With the passing of the Service Dogs Act in January of 2009 and the increase in demand for our guide and assistance dogs by the public, these animals are becoming more common in communities across Alberta. Having recently expanded our program, there are three dogs now training in your area.
For the first part of their training, our young dogs are cared for by volunteers who are encouraged to take their animal with them in public whenever possible that they be exposed to as many of the situations they will encounter later on when they are working with a person with a disability. Service dogs are not born that way, but must experience each different situation, much the same way a young child learns what are acceptable behaviours while at the grocery store, the doctor’s office and the mall.
The success of programs like ours, however, relies in part upon the good will of members of the public by allowing dogs in training to get this exposure. And by and large, that acceptance is forthcoming and instances of being refused entry are rare.
I am disappointed, then, to learn that one of our volunteers was asked by the recreation director to leave the Rimbey Community Christmas party on Dec. 12. The reason given was that the dog was in training and was not actually assisting anyone at the time.
While this is technically true, the dog was however leashed and wearing a jacket identifying it as a Service Dog in training and was, by all accounts perfectly well behaved, as we would expect. Not only was this a disappointment for the volunteer, but it is not a happy example of the kind of charity and goodwill we usually experience at this time of year.
I hope that the mayor and council will establish policy at venues under their control, which are a better reflection of what is in the greater good.
Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society