Chris Oaks spoke with Melissa Schroeder, certified dog trainer and founder of Lodestar: Guiding Angels for the Blind.
Q: This week, a new state law took effect allowing restaurants with outdoor seating the option of permitting patrons to bring their dogs along with them when they dine. No one can question your love for dogs, but is this really a good idea?
A: I have mixed feelings. In Europe, for example, this is very common and is very rarely a problem. Then again, thatâs precisely because it is so common. In other words, dogs are very socialized in this way from the time theyâre puppies, which does make a difference.
While most pets in this country are well socialized among their families and a small circle of friends, that doesnât necessarily mean they do well around people â or other animals â they donât know.
Q: So you can see this potentially leading to incidents?
A: Walking your dog around the neighborhood for a half-hour a day does not mean they are properly socialized. On the other hand, itâs impossible to properly socialize a dog unless its owners have the opportunity to take them to public places.
So one of my concerns is that now, by virtue of this law, more places will be accommodating, but weâll be bringing animals in who are probably not yet ready for that level of interaction. Yet thatâs whatâs needed to make them more comfortable in that setting. So, obviously itâs a vicious circle. But I worry that we may be putting the cart before the horse, to use another animal analogy.
Q: This is similar to the concern you have expressed before about the growing number of emotional support animals that people are bringing to stores, on airplanes and other public places that have traditionally been reserved for service dogs.
A: Yes. Now, let me say I love the idea of being able to bring my dogs everywhere. But we already have a problem with a lack of standards even for service dogs. Then we added emotional support animals to the mix, and now companion animals.
I worry weâre opening the floodgates without taking all the potential implications into consideration. For example, one thing I donât see in the law is even any mention of whether of not the animal will be required to be current on its vaccines.
Q: I thought the criteria defining service dogs, emotional support dogs and companion animals was very specific. Is that not the case?
A: A service dog is defined within the Americans with Disabilities Act as one which performs a task to mitigate a disability. Emotional support dogs, on the other hand, do not perform a specific task but are generally recognized as those which are âprescribedâ by a therapist to mitigate a condition such as anxiety. So we have a definition, but not a standard.
And this is the part which may surprise some people. There is no registry for either type of animal, or even a universal requirement for the amount or type of training. The state has tried to institute such a standard, but without federal rules itâs very difficult to enforce.
Q: So, in the end, youâre concerned that properly trained and socialized animals may be unfairly judged by the bad behavior of those which arenât?
A: Thatâs the main concern, yes. I would hope that people will take an honest look at the situations their animal is reasonably capable of handling, given their training and temperament. When any dog misbehaves in public, it makes it that much more difficult for those who genuinely need their animals in order to function.
âGood Mornings!â with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at email@example.com, or at 419-422-4545.