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"Ma'am, ma'am, you can't have that dog in here. You have to take it out. We don't allow pets in here."
"No, this is a service dog and he is allowed in here."
This typical conversation occurs often when people with disabilities attempt to bring their service dogs into businesses, restaurants, transportation services and other public places. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, most members of the general public still do not understand the full extent of that law.
A new training video from the UA College of Agriculture addresses this issue. The video features residents of Tucson with their service dogs, outlines the diversity of health conditions service dogs can assist with and points out the ways people with service dogs may be misunderstood.
The law says that service dogs can go into areas where other customers are generally allowed. Those of us with disabilities have full access to the same goods, services, facilities and privileges as others.
One complication is that many times neither the human nor the canine partners fit the typical appearance most people picture for a disabled person with a service animal. A blind person walking with a German shepherd in a harness comes to mind.
That's not the case with Debbie, who uses a wheelchair to get around, assisted by "Peek," a 10-pound Papillon, or Susan Cordell, who is deaf, with "Molly," a multi-breed rescue dog.
Cordell and Molly were the impetus for a video training package project developed by the UA College of Agriculture Diversity Committee. It will provide business owners and members of the general public with more information about service dog access.
The video package can be ordered through the College of Agriculture Diversity Committee website at ag.arizona.edu/agdiv/servicedog for $9.95.