Animals generally and dogs specifically have been used by humans to complete specific tasks for tens of thousands of years. Throughout ancient human history dogs have helped hunters track down and catch prey, to tracking down wounded soldiers during wartimes. There are some ancient mentions of dogs acting as helpers for those with disabilities, such as ruins found in an Ancient Roman city which depict a dog assisting a blind man.
In more recent history, seeing-eye dogs became increasingly popular service animals in the late 1920s in the United States. It wasn’t until the 1960s when people began to use the help of service animals for disabilities other than blindness, such as hearing loss (https://assistancedogs.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/the-history-of-the-service-dog-part-ii-celebrating-international-assistance-dog-week/).
Today, service dogs help thousands of people with disabilities such as hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism to live a happy, healthy and independent life.
An Arizona politician out of Fountain Hills believes there is a growing issue in Phoenix regarding service animals. John Kavanagh is a Republican member of the Arizona Senate, who represents district 23. Kavanagh supposes that dog owners in Arizona are abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) service animal laws, by bringing their typical pet dogs into businesses and public places acting as service animals. Kavanagh says of the issue, “people complain all the time… I see it everywhere… everyone sees it, and its getting out of control”.
To combat the problem, Kavanagh has set forth a proposal that would allow a judge to impose a fine of up to $250 for anyone who fraudulently represents an animal as a service animal in a public place.
In Kavanagh’s proposal, a business that is under the impression someone is fraudulently representing an animal as a service animal can file a complaint and have the issue heard by the court. In the courtroom, the individual would be expected to provide written proof that the animal had been trained to complete a specific task that is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If not, the person could be subject to the fine (http://azdailysun.com/news/local/senator-seeks-law-to-deal-with-fraudulent-service-animals/article_e84a161a-c6bf-59a0-b1e0-ddee92cd3f98.html).
Under the proposal, business owners would not be allowed to refuse service or entrance on the premises if an owner is not able to produce this written proof “on the spot.”
Sarah Kadar, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Disability Law does not agree with Senator Kavanagh’s assertions. She says of the issue, “I think Kavanagh and others who are putting these (laws) forward are making a big deal like there’s thousands of people out there with these fraudulent service animals” (http://azdailysun.com/news/local/senator-seeks-law-to-deal-with-fraudulent-service-animals/article_e84a161a-c6bf-59a0-b1e0-ddee92cd3f98.html). Kadar believes that there is no (or a very minimal) issue with Arizonians misrepresenting their animals as service animals in public spaces. She believes that this proposal, if passed, will disproportionately punish people with disabilities for the actions of a very few.
Kadar also finds major flaw with the proposal itself. For example, in Kavanagh’s plan, individuals will be required to show specific written proof that their animal has been trained for a specific job outlined by ADA. Kadar points out that there is absolutely no mandate under ADA for service dogs to be formally trained. Because of this, people who have self-trained their service animals for ADA approved tasks will be subject to fines under the proposal. The proposal also heeds the question, what will happen to those who are unable to provide proof of training for their animals?
Kadar also reminds readers that all business owners have the right to ask two permitted questions that can weed out any potentially fraudulent animals. “Most people aren’t going to lie and make up a disability and make up what their animal is trained to do in response”, Kadar says (http://azdailysun.com/news/local/senator-seeks-law-to-deal-with-fraudulent-service-animals/article_e84a161a-c6bf-59a0-b1e0-ddee92cd3f98.html).
A quick Google search will unveil a vast array of companies and non-profits specializing in training service dogs for individuals who are deaf or have a hearing loss. If you or someone you love would benefit from the assistance of a service animal for their hearing loss, here are some helpful resources to get you started: http://savvycanines.org/hearing-dog/
If you believe you have a hearing loss, contact us at Arizona Balance and Hearing Aids today. We provide comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings.