Service dogs are common visitors during conventions. Service dogs are cute, but let’s not forget: they are working dogs who provide support so their human can safely and happily attend a convention when they might not be able to without such assistance. Some folks need support for social anxiety or PTSD; others for medical conditions like seizure disorders or diabetes, and for autistic, deaf, and blind populations.
The ADA Says…
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides rules on service dogs as an accessibility avenue for folks with disabilities. There is a legal obligation to allow service dogs for folks who need them at public events like the conventions we serve. These rules outline a specific definition of service dog. To be classified as a service dog, the following criteria need to be met:
- The dog has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability
- The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability
Asking About The Dog
The ADA puts some restrictions on the kinds of questions you can legally ask about the dog in order to protect the human from privacy violations and harassment. Luckily, the two rules about this make sense and are easy to remember:
- Is this a service dog required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
You may not ask what the disability is or for medical documentation, nor ask that the dog demonstrate the task. Service dogs are not required to be registered or wear a particular tag or harness, and you may not require such things of a service dog team. There are also limitations on the dog and its human. The service dog can be removed if it displays aggressive behavior towards others, is out of control, or isn’t housebroken. In general, the dog shouldn’t be separated from their human, but that option should be presented to the human to allow them to make the choice that’s right for them when possible.
Dos and Don’ts
Beyond any legalities, there are some basic dos and don’t for interacting with a service dog and their human:
- Don’t speak to or touch a service dog while it’s working
- Don’t ask what the human’s disability is, or for medical documentation.
- Don’t ask that the dog demonstrate any task.
- Don’t offer food or water to the dog without the human’s approval
- Don’t assume that a service dog taking a nap is off duty
- Don’t give commands to the dog, as that’s their human’s responsibility
- Do speak to the human
- Do keep other animals away from the dog
- Do ask the human how you can assist, rather than assuming
- Do treat both human and dog with same respect and consideration as any other convention attendee
Service Dogs Are Cute, But…
Being supportive to service dogs is part of our role in providing first aid. Service dogs should never be separated from their human during provision of care. In the unlikely event that the human needs to be transported to the hospital by ambulance, ensure that the dog stays with them, or arrange for separate transport of the dog to the hospital.
Every congoer should be aware of service dogs and how to conduct themselves in situations where such dogs are present. Service dog teams are there to have fun, just like us!
You can find more information about the ADA’s provisions for service animals at their website. If UsagiMed is present at your convention, we encourage you to check in with your service dog. Usagi Medical Group volunteers are familiar with providing care to service dogs as well as their humans. Let us be involved in training your crew to handle these quadruped attendees!
UsagiMed is all about health and safety. Call on us so we can be your event partners. As you plan and prepare, we will answer any questions you may have about stress, anxiety, mental health, and creating a safe space for all your attendees, guests, and staff. Feel free to drop us a question and we will answer you.