Service Dog Etiquette: Avoiding Harmful Consequences
Although service dogs gain a lot of attention while out with their handlers, it is important to recognize the consequences of distracting these animals. As most passersby don’t realize, service animals are doing a very important job. Whether you or someone you know owns a service dog, it’s critical to understand what is considered appropriate behavior around these dogs when determining Canine Liability risks.
For example, Hailey Ashmore, a 16-year-old from Dallas, Texas, suffered the consequences of her service dog’s distraction. Ashmore has had Flynn, since he was a puppy and employs him to detect seizures before they occur to ensure her safety. What’s more, Ashmore suffers from several conditions including epilepsy, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, reactive hypoglycemia, severe allergies, gastroparesis, and asthma, as reported by Little Things.
While visiting her father at work, a coworker started to pet Flynn despite the “stop” sign he has on his vest. While Flynn typically alerts Hailey ten minutes prior to having a seizure, the distraction caused Flynn to only give her a one minute warning. She awoke to Flynn on her legs and the left side of her face covered in rug burns as a result of her collapsing.
Although she was fortunate not to have been more severely injured, circumstances like this can be avoided if people obey proper service dog etiquette. Maggie Simms, Project Manager for the Rocky Mountain ADA Center stated “Never just walk up, talk, pet, try to distract, or don’t do anything without the permission of the handler.”
Ashmore also stressed the importance by saying “My service dog is my lifeline. I don’t say that to be cute. He helps keep me alive just like life support. If he gets distracted this happens. Do not pet service dogs. Do not call to service dogs. Do not taunt service dogs. Do not talk to service dogs.” The only time a service animal should be approached is if the owner is unconscious or having a seizure.
Although connecting with the animal may be well intentioned, it is important to remember that these animals are performing a duty and protecting their owner. Therefore, be mindful of the possible consequences of interacting with a service animal.
Last but not least, it is imperative to realize that although service dogs are trained, they still have the ability to bite. Distractions or surprises that occur while protecting their owner can lead to the dog snapping. If this were to happen, both the training agency and the owner could be held liable for the damages.
Our Canine Liability Policy provides protection against possible claims that could result from your service dog. In order to protect your dog and yourself, contact us today at (855) 534-6495.