article today about a family that is upset because a little girl, who has a service dog that is supposed to alert to seizures (and I assume respond to seizures in some way, since simply alerting is not a trained task and would not in itself make a dog a service dog), has been asked not to bring her dog to school anymore.

The article I read initially didn't provide much info but in reading more information in other places and in discussing the situation with someone that knows a teacher at the little girl's school, the facts seems to be these.  Initially, the school was enthusiastic about the idea of the little girl bringing her seizure alert dog to school.  An assembly was held to tell all the students about the service dog and to explain why they weren't supposed to pet the dog.  However, once the dog began attending school with the little girl, a problem was noticed.  One of the girl's teachers uses a wheelchair and the dog seems disturbed by the chair, barking at it and biting its wheels.

That, of course, is inappropriate behavior for a service dog and suggests the dog didn't receive the proper socialization when it was young and/or was not trained properly.  It's disruptive to the class when the dog barks at the wheelchair and biting the wheels may cause costly damage to the teacher's chair.  In addition, if the dog behaves aggressively toward a wheelchair, it's possible the dog may behave aggressively toward other things it's not accustomed to.  It's also possible the dog might accidentally bite the teacher or another student when attempting to bite the wheels of the chair.

It makes perfect sense to me that the school would decide this particular dog could not come to school with the little girl anymore.

The family disagrees and some family members have suggested the teacher was doing something to startle the dog or that she was doing something to make the little girl nervous, so the dog was just being protective, and that that is appropriate behavior for a service dog.  Well, biting the wheelchair of a person that makes an owner nervous is not appropriate behavior for a service dog.  Service dogs are not supposed to be protective.  "Protection" is not a service they can provide.  And while a dog might bark once when startled, a dog should not bite or attempt to bite something that startles it, and a dog should not be startled by something like seeing a wheelchair, especially when it sees one every day at school.

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