Blind World Magazine

Legal status of guide dogs in training.

Liam Keane (Blog).
Thursday, April 13, 2006.

Liam Keane - A name like Maine Lake.

My family raised three puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind: Honeybear, Olga, and Glorianne. (Honeybear passed class, was not paired, and became a hearing dog; Olga made it to class but stopped cooperating; Glorianne was career changed in an early phase.) Puppy raisers take their dogs almost everywhere they go in order to provide exercise and socialization. The dogs wear coats that read "Guide Dog Puppy in Training" and users are issued identification cards to certify they are authorized to train the dog.

Even with these credentials, occasionally teams are refused access to an area or mode of transportation. Guide Dog staff suggest that raisers try and explain the importance of socialization to uncooperative persons but they advise that raisers should not push the issue. I have heard of some raisers warning businesses they are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, the ADA only protects handlers with disabilities using service animals; the rights of dogs in training are left up to the states. And in California, service dogs in training are also protected.

California Civil Code Section 54.1.c Visually impaired or blind persons. and persons who are deaf or hearing impaired. and other individuals with a disability and persons authorized to train service dogs for individuals with a disability, may take dogs, for the purpose of training them as guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dogs in any of the places specified in subdivisions (a) and (b).

Section (a) begins with "Individuals with disabilities shall be entitled to full and equal access. [to] places to which the general public is invited." and continues with a detailed list of pretty much anywhere. Section (b) prohibits housing discrimination. Section 54.7.a makes what seems to be the only exception: "the provisions of this part shall not be construed to require zoos or wild animal parks to allow. [service dogs] in areas of the zoo or park where zoo or park animals are not separated from members of the public by a physical barrier". If the zoo does not allow a service dog they must provide free kenneling for the dog and an attendent for the handler. Other than that, service dogs and service dogs in training can go anywhere in California provided the dog is on a leash and is issued a dog tag by the county. Handlers are responsible for any damage done by their dog.

End of article.

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