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Monday, October 27, 2014

TDI Discrimination? Really?

Service dogs in training

This picture was taken back in 2005 before the organization
handed out their own logo therapy bandannas.

I recently read an article on a site regarding people buying fake service dog tags over the internet to be able to get their dogs into businesses where they do not belong and into rental homes that do not allow pets. The article was well written and gave advice for businesses on spotting fake tags.  Prior to reading this article I did notice a big headline at the top of the page which read:  Breaking News:  “Therapy Dogs International Discriminates Against Disabled” 

At first I thought the Therapy Dogs International headline and the article about tags were connected somehow so I continued to read the article regarding the fake tags and nowhere in there  did I see Therapy Dogs International (TDI) mentioned as it pertained to this fake tags article.

This prompted me to then click on the headline at the top of the page and lo and behold it was a totally new article and to one which I would ask, what the hell?

I fail to see how the TDI organization which makes its own rules, as most organizations do, discriminated against this person just because it is TDI’s policy that they do not allow service dogs to go on therapy visits or to become therapy dogs.  The writer of the fake tag article did such a brilliant job on the one hand warning the public of fake tags and a crappy job on the other hand in wanting to take their service dog on a therapy visit with another family dog or in wanting their service dog to take the therapy dog test. 

Although other organizations do allow this I feel this is be a big step down into distinguishing the two categories as separate. I see many fall outs for the people who need to have a service/guide dog by their side and not being allowed into businesses, restaurants, or mass transit because of the misunderstanding by the two job titles.  I especially see a fall out with children who need the help of a dog in the school system. 

Lately as more and more therapy organizations are creeping into the mainstream, this opens the door for more unscrupulous people with therapy dogs to try to pass them off as anything other than what they are actually intended for, thereby confusing the general public and businesses alike.  If I had a service/guide dog I would be very pissed off at people who are actually contributing to the mix up of the public’s perception between a much needed service dog and a therapy dog.

I cannot tell you how many times while walking my therapy dog down the street I had heard these words from the public, “He’s a beautiful dog and I would love to pet him, but I know I am not allowed too.”  This makes me believe that the person thinks my dog is a service/guide dog and I think that is great for this reason, it prompts the person to not touch a dog they believe to be working unless told to do so. I would rather they make that first assumption and allow me to then describe the difference between a therapy dog and a service/guide dog, then to make the assumption one can just go up and talk to, pet, or try to play with a service/guide dog.  It has been drummed into our heads for generations that you don’t pet a working service/guide dog. When you start mixing the two types of jobs together you are also going to open a whole new can of worms.  

I have no doubt in my mind that the dog itself is smart enough with a change of equipment to know what job it is to do , however, I also have no doubt  in my mind that the general public will not understand this difference. Sorry folks, I have seen too many people with therapy dogs bringing them into places they were not invited under the guise that they have a right to be there.  

Though TDI is not stating this and I cannot speak for them,  it is strictly my sole perception that TDI’s  rules are, and rightfully so, there to protect themselves as an organization given the insurance they carry on members.

There are other gripes in  the article as well regarding the TDI testing rules such as which dogs can be tested and how they are tested.  The testing of two dogs together which applies to everyone not just disabled people and guide/service dogs,  if a member wishes  to bring two dogs on one visit they must be tested with both dogs to show they can handle both dogs in public. 
I have been with TDI for a while though at present I no longer have active therapy dogs. I have seen rule changes that I agree with and rule changes that I don’t agree with and there are changes I would like to see made. I do at times voice my opinion or make suggestions because as a member that is all I can do.  The point is this, I did not start this organization, I did not put my heart and soul into the running of this organization, nor did I work on the rule changes with the influx of serious situations that made rule changes necessary.

The beauty of  an organization is that you  DON'T HAVE TO BELONG to one if you don’t want to! You can create your own!  

BREAKING NEWS:  A person is free to leave any organization if they do not like the rules!   

 I would also strongly suggest that the writer of this article not make a generalized statement that TDI discriminates against disabilities. I have a disability and I belong to TDI and I do not feel discriminated against.  

  As I said, I don’t agree with every rule of every organization that I belong to but I abide by those rules.  If you want something that fits your style and your needs you can find other organizations that do what you are seeking, or you can start one yourself.  But, if you do that, I suggest you not then bellyache about the public’s misconception   of what each dog’s purpose is. It took years for the public to learn that a ‘working’ service/guide dog should not be distracted while working, thus the ‘don’t pet a service/guide dog’ phrase came into play. 

Yes, we all know that a service dog has down time and can be pet and played with but that is not the point. You are asking to take your service  dog out in public to work for you, and at the same time you want to use it (or another family dog) as a therapy dog and expect that the general public is going to understand this reasoning and carry it over to every working dog they come across which is just not going to happen.   In the  article about fake tags it is made clear the general public does not know the difference between a legit service/guide dog and a fake one.   

I have to wonder if it is worth such public misconception of the differences between a therapy dog which is there for their welfare and a service dog or guide dog  that is trained to do a job for its owner.  I think by not keeping the two separate you are starting a ripple effect of human misconception that will be regretted down the road and I have to ask, is it really worth it especially when there is already so much misuse of a therapy dog tag ruining it for people who need to have their dog by their side?

TDI  is an organization, it is not a law, and I am neither pro or against one particular organization but I am pro people and the assistance they need they get without having others ruin it for them by falsifying the dog's intended job.   

As for being able to tell if a dog is a legitimate service/guide dog, it would make it so much easier for businesses and the like, if this were put right on a person’s drivers (or non driver's) license  just as they put on a driver's license that a person requires glasses and just as a doctor’s note is required by the DMV to get a handicapped sticker. One doctor's note to the DMV that a person needed their assistance/guide dog by their side and it would appear on the license. It is an easy problem to solve and I am surprised that no one has thought of this before.  It would put a stop to all those fraudulent people who buy tags on the internet and businesses would only have to look at one's license to know that a service dog is required and that would make it more of a legitimate law.


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