Is that your service dog? We'll need to see some identification | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Is that your service dog? We'll need to see some identification

Nicky Michaud is a manager and dog trainer for Someday Service Dogs in Kamloops. She wants more people to understand that people who pass their animals as service dogs on their own are damaging the reputation of accredited service animals.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Nicky Michaud

KAMLOOPS - Service dogs play an important role, but some people are starting to abuse that title — and it's not legal.

Their job description is in their title. They provide a service to their owners. Whether it's helping the parents of a child with autism, or individuals with mobility impairments, the dogs performing these duties must go through extensive training and receive proper accreditation through the provincial government to gain access into public places.

But service dog trainer and manager, Nicky Michaud, at Someday Service Dogs in Kamloops, says people attempting to pass their animals with fake service dog accreditations is becoming more common. In January 2016, the provincial government made changes to the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act which permitted owners of public places to ask for validation from people with service animals.

"Two years ago, stores were not permitted to ask (owners) for validation, so that opened the door for a lot of people," Michaud says, adding that store owners can only ask for the laminated card from the government, not what the service dog is for.

In places like the United States, Michaud says people are able to get a doctor's note that states they can have an animal with them for emotional support.

No such thing exists in B.C., says Michaud. It's actually illegal and carries a fine up to $3,000 if a person represents an animal as a service or guide dog when it's not.

"Some people think because you can do this in the (U.S.), that you can get a doctor's note that states you have anxiety or whatever and your dog provides you with emotional support and all you need is a doctor's note — in B.C there is no such thing," she says.

Emotional or therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs, and Michaud explains that these animals go through months and months of strict training in order to pass a test through the provincial government.

Contrary to popular belief, service dogs don't need a vest, the only thing owners need to carry with them is a laminated card they are given when the dog passes the test. But Michaud says its too easy for an individual to order similar accreditations online.

"If I were to go on google right now, the first website that pops up is one to order a vest and a card, it's that easy," she says. 

An example of a card provided by the B.C. government for service animals.
An example of a card provided by the B.C. government for service animals.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Nicky Michaud

Michaud says the real training for a service dog takes months and is extremely difficult.

"The (animal) is in training from five months to 18 months or longer," she says. "They are in training every single day, and the way that the test is designed if they get 99.9 per cent, they fail, they have to get 100 per cent."

But most importantly, Michaud says the biggest reason people should avoid misrepresenting their animals is for the safety of people and other animals.

"If there is a dog in a store that is not accredited, and they are misbehaving and barking, it creates a lot of issues," she says. "When my dogs are in training, they are training to be exceptional so it's very frustrating."

Michaud says the only way to catch people doing these things if store owners are asking for certification.

For individuals who aren't sure who if they have the proper accreditation or not, Michaud says if you purchased a card or a vest online, that's a good indication it's not the correct card

"If it was that easy and your dog did not have to pass a government issued public access test, chances are your dog does not have public access," she says.

For more information on service and guide dog accreditation go here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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