Study: Service Dog Credibility Questioned By Retail Workers

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
A recent study conducted by American Humane showed that many U.S. Retail Employees don’t have a clear understanding of the importance of service dogs for those with Post Traumatic Stress, and may even be discriminatory.

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization and conducted a survey of U.S. retail employees to measure their interactions, perceptions of and experiences with customers who had service dogs for Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).

Recognizing there are no national standards or consistent best practices when it comes to the definition of and/or the training and credentialing of service dogs for PTS, the organization was concerned that obstacles would be even more prevalent than ones already suffered for those PTS Veterans with service dogs. These obstacles would include access to and the existence of reasonable accommodations for service dogs in public places, and more specifically, retail businesses.

Related: How To Find a Reputable Service Dog Training Program

American Humane was also concerned about possible discrimination of our Veterans suffering from PTS and having service dogs, and found that group of retail employees surveyed had an alarming lack of information about service dogs and the special needs that accompany many of them. The study found that seven of ten employees felt, at best, ‘moderately informed,’ when it came to knowing the difference between service, therapy and emotional support animals (yes, there is a difference), and one-fifth of the surve respondents claimed they were not informed at all.

More, over half of those surveyed said that how visible or obvious a person’s disability seemed was a major factor in the respondent’s opinion of the legitimacy of the service dog. As PTS is often ‘invisible,’ this could mean that those suffering with PTS may be seen as ‘faking’ a condition and/or their service dog and its needs may not be taken seriously. This thought was backed up by the fact that 35% of the survey participants suspected at least one customer in the last year misrepresented their pet as a service dog.

American Humane believes that the survey results support their claim that employees may be poorly, if at all, informed about service dog needs, and unprepared to meet the needs of customers with PTS service dogs. And, if the employee believes that the service dog is not even legitimately needed, as the study suggests of those with invisible disabilities, this could lead to significant discrimination against those with service dogs.

Related: Lowes Hires Man and His Service Dog

The survey was published in time to be discussed at a gathering in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by The Schultz Family Foundation and Mars Petcare to discuss the lack of national standards for training and use of PTS service dogs, a chief medical consultant for the Veterans Health Administration spoke about the need to help our veterans have better understanding, specifically in businesses they frequent often.

American Humane, whose motto is First To Serve, is dedicated to the safety and welfare of animals, and to nurturing the human/pet bond and relationship. One employee, retired USMC Captain Jason Hagg has a service dog for his PTS, and he credits him for saving his life. Knowing that the support Axl, his service dog, in every day situations, and especially in high-stress environments is so important, he also knows that the lack of access Axl has to the services that he needs because someone doesn’t believe Axl is really a service dog is discrimination, and a disservice to all with service dogs. As such, he is proud that American Humane is working to address this important issue and help improve the services for PTS Veterans while informing and bringing more general awareness to the public at large.

Of course…we agree. The more you know, the better you do.

And our veterans and their service pets deserve that.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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