Please don’t send me to the back of the bus

We’re working on it, Mike.

All due respect, you’ve made a couple of significant legal errors. Those dogs you’re complaining about? They are virtually all “emotional support” or “comfort” dogs. The status derives from a letter from a clinician saying that the person has an emotional condition and needs the dog to comfort or calm him or her. Yes, there’s a lot of abuse. And I don’t know why those dogs are allowed to be held in a lap during a flight.

Service dogs are different. I have had two and I’m waiting for my third to complete his training. The photo above shows me and Cormet, with the BOTEC team in DC. For a better explanation of how these dogs can help, take a look at this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUvk2ODcw6hA0OuSXU1kjl1w&v=KtRvDeMumFU

The cost to produce one of these dogs? Between $20,000 and $60,000. Most are provided by charities. My dogs are known as “balance-walker” or mobility dogs. I prefer a German Shepherd, because the dog needs to be big and strong enough to support me, and zippy enough to pull me forward when my weak left leg gives out. Cormet died young and suddenly in March- spinal stenosis. I lost my best friend and about 75% of my ability to get around. A service dog restores my full independence. Without one, I lead a constrained life. So pardon me if I take it personally when you want to relegate me to the back of the bus- or airplane. I’m sorry about allergic people, but reseating is the obvious option. And I’ve ridden city buses, sitting next to people whose clothing was so imbued with cat hair that I had watery eyes and a stuffy nose, even though I’ve never considered myself allergic.

Having taken you to task, let me say I agree with you about the problem with the ADA. When the service dog provision was written, it never occurred to the advocates that people would pass off their pets as service dogs in order to taken them into Starbucks. But they do, and those damn dogs are wreaking havoc for the legitimate service dog teams. Our carefully trained dogs have been attacked and bitten by pets whose owners thought it would be fun to costume them in a little cape and gallivant around town.

As I said, those of us who volunteer our time in this area are working hard for a solution. Perhaps you’d like to help.

Author: Lowry Heussler

Lowry Heussler is a lawyer from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Having participated in the RBC as a guest-blogger, she made it official in 2012. Her most important contribution to the field of public policy to date was her 1994 instruction to Mark Kleiman, "Read Ann Landers every day. You need to learn about real people." Her essay on the 2009 arrest of Henry Louis Gates went viral and brought about one of her proudest moments, being described as "just another twit along the lines of Sharpton, Jackson, Gates, etc." (Small Dead Animals Blog). Currently serving as General Counsel to BOTEC Analysis Corp., she has been a public housing lawyer, a prosecutor for the Board of Registration in Medicine, a large-firm associate and a small-firm partner. She serves as a board member for NEADS, Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a charity that trains service dogs to increase independence for people with disabilities.

5 thoughts on “Please don’t send me to the back of the bus”

  1. There is a big difference between service dogs and "comfort" dogs that ADA and the airlines need to deal with. I'm not sure how to start a movement, but I'd be supportive of one. I've already written my congressperson about it, but haven't gotten a response yet.

  2. My late Aunt Frieda, who bred German shepherds, was in at the beginning of the switch by the British RNIB guide dog programme from buying in random pedigree puppies to in-house breeding, which lowered the failure rate in training quite substantially. Since the agencies that breed service dogs select for trivial characters like health, loyalty, intelligence and temperament, and not for the really important ones like the colour of the tip of the tail or the angle of the muzzle, the sub-species are diverging. If you are looking for a pet, you could do worse than look for a dog that flunked service training for being too friendly to strangers.

  3. Please forgive if this is a rude question. Do you need to have your dog in the cabin with you? Does it go with you to the loo, f.e.? I am just curious. I guess a blind person might need a dog to navigate an airplane. As to other possibilities, I would like to learn more.

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