ESCANABA, Mich. (WLUC) - Not everyone knows how to react when they see a service dog out in a grocery store or restaurant. Unfortunately, sometimes it is the animal’s handler, or the business, who doesn’t know how to handle situations properly. Katie Johnson founded Yooper Service Dogs to address those problems.
Service dogs and their handlers are becoming a more common sight, but this means there is a need for understanding among businesses, regarding their rights and obligations.
“There is a misconception that service dog owners and businesses are like on opposite sides, duking it out, but it is the exact total opposite in reality,” Johnson said. “The only one on the opposite is the fake service animals.”
Fake service animals are a growing problem and the hard part is telling the difference between a legitimate service dog and a fake. Do you think you could tell?
“A lot of businesses think that they are going to get sued if they do anything about an animal coming in the store or they think that person has a disability and I don't want to inconvenience them so they don't ask anything,” Johnson said.
There are some things that a business is forbidden from doing.
“Federal and state law prevent a business from asking about a person’s disability and about asking about any kind of identification and documentation,” Johnson said.
Actually, there is no official ID for service animals that exist. There are a couple things a business can ask though.
“The first one is, ‘is that a service animal required for a disability?’ It has to be a yes or no question because you're prohibited from asking for details about a disability. It's strictly do you have one for the purpose of that question. The second one is ‘what task or work does the dog perform?’ Those two questions together are the actual definition of a service animal,” Johnson said.
Johnson founded Yooper Service Dogs to assist people in getting service animals.
“For the moment, we provide resources to people trying to get their assistance animal,” Johnson said. “Though we are called Yooper Services Dogs, the terms are confused so much that we help anybody trying to get an assistance animal or that had questions with them.”
It’s a very complex issue and if a business or handler has any questions, please check out their Facebook page or contact Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Federal information can be found at ada.gov.