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Grrrrr – this makes me angry!  

“If you and your service dog become certified with NSAR, both of you are immediately protected under federal law (ADA).”

If you have a service animal, you are already protected under ADA and you do not need to have your service team “certified”.

“And by law, businesses aren't allowed to ask you to prove your dog is a service animal, “

Oh, yes, they can ask for proof, by asking what specific services the animal performs. Observation of the animal's essential service gear (special harnesses, etc) and focus on its task and/or human partner supports the verbal assurance from the human partner that the animal is a service animal.  Together, those provide all the proof any business needs to have. What they cannot ask is what your disability is.  Papers, documentation, tags, medical letters, etc., are not needed.

“By certifying your dog with NSAR, you'll have all the documentation you need should someone confront you.”

Playing on the fears and insecurities of people who are already facing huge social disadvantages just ticks me righteously off.

And SARA isn’t much better. They are somewhat better in that they do at least say certification isn’t required, but then they spoil it by saying that their registry and certification program will make all your access problems melt away.

That’s not true.

A photo ID tag spelling out what type of assistance animal it is will not stop people from challenging you when you are accompanied by a service animal.  Sometimes, it does the reverse and acts as a magnet that guarantees you will be challenged.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been approached and asked, “Really?  Your dog is really a service animal?”

In my opinion, no amount of “certification”, “registration”, “licensing”, or “ID-tagging” will ever be enough to satisfy people.  I mean, if they won’t even accept Obama’s certificate of live birth and newspaper announcements as proof of his birth, they for darn tootin’ sure aren’t going to accept any documents, certifications, tags, etc. you may have for your service animal.

What works best, in my copious experience, is attitude.  If you act as if you have the right to be accompanied by your animal partner, with or without the ID tags, vest, bandana, etc, you have a greater chance of going about your life unchallenged than if you clipped a photo ID badge to your partner and timidly went about your business.

These people offering “certification” and “registration” are playing on that timidity.  I’m a fairly confident person, and I have a wide circle of friends, co-workers, and affiliates I see often, which boosts that confidence level rather higher, and I still have a degree of timidity when entering a new place where I don’t think I will know anybody.

These are businesses that are in it for a profit, and they really don’t care if your animal is a service animal or not as long as you pay them and tell them your animal is a service animal.  You can get decent tags and IDs for far, far less than they are charging, and you can get the ADA cards for less, and you can do it without having your service animal loaded into some for-profit company’s database with no clue how they will use that information, what protections your data will have, and no guarantee they won’t sell your info to some other business to spam and harass you.

Absolutely no thanks!

Other such businesses are the Service Dog Certification of America, and the United Service Animal Registry. They sound so official, don’t they?

These are not government agencies.  They are not authorized by any ADA agency to offer certifications and registrations.  

Canine Companions for Independence, the largest service animal training organization in the US, has only trained 600 service animals in its 20 year existence.  In addition to CCI, there are 70 organizations that provide guide and mobility dogs, and 45 that provide hearing dogs to the ADII (Assistance Dogs International, Inc) standards – most of them only train between 2 and 10 service animals a year.  This means there are only 1750 or so trained service animals a year available for those who need them – and remember, the life of a service animal is generally about 7-8 years, so those who had a service animal will need a new one in less than a decade.  There are 9 million disabled people who could benefit from the assistance of a service animal.  There are approximately 7,000 guide dogs in service, and somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 assistance animals at work (the 7,000 guide dogs are included in this number!), based on research by the Assistance Dog United Campaign.  

We do have to license our service animals with our city/county/state as we would with any other animal living with us.  

They should have an ID tag with contact information on it, and ideally, also be microchipped.  The ID tag does not have to say “service animal” on it.

This past weekend, for example, when I was working with and at the Oklahoma Steampunk Exposition, I encountered probably 200 or so people who already knew me and Itzl and maybe another 100 or so who’d heard of us and were pleased to meet us.  That still didn’t prevent me from being a bit angsty when I first walked into the hotel.  And I never did work up the courage to go into the hotel’s restaurant – in fact, we had a vending machine steampunk style Tea Party on the steps right beside the restaurant instead!  (It was breakfast – powdered sugar donuts and bottled tea for me, with some of the tea for Itzl and a pack of animal crackers as a treat for him)

When I see businesses that use fear language to get people to buy their product, it makes me angry.  And when they charge high prices on top of that – boy do I see red!

Those numbers I mentioned above, the 9 million Americans who would benefit from a service animal?  If the animals not only had to come from a certified training facility, but then needed to be registered (at $50+ a pop), I bet there would be even fewer than the current 10,000 – 12,000 people relying on service animals.

I am adamantly opposed to requiring certification or registration because there already aren’t enough service animals to go around.  I prefer the looser ADA requirements because this means more people who need service animals have a greater chance of getting them.  I prefer that we have the option to self-train our service animals because there aren’t enough places that can or will train service animals.

And I very much dislike places like the National Service Animal Registry Company that purports to be able to “register” your service animal (note that it is not a government agency but a for-profit business), and uses fear language to get customers.  These companies do not provide you with anything you don't already have, and they charge you for it!

As a hearing impaired person, having signs makes things more understandabale.  It also lets people know I'm not answering them because I can't hear them well.  They need to get my visual attention.  That cheap piece of plastic prevents people from getting angry with me.  But it's not an "official" ID tag, it's just a useful tool.

If you are teamed with a service animal, you do not need to register or certify your partner.  You already have full access rights.  Some of these places will charge you more than $100 for a $10 piece of printed plastic that you can get anywhere.

And here's a gratuitously cute picture of Itzl alerting on an alrm at work:

First Half of Itzl's Door Alert

Originally posted to Noddy and Itzl on Tue Apr 19, 2011 at 12:34 PM PDT.

Also republished by oo and Community Spotlight.

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