Everyone has become comfortable with seeing people with service dogs in stores and restaurants and anywhere else in public.
Service dogs are traced back to World War I when Germans trained German shepherds to serve as guide dogs, but it’s only been relatively recently â the late ’80s and ’90s â that they’ve been widely used and accepted.
They do amazing things, allowing blind people more freedom, activating life alerts for people having seizures and helping people with limited mobility do everyday tasks.
Gentle, loyal dogs also have been useful in providing emotional support for those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder.
Those animals’ good work is now being sullied by the cheap and self-entitled folks who slap the label “emotional support” or “comfort” animal onto any pet they may own.
The news has been filled with the stories. A woman tried to bring an “emotional-support peacock” onto a flight with her. There have been potbelly pigs, miniature horse, turkeys, monkeys and cats that people have brought on planes, or tried to.
Airlines, which try hard to cater to those with real service animals, are still trying to figure out how to handle it. Passengers with a legit service dog can have them fly in the cabin, free of charge, without being in a pet carrier. But increasingly cheapskates who want to fly their pets for free are calling them comfort animals.
Last year airlines transported more than a million real and fake service animals, a huge increase over past years. Three-quarters of those critters that flew were defined as “emotional support” animals.
Recently Frontier Airlines had to call police to remove a woman who brought a squirrel on board. She, of course, was outraged and, as is the American way, she will be suing the bejesus out of Frontier.
It’s not just odd critters people are trying to sneak on board planes but entitled dog owners who want to bring their pets into stores and other places they wouldn’t normally be allowed.
You can easily spot a real service dog. They walk quietly and attentively next to their handler, never bark unless trained to for alerting danger, don’t jump up on people, don’t beg for food.
The others, often little yippers carried by their owners, bark at everything and look like they would dart away from their owner at the first hint of any real danger to them.
The fake dogs also wear vests, just like their legitimate service dog counterparts. But unlike the real vests given by service dog training agencies, these are just purchased off the internet, along with counterfeit support dog certificates.
The fact is, there are few real service animals that serve a real purpose beyond dogs, usually larger dogs. Other animals just don’t have the temperament for it.
I had a squirrel that I’d caught as a pet when I was a kid. I say “pet” in the sense that he was in a cage and I’d quickly open the door, throw in some food and slam it shut before he had a chance to come flying out, attach to my face and scratch me to a bloody pulp.
I was always a bit terrified approaching his cage, but eventually I did get him to nibble on cherries I held in my hand. It was great, we were making progress, bonding.
Then one day he bit my hand with his little razor rodent teeth, bolted past me and outside to the free world once more.
I went and petted our big black Lab. I felt better right away.
Tim Krohn can be contacted at email@example.com or 344-6383.