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Service dogs – Why You Should Never Pet Them

Service Dogs help people like Hailey Ashmore survive Life Threatening Seizures

I saw this shocking photo on Instagram and was compelled to find out more. Turns out I had a lot to learn about service dogs and the dangers of petting an animal with potentially lifesaving duties.

Hailey Ashmore of Dallas, Texas is just 16 years old. And in her short lifetime, her health issues have been debilitating.

“I have epilepsy, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, reactive hypoglycemia, severe allergies, gastroparesis, asthma, and more,” Hailey told me.

Hailey Ashmore with her Seizure Alert Service DogHailey Ashmore

Hailey was once a dancer on the varsity drill team, on student council, at the top of her class and a violinist in the orchestra, but her conditions have progressed to the point where she can only take classes online. She is completely dependent on a parent or nurse for care and she has a tedious medication regimen.

When Service Dogs are distracted, a life could be in danger

Hailey was hurt recently when her service dog, Flynn the Aussie, got distracted. Actually, someone distracted him.

Flynn missed a critical window.

“Seizure alert service dogs generally have a timeframe between when they alert to when the seizure actually happens,” said Hailey.

Seizure Alert Service Dogs like Flynn Save LivesHailey Ashmore

But on this particular day at her father’s workplace, Hailey was busy and didn’t immediately ask a well-meaning person who stopped to pet Flynn not to do so. Precious minutes went by.

“I am used to him giving me 10 minute warnings, so when he alerted that’s what I thought I had,” explained Hailey. “Out of nowhere I remember the world going black. I woke up with Flynn on top of my legs and my father cradling my head. On the whole left side of my face there was a terrible sting that made me tear up.”

Hailey took out her phone to check out how bad it was and saw the rug burns on her cheek and forehead. She looked down and saw the blood where her face skidded along the carpet.

“It hurt for air to even touch it,” said Hailey, who is not one to complain. “I live with chronic pain and I have a very high pain tolerance.”

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome AwarenessHailey Ashmore

Thankfully Hailey’s injuries have healed nicely, but this incident is a good reminder.

Please let Service Dogs do their job

“Please do not pet, call, or do anything to distract service dogs without explicit permission from the handler,” said Hailey. “Next time, instead of a rug burn somebody could get seriously hurt or die.”

Service Dogs and Service VestsHailey Ashmore

Flynn wears a service vest to let people know that he’s working. And this is not just any job, Flynn is Hailey’s lifeline.

“To get a service dog you must be disabled to the point where you can no longer function at a normal quality of life without the assistance of service dogs,” said Hailey. “It takes around two years of intense training and thousands of dollars (if you owner train) to actually be able to call your dog a service dog. A service dog can go anywhere its handler goes, with the exception of a sterile environment such as an operating room or burn unit, a religious building — such as a church, or some federal buildings.”

Hailey and Flynn did their training through Stimming Paws Assistance Dogs.

She got this darling little puff ball in 2014 when Flynn was just 11 weeks old.

Flynn the Service Dog as a puppyHailey Ashmore

Flynn the Australian Shepherd

Now he’s by her side at all times.

“To call him a “velcro dog” is an understatement,” said Hailey. “If he senses a seizure he will usually jump up or paw at me about ten minutes before one happens. This allows me to get somewhere safe, call for help, and take medication. If I fall he can retrieve my medication or phone. He can even bark if I am unconscious to alert somebody.”

Talk about discipline!

Then there’s this side of Flynn.

Flynn PlayingHailey Ashmore

“When he isn’t wearing a vest, he’s an insane puppy,” said Hailey. “He chews on shoes, gets into stuff, and barks at the mailman. I know every owner says this, but he is probably the most lovable dog you will ever meet. His favorite toy in the world is his tennis ball. He even sleeps with it.”

The only time Flynn and Hailey aren’t together is when she’s in the hospital. And when they’re out and about, they get a lot of attention – which is not really a good thing for someone who relies on her dog’s focus for survival.

“Having a service dog is basically like being around a celebrity baby,” Hailey told me. “Everybody stares and everything takes ten times longer, people give me nasty glares.”

Heartbreaking to hear from a teen who already deals with so much on a daily basis.

Her relationship with Flynn, however, is heartwarming.

Hailey and her Service Dog, FlynnHailey Ashmore

“The moment I knew we officially bonded was when we were playing fetch and I had an asthma attack,” said Hailey. “He dropped the tennis ball and ran as fast I have ever seen him run. Next thing I knew he was sitting on my lap and barking with these eyes that said, ‘I’m here.’ Before that moment I wasn’t sure if dogs had souls, but now I can say with 100% certainty they do.”

This reminds me of a touching quote:

When I look into the eyes of an animal, I do not see an animal, I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.
~ A.D. Williams

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101 thoughts on “Service dogs – Why You Should Never Pet Them

  1. Good article. I didn’t know how fast a problem can happen when they are distracted, but my husband and I were raised to ALWAYS ask first before petting the dog. I am going to share this on Facebook because I’m sure there are lots of people who just don’t know any better.

    Thanks for writing this.

    • Thank you for sharing this with others, Paula. It’s pretty scary to think that things could have turned out much worse for Hailey. Grateful to have your help in getting the word out.

    • Thank you for sharing and yes, there are MANY people out there who do not know AND some who do not care to listen. My service dog, Cody, and I have been a team for 8 years. I cannot tell you how many times ADULTS will start petting, talking to my dog without asking. What is really frustrating is when I ask someone to please not talk/touch my dog and they will say OK or I know I am not supposed to and continue anyway!! I always educate that the dog needs his full attention on me to do his job but they continue and I have had to get rude or course with people to quit talking to/ touching Cody. I even had a man secertly follow me around in the store and pet him from behind when I couldn’t see him! I have a health aid with me and she threatened to call the police if he came near us again!

      • I’m Sorry to hear that. What a lack of respect from others. I am always the first to want to stop and visit with animals after I have asked permission to do so when I see them out, UNLESS they are wearing a vest. Then I never even ask they are working, however I will acknowledge and say what my thoughts are on how I see the sidekick. Such as precious, beautiful, ect, I have always thought that to be common knowledge, much less it’s usually written on the vest also. But even besides that it is respect in asking permission for what is not yours to touch. I just don’t understand the thought of why others think they can just what they want. Very frustrating.

        • I have a greyhound service for balance I have had her for 6 yrs I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me I have fallen several times and each time some was trying to pet her. Then they blame her and report me for having a fake service dog I wish it was against the law to disturb ginger in any way

          • Sorry you have to experience that, Lou! We hope our blog helps to educate people more about this problem and eventually change the way some people think about it! Thanks so much for your input here.

      • Technically, a church is a place that the public is allowed. Therefore, denying a service animal to enter would probably be illegal.

        • No, they are not public places. They are religious institutions that can deny membership. Thus, they do not have to comply with allowing a sd entry. That being said, I’ve never had a problem bringing my partner with me to church. I call ahead to ensure there will be no issue. But others have had issue. It depends on the church, but it’s rare.

          • Any church that would not accommodate a service animal, has a serious lack of compassion, which is a central part of nearly all religions.

      • it is ILLEGAL NOT TO ALLOW A SERVICE DOG . ,,, ADA WOULD HAVE A FEILD DAY WITH THEM … I HAVE A service dog .. she goes everywhere i go … IF THE DOG becomes unruly <in a place to eat they can ask you to leave … but that dog realllly better be reallly unruly… they often post a service dog inside hanger like new baby on the door of the place they are eating but dont have to… DO NOT TOUCH A SERVICE DOG … !!! MY DOG HAS A IM A SERVICE DOG IM WORKING PLEASE DONT BOTHER ME … SHE ALSO HAS A VEST THAT SAYS IM A SERVICE DOG PLEASE ASK BEFORE TOUCHING ME … ..I ASSURE YOU MY DOG KNOWS THE DIFFERENCE THE YOU CANT TOUCH ME JACKET IS A LITTLE HEAVIER … THE YOU MUST ASK IS A LIGHTER JACKET ..Her down time no jacket ,, usually on a long lead to run a bit n play …… but once jacket goes on.. she knows ,,, its business

      • My church actually planned a retirement party for my previous service dog as a fundraiser for my new dog! We are an integral part of the church community.

    • Nice article. However you do not have to be so disabled to not function to have a service dog. I myself have a service dog and I bring her to work with me everyday. Touch is part of my dogs training since I work with small children.

  2. Having been a dog lover i tried to pet a dog with a service vest. Owner kindly let me know why i should not. I was very sorry.

    • I know it’s hard to resist, Mary. Hailey really opened our eyes about the importance of educating people about this issue. I learned a lot through interviewing her.

  3. I don’t understand why he can’t go to church. My Belgian Sheepdog went to church with us. Everyone loved having him there.

    • This is from http://www.ServiceDogCentral.org, Carla. I’m still looking into the ‘why’ part. I can imagine why your Belgian Sheepdog was such a big hit – beautiful!

      Do churches have to permit service animals?
      No. Churches are exempt from the ADA. The only exception would be if the church opened their facilities for a public event, such as a bazaar or pancake supper where items are sold and the general public are permitted to enter.

        • I believe that must be the case. I have never been told/asked to leave from a church or place of worship with my Service dog. It might have to do with some religious beliefs.

          • Susan, I suspect you are right on this count. It is probably rather uncommon for most Christian churches to have issues with service dogs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if certain small denominations had a rule about animals in churches, or at least certain areas. Also, since this country allows freedom of any kind of religion, certain other religions that do not allow dogs into worship areas by tradition are allowed to have such a rule, and to allow those religions to make an exception without allowing a Christian church to is probably unconstitutional. IIRC, for example, many sects of Islam consider dogs to be ritually unclean, and as such, they are probably not allowed, at least in many mosques. I’m not 100% on this, but it is possible that in certain eastern religions where shoes are to be removed while in the primary area of worship (hinduism comes to mind), there may be a traditional issue there. That is speculative, however, and Hindu has various traditions that praise dogs so I don’t honestly know how that works. There’s a little info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogs_in_religion

      • Churches are exempt from the ADA laws because the ADA laws cover only public locations, not private establishments such as churches, certain private country clubs, and private schools that receive absolutely no government funding.

      • ADA simply does not REQUIRE that churches allow service dogs. Each individual church makes that determination on its own. Our church has always allowed service animals.

        • In Australia service dogs can go anywhere their owners go. It’s against the law to refuse them entry. I work in a supermarket and they are even allowed in there.

      • Hi Rebecca – It’s not that they won’t allow service dogs, it’s that they don’t have to allow them. It is a rare church or religious establishment that will deny access but they do have the right to do so if they choose. The same is true for places like private country clubs and gold courses. I work for a service dog agency so I deal with ADA quite a bit 🙂

        • Thank you, Jane!! I did end up learning that since writing this article, along with many other interesting things about service dogs, but I really appreciate you weighing in on the discussion.
          I have such admiration for the service dog community.

          • I am in awe of the service dog, aside from just generally loving dogs and the unconditional love they give us, And I am amazed that the average person doent know to NOT pet a service dog, much less any ones dog without express permission. I deal with that all the time with my household pets , not to mention roommates giving undesirable TREATS behind my back. I am planning on having my one year old pup trained to be my assistant / service dog, and wonder if the service vests could have a type of friendly warning printed on them, ” Please do not touch or distract this animal ” ? just a thought. Thank you for sharing the article.

    • There are some religions that believe dogs or other animals are “unclean” and therefore would not be welcome in a place of worship.

    • The point isn’t that they CAN’T go to church. The point is that the church isn’t required by law to let the dog in their building. I hope most churches are compassionate enough to allow service dogs (and thus their owners) in. But federal allow doesn’t require the churches to allow it.

      • I attend St Michael’s Church in Hudson, Fl every week and have had NO problem with taking my American Hairless Terrier, who is a Medical Alert Service Dog, to Mass with me…Infact she is welcomed by all the priests, ushers and people who have gotten to know her, even saying “Welcome Sunny” when we arrive..She is well trained by me and most people never know she is with me…I have asked people not to touch her and explained to them that she is working for me and must be alert to me and should not be distracted by them…I will release her from her duties of work, then she can be petted, then return her to work..

        • Hey June! I also have an AHT service dog and I would love to connect with you! YOu can find me under this name on facebook!

    • Hi! Flynn is more than welcome at my church and attends whenever I am able to go. BUT churches are allowed to deny access to a service dog team under the ADA law, mostly due to “separation of church and state”.

      • Hi Hailey – I hope you are feeling better! Thanks for sharing pics of you and your Mighty Flynn. You’re both beyond beautiful.

      • Thank you Hailey for sharing your story and pics! I have a Service dog and have a problem with this issue as well. I appreciate you sharing an example of what DOES happen when our lifelines are distracted <3

      • Church and state aren’t really separate. School buses from the Parish are used at at least one of the private schools here.

        • That doesn’t mean there is no separation of church and state. It just means either the school or the church is hiring the buses. It’s a business contract.

    • I think some people might be allergic..or some children have a fear of dogs and it being a smaller enclosed space, not like being open in public.

      • It doesn’t matter if you have an allergy or a fear of dogs. The disabled person’s right to have the dog trumps your right to be near it. The disabled person needs the dog to do daily tasks. Shouldn’t we be grateful these people can have a life like anyone else? Its not like we live in the pre-19th century where these people would be locked up in an institution or something with only basic needs being cared for.

          • If a person has allergies to dog dander, then every effort must be made to keep a safe distance between the disabled person handling the service dog and the severely allergic person. Reasonable accommodations can and should be made for both parties. It is not lawful to deny access to public places to a service dog team, because the dog is medical equipment in the eyes of the ADA law. I teach high school, and I require a medical alert service dog to assist me with my disability. Having a dog in the classroom while I teach public high school has never, not one time, been an issue.

    • Churches are exempt because of Separation of Church and State rules. The church has the choice of allowing or refusing service dogs. Those of us who utilize a service dog have no legal recourse when there is a denial of access.

    • The only place I’ve been told that a Service Dog can’t go is an operating room (sterile environment).

      Churches and Federal buildings can’t deny you.
      Anywhere the Handler can go, so can the Service Dog.

      • Julie, you’re incorrect. Churches CAN deny you. As for federal buildings, the ADA doesn’t apply; its Section 504 of the Rehab Act. The access rights are almost identical, but the laws which govern federal vs state buildings are completely different.

    • It’s not that they can’t go in a house of worship, it’s that that ADA doesn’t cover service dogs in houses of worship because of potential religious objections — a dog is never going to be allowed in a mosque, for example. However, some religions have issued statements regarding service dogs in their own houses of worship. It is the policy of the Catholic church in the US to allow SDs. It’s just not a right; you would have to approach the pastor or rabbi etc and ask.

    • There is a woman with a service dog at my church. He always came inside with her and sat quietly during the service. I don’t understand why it said they can’t be there either

  4. I have a guide dog. It is so much like taking a celebrity with you places. Everybody stops, everybody talks and most of all everybody wants to touch. I get people who will come up and just start petting her without asking me and it is so frustrating because they don’t see the effect it has on her after we walk away. churches typically would not deny you bringing your dog in. I have not had any churches tell me no. I think the worst is how everyone wants to tell you a bout how their dog died once. I really don’t want to hear those stories. And no, my dog is not my best friend. I have people to be my best friend. My dog is very much like having a child. I have to get up early and feed her, I have to clean up after her, I have to take care of her. I don’t have to feed my best friend. When people ask me if my dog is my best friend, that makes me feel as if they think I am incapable of making friends that are people. I am blind, I do not have a mental disability. I am blind, I am not deaf so please do not speak to me in a condescending or childish tone, and please remember that I am just as much as a person as you are. People sees our disabilities and forget that there’s more to us than just that.
    But do remember not to be afraid to ask questions. If you really want to come up and know something about my dog or pet her, ask and I most likely will say yes. My dog is a very social dog and loves to visit so I typically will let people pet her but only if they ask. We do volunteer work and go to nursing homes and let the elderly love on her for therapy. I also let the children at church pet her and play with her. I let the neighborhood kids take her outside and play with her after school. She is more than just a service animal to me, I am with her 24 seven and I rely on her so much.
    Also remember that if I do say no and will not let you pet her, I have a very good reason why. It might not have anything to do with you. 🙂

    • No one thinks you can’t make people friends because you’re blind. They assume having an animal that close to you so often would make your bond that strong. Your veiled indication that it would take someone who had a mental illness to make best friends with a dog is gross, and you sound like a really gross, angry, judgemental person.

      • Actually yes, speaking as a guide dog user myself, it’s often said in a tone of voice that makes it clear they’re glad that we can at least have a dog for a friend, because people would be a stretch. I do agree though that no one should talk like that to anyone, whether or not they have an intellectual disability. It’s just not a respectful way to talk to people; no need to throw people with other disabilities under the bus. That having been said, calling someone “a gross angry judgmental person” isn’t exactly channeling Emily Post either.

      • No, she did not sound like a gross, angry, judgmental person. You sound like an overly sensitive person, with a dog for a best friend (that part is ok), who leapt into attack mode because you became defensive over a simple comment that was not specifically directed toward you. She was simply describing how it made her feel, hearing that from people constantly. I do think the people asking are more likely asking because of what you said – assuming there would be a strong bond and not that they think she’s incapable of having other friends. So I think she’s probably being a little over sensitive, too. Outside of that common thread, the difference between your reactions is that she sounded as though she was expressing a frustration and probably didn’t think through how that might sound to someone who does have a dog for a bestie, while you sound like someone who will personally attack another at the slightest offense rather than making any attempt at empathy.

    • I have a SD and have mental illness. Just because I have it doesn’t mean I am incapable of making friends with humans. I would think that since you have a disability that you would not judge against those who have them as well.

  5. It does not require thousands of dollars and 2 years to become a service dog. There is actually no certification or standard to meet to be considered a service dog per the ADA. Same as asking for a service dog’s “papers”.
    Yes you should always ask permission, but please don’t make it seem like everyone with a service dog is a complete cripple. Most of us hate to be seen as broken.

    • Wowza, Blake! Did you intend to sound as cruel and dismissive as you do? It’s shocking to me to hear your remarks from a fellow SD handler in response to a story about a hard working teenager.

      True, there is no requirement of two years of formal training, but there is an expectation your dog be able to perform the needed tasks to be a true service dog. Training of that complexity, requiring correct execution, takes a fair bit of time and any needed professional support will cost a fair bit of money.

      And, no, not everyone with a service dog is a “complete cripple” (you really said that?!) but anyone making legitimate use of an SD should have some condition disabling enough to require the animal’s attention while working. Why any part of this story makes Hailey seem to be a “cripple” in your eyes is truly incomprehensible to me.

      EDS and POTS are notoriously thought of as “invisible illnesses” because of the lack of outward indications of pain or physical compromise, like a missing limb, etc. Ironically, we spend much of our time trying to convince people–doctors, teachers, employers, family, friends–that we are “broken” so they can begin to understand our pain.

      Back to basics, I get your point about not coddling the disabled or seeing someone who can’t walk, talk, etc. without assistance as somehow lesser a person. But let’s be fair here: this is one teenage girl who had a seizure because someone distracted her SD. It’s not some manifesto about ableism.

      Gentle (((hugs))), Hailey.

    • In BC we have papers for certification. I have had to call people on them, when they attempt to bring non-service dogs into a foodsafe area. Here, if you cannot produce your animals papers, you do not have a certified guidance animal. (the papers must be kept IN the harness at all times for emergency response purposes) I’m curious as to how they manage ADA regulations in your area, if they don’t have an actual certification process- could you let me know how those things are handled in your neck of the woods? Just wondering!

  6. This is a great article but the title with the picture it is a bit misleading to some people. I had someone tagged me on Facebook saying see I told you service dogs are dangerous. It said why you should never pet a service animal and it had a picture of your face Hailey with the rugburns and the person thought you had been bit. She never bothered to open it up and read your story. The person who tagged me knows that I have a seizure response dog and they never took the time to read the actual article. My service dog Roxy is a doll and I don’t know what I would do without her. I have 3 different kinds of seizures 2 of them cause me a lot of physical damage even when I get to a safe place but if I don’t it could really be bad. Roxy can tell what kind I am going to have before I have one.

  7. Thank you for this article. I went to middle/high school with a kid who had a service dog and I learned early on to not distract them while they’re working, but not everybody knows this and it could be so dangerous! I’m also so sorry for the glares Hailey gets! People have this notion that they can “spot” a disability, and can be so judgmental of those whose disability is more insidious. I will share this on my facebook to help get the reminder out there!

  8. I live in the UK and have a Medical assistance dog (Service dog). She go with to Church, The pub, Resturant, all publick buildings and even to the hospital as long as her cover/coat is on and I carry my disabled ID

    • I also live in the UK and never had a problem in church or any other establiushment mine sits by the lifeguards seat at the public baths to alert the guard and myself when swimming (She never tries to enterthe water) for about six years now

  9. This is a very good article and I am one of the well-meaning people who so want to pet these wonderful dogs. I normally ask but I’m sure I’ve been guilty of putting an owner at risk simply because they are too nice to say no. I won’t do it again.

    Also we had someone visit Adventure Mendota on their anniversary this weekend and somehow she told me about her son who has epilepsy and has a dog (or dogs) that have greatly improved the child’s life. She wants to raise awareness.

  10. I was raised to ask permission to pet any animal, and doubly so if the animal was wearing a work vest. No one would consider interrupting a doctor or nurse monitoring a patient, so why is this any different?

  11. Never ever pet or call to a service dog they are working their job…might be the differance between life and death
    Leave them alone …its like a K-9 cop his job is to apprehend the bad guys …you dont distract them as it might be your life they are saving

  12. I am deaf, and my hearing ear dog is a Pomeranian female named Chloe. She goes everywhere with me, even to church. I have gotten the stares too. Recently, I had my hair cut short so my hearing aids stand out more. Chloe is my best friend. Not only does she hear for me, she alerts me to my panic attacks minutes before they hit. This lets me prepare and even head them off sometimes.

    I always make sure to ask before I pet. Not only do I ask the owner, I ask the dog too. I make sure to read body language, something I’m great at. I admit always feel a bit nervous around big dogs. I am a small person for one thing, and some dogs do tower over me. Plus, I was attacked by my moms springer spainel. He was big for his breed and at the time, I was praying I would reach foot three. His head was level with my neck. Since then, I’ve been a bit nervous around big dogs.

    Chloe and I trained for six months before she was certified. She looks so adorable in her little blue work vest. She is very sweet and loves getting attention. I would be so lost without her. Before I got Chloe, I had Bengi, a 24 pound Yorkie. After losing him, I got Chloe. I had Bengi since middle school, and he faithfully attended all my classes with me. At my high school graduation, Bengi got his own diploma and wore his own graduation cap and gown. He was with me through College too. I lost him in 2010, the same year I lost my grandpa. I got Chloe in June of that year.

  13. Well here in Canada you could not refuse entry to a service dog in a church, at least that I know of. We have actually had a number of them at our church as we had a family who was fostering them in their first year of life before the go to the local training centre and get placed with a blind person. Hopefully a church would not refuse a service dog even if they don’t have to let them in.

  14. Great article…curious though about when you said “people give me nasty glares.” Seriously? Why would anyone glare at either of you? Yes, I know, we live in a cruel world but there’s no point in making it worse, right?
    Kudos to both of you. 🙂

    • In regards to the nasty glares that Hailey experiences and the ‘why’s’ of it… I can’t answer the ‘why’ as I will never understand it. But I do know where she’s coming from with the dirty looks. I once went to the market with my Service Dog. We were standing in an aisle with my wife and looking at something. A cluster of people stopped walking and stared. I’m pretty used to that. But then they started giving dirty looks, whispering and pointing (I am not deaf, nor am I blind) like I couldn’t see or hear them. The comments were too horrible to repeat and needless to say I broke down right in the store. My wife had to escort me to the car and we haven’t been back since.

      I love my service dog, he’s improved my life in so many ways, but some times, when I get the dirty looks and the nasty comments, I wish that I wasn’t broken and I didn’t need him. I wish I could have a normal life so that people would leave me alone. However I can’t have that, and I wouldn’t trade my boy for any thing in the world.

      • I hear you Anja. There are days whereI wish Sam could just he a normal dog and I wasn’t broken either. But… If it were not for her I am not sure where I would be!

    • Probably because her health conditions aren’t visible. There’s a shockingly large number of people who labor under the misconception that service dogs are only for the blind and that everyone else is “faking.”

      • It happens a lot with several disabilities. There’s a lot of people who think that if they can’t see something wrong then there can’t be anything wrong. It’s the whole case of disabled sets on trains and buses too. Really irritates me.

    • Like Hailey, my disability is invisible as well. I understand the dirty looks and glares. Some people are still under the conception that only the blind needs a service dog. Some people are also not dog people and can’t stand the thought of a dog in a restaurant or grocery store so since the disability is not visible, they can think that someone just wants to bring their dog with them. I have heard the comment many times along the lines of “she isn’t blind so she just wants to take her dog with her”.

  15. Hailey, I just wanted to tell you that your story hit home with me. My daughter also has a seizure/syncope alert dog because she has many of the disabling conditions you have. Her dog also alerts to seizures about 10 minutes before, but sometimes it is faster than that. I can totally see how this could happen to her, too. I also understand your comment about the dog being like a “celebrity baby.” It is frustrating to me that we cannot go out in public without people looking her up and down, trying to figure out what is wrong with her to warrant her having a service dog. I am sorry you were injured and I just wanted to thank you for agreeing to this article to help raise awareness for service dog etiquette. God bless! P.S. The picture is of my daughter and her service dog, Jasper James.

  16. I also have a seizure alert dog and because of her size 6lbs, we get alot on attention. Also harassment because people think service dogs are always large. She goes everywhere, but only problem because of size is kids passing and kicking at her or running to her. Please parents teach your children to respect all dogs, but especially service dogs need to work.

    • I have a thought that might help. Would you consider printing some cards similar to sports trading cards? I know it is an added expense, but you might find a printer who would do it for a discount or even free. On the card, you could print the service dog’s name and breed, and a little about him/her. Then you could also put a brief explanation that people should not distract the dog while he is working, and something impersonal and not detailed about your disability. Just something like the fact that your dog must be alert at all times for your illness, for traffic, for curbs and steps, etc., and he can only be played with when he is off duty. What made me think of this is The Doggie Brigade volunteer canine group at our local children’s hospital. The hospital prints trading cards for the owner/trainers to give to patients when they visit. Children love to collect the cards. So I thought it could work the other way for you. Giving the cards could be informational, and also prevent all the nosy questions about you. It would be a sweet souvenir, especially for children who wish they could pet your dog. Giving them a picture of the dog to hold in their hands might be a fun way to distract little children from approaching the dog, and it would help you indicate friendliness to them, and still help you keep your service dog within his limits. To adults, it would be like exchanging business cards, indicating that you are cordial, but need to keep distance.

  17. I have a SD for myself and half the people I meet think that either she is a seeing eye dog because I wear glasses or that I’m a handler training her to help someone else. I sent possibly have anything wrong with me cuz I look normal. My dad even asked me what I planned on doing with her when I could finally work again and he got upset when I told him she would come to work with me. I got her after I had so many anxiety attacks that I became agoraphobic and couldn’t leave my house without someone with me. It is not my kids job to take care of me it’s my job to take care of them. Tiger allows me to do the most important job I have. We are still training she is not certified yet but the only places I hadn’t been allowed to take her is the ER, the hospitals say ER and OR are off limits to service did but they will allow them in the room with us (VA Hosp will even let them in patients beds). My church allows service dogs, some of the members where upset when I first brought her, it permission first before I brought her, they went to the Bishop to ask that I not be allowed to bring her but he stood his ground and said she’s allowed to come and we would all need to work together to make me able to go to church an option.

  18. If we can have “in God we trust” on our money and “under God” in our pledge service dogs must be allowed in church. There is no real reason not to allow them, only excuses.

  19. Thank you for posting this article. I have a guide dog and even though she has a sign on her adults still ask if they can pet her and talk to her

    • You’re welcome, Kevin. This has been a very educational experience for us. We’re grateful we’ve been able to share such important information with so many people.
      Rebecca & the entire wwww.Fetching-Apparel.com team

  20. somehow I feel like service dogs should be trained to ignore distractions, because if a distraction can cause them to completely not do their job it is pretty pointless to have them be service dogs

    • Flynn is in training to ignore distractions, but at the time of this event he was about 6/7 months, but ultimately it is just respect that you leave a working dog alone. In the US it is illegal to interfere with a service dog and can be charged as a felony. Hope this clears up any confusion.

  21. I don’t have a service dog, but I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to keep people away. I have a Lab and I’ve had parents let their small kids literally run across residential streets to try to pet him–after I purposely crossed to the other side to avoid them–all without asking my permission. I go out of my way to avoid overzealous kids and people, and I’m just trying to walk a regular dog. People just have no sense; to most, dog = invitation. I don’t get it. If my safety and health depended on my dog being left alone and able to 100% focus? I don’t know if I could be nearly as patient as the amazing young lady in this article.

  22. I complely understand the frustrations of your dog being distracted by others. My service dog is now 9 yrs old and has been on the job since she was 18 mos. so she ignores most distractions now. I am one of the first to have psychological service dog (I am bipolar and have ptsd). Since my disease is invisible I sometimes hav a difficulty accessing certain areas. But we try to be patient and educate people. It sounds like you are getting it down pat, Trust me there will come a day when distractions become rare.

  23. Thank you for reminding me that it is important not to distract these animals from their duties by trying to be friendly and talking and petting them. I’m an animal lover, and my first instinct is to be friendly to tame animals. I’ll try to do better in the future, and leave the doggies to their jobs.

  24. This was a very good article and I think its something that needs to be addressed more. It’s adults I find I have the toughest time getting this across to. They give me a sly wink and do what they want whether that is howling at your dog or petting them. And you can feel alright and allow someone who asks to pet your dog but you never know what your dog might be missing in that short amount of time. My dog does seizure alert to and I totally understand where the lady is coming from.

    More needs to be done to educate adults. I think the schools are getting better about the kids.

  25. FYI… We went to the movies last night to see “Max”… amazing how my military son’s service dogs’ vest clearly says “Service Dog” “Do Not Pet”, but people are still insistent they have a right to pet, even when you tell them “Please do not touch the dog – she’s working”. The look on THEIR face is downright ridiculous, as if you have offended THEM! People – read and learn! I understand there are a fair number of ‘fake’ dogs out there, but when the service dog is clearly identified by a service jacket, and identification can be provided to you, if needed (within our rights and the laws of ADA & HIPPA), leave the dog alone! Your only right to pet can be provided – if and when you ASK the handler / owner, and if they say “No”, do not get offended or upset. If the dog is clearly identified (as ours was), the dog is working, providing a trained, life-saving service of some type… show some respect – please… the Mom

  26. It amazes me that people don’t read comments and say the same thing over and over. Anyway, my son desperately needs a diabetes dog but as someone posted; they cost upwards of $15,000 and it takes intensive training. A Diabetes Alert Dog could save my son’s life. His Blood Sugar plummets to as low as 40 which is extremely low. He could easily just not wake up. It’s an ugly name but it’s called Dead in the Bed syndrome. I am scared to death of it. Never judge a person because they look like they aren’t sick and have a service dog.

    • Kelly,

      Yes it does take money wether you owner train or get through an organization. I owner trained my first and am currently training my second. I also train SDs for others. I do not train Diabetic dogs, but I have done research as I am looking to start doing so. If you were to owner train your sons dog please understand that the $15,000 estimate is due to several things including but not limited to: food, grooming, vet visits, books and or a professional trainer, treats, vests/harnesses, etc etc. It is not an upfront fee if owner training. I highly suggest training your own with help from a professional as it will create a better bond of boy and dog and allow boy and family to read the dog better in emergency situations.

      Dogs are amazing if they have the right training for manners and tasks if they are SDs. I even had a pet golden who ran and barked (for the first time in his 6yr old life) to my parents when I was paralyzed in my bed. He led them to my room. My mom was an RN and figured out what was wrong. Thanks to Copper, my paralysis was a key point to diagnosing the cyst in my brain. And it explained why he constantly sniffed my head.

      I wish you the best of luck in training your son an SD if you decide to and I hope this helped 🙂

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  28. my vest says “SERVICE DOG: no touch, no talk, no eye contact” but mom gets upset cause hoomans still don’t listen

  29. Pingback: A stranger refused to listen when told to NOT pet her service dog and that's when the most terrifying thing happened...

  30. Not trying to undermined Hailey’s story, but shortly after reading this article I came across another about an amazing 2 year old boy who’s battling life-threatening seizures and is in desperate need of a service dog. His name is Tucker Forster from Raeford, NC. His mother, Jennifer had to quit her job to take care of him. Go on, grab your tissues and watch his story from ABC11, found here (copy link and paste into your browser): http://abc11.com/health/boy-battling-seizures-in-need-of-service-dog/835955/

    To donate to his cause, visit this page: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/super-tucker-s-service-dog-medical-expenses/325130

  31. I was raised that you never even ask to pet a service dog. I’ve raised my own children that they are allowed to look at service dogs, and only look because they are working. I’m actually appalled at some of the stories I’ve heard. Honestly, I’m too busy looking at the dog to wonder why the owner needs one.

  32. My friend’s mom has a SD in training and she’s had problems happen like Hailey’s. People pet, disturb and bother them while on duty. A few days ago some kids came and wanted to hit her dog! The parent’s were just looking from a distance and didn’t say or do anything about their kids. It’s just so sad how some people don’t have respect towards service animals and take in thought how important they are to their handler’s well being. 🙁

    • That’s terrible, Samantha. Fetching Apparel hopes that by publishing stories like Hailey’s we can help change that. Thanks for weighing in!

  33. I’m an SD handler, and here are some things I’d like to note in case anybody wanted to know:

    -You should always ask before approaching a dog. This goes for all dogs, regardless of whether or not they are working dogs. They could be working, or they could be skittish. Their owners could be training them. They could have been abused by someone who looks like them. They could be incredibly hyper around kids. Always ask.
    -Accept no as an answer. You do not own the dog, and even if it’s not an SD, that does not mean the owner has to let their dog be pet. Do not ask why, they will explain it if they want to.
    -Some handler’s SDs help with social anxiety by starting interactions with certain people if they’re particularly anxious about being around them. That doesn’t mean everybody gets to pet the dog.
    -Some SDs have tasks that require them to be off-leash. Their handler uses voice commands, hand signals, or other forms of communication to control their dog.
    -If a dog is in a non-pet friendly environment and you’re not an employee, assume it’s a SD.
    -Don’t start comparing your dog to an SD, or ask how we get our dogs to behave so well. The answer is a crap ton of work, time, and need. If you want a dog to behave like an SD, put in a good 200 or so hours into training on a regular basis.
    -We know they’re cute we don’t need to be told.
    -Don’t. Take. Pictures. Without. Permission. It happens and sometimes they end up on social media without our knowledge. People will argue about whether or not we “deserve” or “need” the dog based upon how we look. So please just don’t.

    • Thank you so much for the detailed and helpful information, Alex! We agree completely with everything you said. One of our goals in telling the story is to get this out there so more people can be informed on safe ways of addressing and approaching service dogs! We value your experience in the area and really appreciate your input.

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