What's up with so-called "service animals"? Lately, people seem to bring their dogs inside with them everywhere—grocery stores, restaurants, operating rooms—and everyone just kind of lets it slide. Do we really have to put up with these furry incursions? —Four Legs Bad
When I was a kid, there was one kind of service animal: visual assistance dogs. If you were a dog, and you wanted to go to the movies, you better have a blind guy right behind you or you were out of luck.
These days, there are hearing assistance dogs, seizure response dogs, blood sugar-sensing dogs and, of course, service dogs for those with psychiatric disabilities.
Psychiatric service dogs are a real thing—they can remind you to take meds, or interrupt self-harm. Still, it doesn't take a criminal mastermind to see that they also represent a loophole you could drive a mastodon through: You can tell I'm not blind, or deaf, but who's to say I don't have PTSD?
This loophole becomes even more inviting when you learn that, under federal law, no one can demand documentation to prove that your dog is indeed a trained service animal. They're only allowed to ask (1) is the animal required because of a disability and (2) what task has it been trained to perform?
Plenty of ticket takers, restaurant hosts and retail cashiers chicken out without even asking these simple questions—especially if the dog is wearing one of those official-looking DayGlo service animal vests, which are the dog equivalent of carrying a clipboard and looking like you know what you're doing.
To be clear: Trained service dogs can go where they like, but neither federal nor Oregon law requires any accommodation for "emotional support animals" (formerly known as "pets").
There has been some confusion about this recently, because under the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, airlines (unlike ground-based accommodations) do have to make an effort to accommodate your emotional support rabbit, or peacock.
The rest of us, however, are free to refuse entry to all but specifically trained assistance animals. "Emotional support," "companionship" and "doing that thing with the peanut butter" don't count.