There is a family in Arkansas that is fighting with their son's school district because they want the child's service dog to go to school with him but the school says the family must provide a handler for the dog because the child can't handle the dog himself and the family thinks the school should provide a handler. Here's one of many articles on the matter.
In this article, the child's mother is quoted as saying all the handling required is someone to hold the leash and issue one-word commands. Well, unless this child's service dog is somehow much more low-maintenance than a typical service dog, I just don't see how that can be true.
Yes, when I take Isaac somewhere, I have to hold the leash. I also have to issue commands. Some are two or three words, but may this dog is trained to all one word commands.
But I also have to take Isaac outside to go potty. If he poops, I have to pick it up. Does this kid's mother really think the dog can be at school all day and not pee or poop?
I have to offer him water if we are going to be somewhere for several hours. Does this kid's mom really expect the dog to go without water for seven or eight hours? I don't know how long their school day is, but with the ride to and from school, it's probably eight hours, don't you think? Maybe that is mom's plan, and maybe she figures if she doesn't give the poor dog anything to drink, then it won't have to pee.
If that's the case, then I feel really, really sorry for the dog. No dog should be expected to work for eight hours with no water and no chance to pee.
What if the dog gets sick and throws up? Does the mom think that the dog vomit should just be left on the floor in the classroom? Someone would need to be responsible for cleaning that up.
And as far as issuing commands, well, even if they are one word commands, it seems to me you'd need to issue a lot of commands in the course of a school day. Let's think about it.
You'd get on the bus and need to tell the dog to go under the seat and lie down. And let's say the dog is super well behaved and you never need to tell it more than once and it never starts to get up before the bus arrives at school. I don't think that's very realistic, I think something you would need to remind it to stay down, but let's just pretend it's a perfect service dog.
You get to school and tell the dog to get up and follow you off the bus. You either have to tell the dog to go in front of you or behind you, because the aisle on a bus isn't really wide enough for a dog to heel. So that's two more commands.
When you get off the bus, you tell the dog to heel and you go to your classroom. That's four commands so far, at least.
Then you go to your desk and tell the dog to go under the desk and lie down. That's five commands. Again, we'll pretend this service dog is perfect and never ever gets up until given the command to do so.
The child in question is in elementary school so he probably doesn't change classes a lot. Let's say he has two recess times a day, plus lunch, plus one "special," like art or music or gym or library.
So to go to your first recess, you'd command the dog to get up, then tell the dog to heel while you went to the playground. That's two more commands. We're up to seven so far. You might need to give more commands while you're on the playground, depending on what you do.
Hey, maybe you could let the dog pee while you're at recess. So you'd give it the command to go potty. That's eight.
Then when recess is over, you'd give the dog the command to heel and you'd go back to the classroom and give the command to go under the desk and lie down. That's 10.
Then let's say it's time for art or music or whatever. You tell the dog to get up, tell the dog to heel, go to the art room or music room, and tell the dog to lie down. That's 13. And when that class is over, you tell the dog to get up, tell the dog to heel, go back to your classroom and tell the dog to go under the desk and lie down. 16.
Then it's lunch time. You tell the dog to get up, tell the dog to heel, go to the cafeteria and get in line. When I'm standing in a food line with Isaac, like at Subway or Chipotle, I have to tell him where to stand. Otherwise, he will flop down on the floor in people's way. So that be three more commands. And then you'd tell the dog to heel while you go to your table and then tell the dog to go under the table and lie down. That's two more. We're up to 21 now.
After lunch, you tell the dog to get up, tell the dog to heel, go to your classroom, tell the dog to go under the desk and lie down. That's 24, so far.
Then it's afternoon recess time, so you tell the dog to get up, tell the dog to heel, go out to the playground, tell the dog to pee (because I'm nicer than the kid's mom that seems to think the dog should not be allowed to pee all day), and when recess is over, tell the dog to heel, go back to the classroom, and tell the dog to go under the desk and lie down. Now we're up to 29. At least.
And then school is over, so you tell the dog to get up, tell the dog to heel, get on the bus, tell the dog to go under the seat and lie down, tell the dog to get up when the bus gets to your house and tell the dog to follow you off the bus. That's at least 34 commands during the school day, if the dog behaves perfectly all day long.
My dog does not behave perfectly all day long, so somewhere in there I would have to tell him to lie down again or tell him to "leave it" when he tried to sniff some other kid's lunch or feet or whatever.
Also, somewhere in there I would have to pee myself, so I'd have to issue more commands to tell my dog to get up, to heel while I headed to the bathroom, tell my dog what to do while I was peeing (sit? stand? lie down? oh, and leave it, when he tried to peek under the stall to see who was in the next stall), tell him to heel on the way back to the classroom, and tell him to lie down again when we got back to class. So that would be six more commands for me, for a total of at least 40.
It's not just holding the leash.
Plus, someone has to tell other kids and adults not to pet the dog, not to distract the dog, all that stuff. Is this second grader able to be responsible for that? Or does the handler have to do that, too?
Really, it's a lot more than just holding the leash. It's kind of scary that the kid has a service dog and his mom thinks it's just holding the leash.