Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vest or No Vest?

Many people think service dogs are required to wear some sort of special vest, but they actually are not.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are required to be leashed unless that would prevent the dog from performing a specific task, but otherwise they need no special gear.

Isaac does wear a vest, a red one that says "Service Dog, Please Don't Pet Me, I'm Working" on it.

This is the vest I got from Isaac's program and I like it.  It fits well, it's easy to put on and take off, the straps are adjustable, it has two pockets (in the pockets are an identification card from Isaac's program, which I've never shown to anyone for any purpose, a couple small cards with the service dog-related part of the ADA written on them along with the ADA information hotline number, a brochure explaining all about service dogs, a couple plastic poop bags and a couple paper towels).  Isaac seems to find it comfortable. 

I have a second one, which someone gave to me, which just so happened to be from the same manufacturer, only it's green.  It's my backup vest, to use if something happens to the red one, but he's never actually worn it anywhere.  I've heard that for some reason people are more likely to try to pet service dogs if they wear green, blue or purple vests and less likely to pet if dogs wear orange or red vests.  I haven't actually tested out that theory myself but someone I know online did, using a vest in a different color for one week each, going about the same weekly routine.

Anyway, I like the red vest because Isaac has a red color and leash so it matches, although he also has a black color and leash that would also match the green vest.  We used to use the red collar and leash most of the time but that collar was getting pretty worn looking so now we use the black collar and leash most of the time when going out in public and use the red for things like trips to the park and going swimming. 

I prefer to put a vest on Isaac when he's working, for a number of reasons:
  • It's an easy way for Isaac to know he's on duty and expected to behave in a certain way.
  • It's an easy way to let other people, like my neighbors, know he's on duty and not to pet him or distract him.
  • It lets people know he's a service dog, which I assume must cut way down on access issues.  If I tried to take him into a store or restaurant without his vest, I would expect to be questioned by staff.  They would have no way to know he was not just a pet.
  • Since it says "Please Don't Pet Me," it probably cuts down on the number of people that come up and pet him, even though some people still do.
  • The pockets are certainly handy.  I know if he ever has an accident in a store, I'm prepared.  And I know I'll always have the ADA hotline number handy if there is an access dispute.
Because I think there are so many advantages to using a vest, I can only think of a few instances in which I might take Isaac somewhere without one. 

If his vest was damaged or lost or stolen, I'd take him places without one until I had the opportunity to repair or replace it.  Since I have a backup vest, though, I guess that would only be necessary if something happened to his vest while we were out and about and I needed to go someplace else before returning home to get the backup one. 

If we were going to be someplace outdoors and it was really, really hot, I might take off his vest.  But if it's too hot for him to wear his vest, it's probably too hot for him to be there for very long, anyway.  And I think his vest is pretty cool.  It's not very big or heavy.

If he had some sort of injury or wound under the straps of the vest or something, such that the vest would rub against or irritate it, then I wouldn't put the vest on him until it healed.  But if he was injured like that, I'm not sure if he should be working until he recovered, anyway.

It makes sense to me that the law doesn't require service dogs to wear a special vest, but I think using a vest has a lot of advantages.  I'd recommend using one.

No comments:

Post a Comment