Thursday, March 17, 2011

Miscellanious Service Dog News

The revised definitions of a service animal have officially gone into effect. These include a modification on what constitutes a service animal - a dog or, in some circumstances, a miniature horse. These also include a clarification on whether service dogs who happen to resemble banned breeds of dogs in an area CANNOT be banned or restricted.

Andrea over at The Manor of Mixed Blessings has a must-read post on Service Dog Etiquette. While I'm not sure I'm on the same page with her shoe analogy, it's at least accessible to the general public. I think able-bodied dog lovers will have a harder time reading it than those familiar with service animals. It's like the first time a white person realizes we still live in a privileged, patriarchal, White-centered society and ouch! that sucks majorly. And no, persons of color don't want to hold your hand and guide you through your journey of self-discovery anymore than a disabled person wants to describe in vivid detail why on earth they need a service dog.

The take home point: Treat the disabled as if they are an able-bodied person without a dog. I know it can be hard for dog lovers - I relate to people with dogs on such a personal level, and I probably annoy those people by going straight for their dogs attention and not theirs. But Andrea, you will be happy to know that I do not stare or oogle or interact with people who have service dogs as if they are merely an extension of their dog. But my inner dog-lover is petting the dog IN MY MIND. The power of the mind, it wins.

It is a poignant reminder that we still live in an ablelist society that treats disabled people as abnormal entities worthy of extra-special attention. Last time I checked, most people - regardless of how able they are - just want to do normalized stuff - go grocery shopping, take a walk, drink a coffee at a cafe, enjoy an evening out. Help them out by treating them like people! I know, strange.

(When I think about it, part of why I feel so strongly about this is an experience I had as a teenager. An adult was talking to a person who happened to be in a wheelchair. She talked to this person in a slow, exaggerated voice as if the person was incapable of understanding. It was baffling - the person in the wheelchair was clearly in a wheelchair because he had a broken leg. And even if he had difficulties with his speaking skills, I've always found the best course of action is to STILL talk to everyone you meet the same way and, if modifications are necessary afterward, implement them. That image has stayed with me, more than a decade later.)

Part of the reason for the change in ADA definitions stems from concerns, not necessarily borne out in reality, that people were abusing the rules by having, say, a service iguana. Or service rat. Now me, if a service animal can perform the functions necessary to keep a person stable or sense seizures or whatever, then great. But I understand the concerns, even if I do not necessarily agree with them.

But there are people like Rhonda Kimmel whose sole reason for putting a service dog vest on her dog is so he can get exercise in air-conditioned malls. And just like an ableist person WOULD say, she didn't want to push her luck at the housing development where she lives because AND I QUOTE, "It's not like I'm blind or something." I can see how service dog advocates would be totally pissed off. I still believe Rhonda Kimmel is in the minority and the overwhelming majority of service dogs are providing a service to their person.

And that is my miscellany on service dog news.

1 comment:

yoxorote said...

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