PTSDog Blog

The latest updates from PTSDog

Skeeter's tips on what to do when you see a Service Dog

May 16, 2008

1. Keep calm. It's a dog, not a unicorn.

2. Talk to the PERSON handling the dog. The dog is there in a medical capacity to assist that PERSON with a disability.

3. DO NOT distract the dog. Don't make eye contact, don't do baby talk, whistle, bark, whatever. That dog is working. Allow it to focus on its handler.

4. Please don't be rude. Asking a person why they need a Service Dog is the same as that person asking you for your medical history. They are disabled. That's all you need to know.

5. DON'T pet the dog without asking! EVER!

6. Please don't say something like, "I wish I could take MY dog everywhere with me." That dog is there because its handler is disabled. No one (sane) wishes they were disabled.

7. Business owners, "In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person's disability."

- source:

8. Act like the dog is not there. A Service Dog is functionally (and legally) considered medical equipment. Would you talk to a wheelchair or coo at a walker? Then why do it to a Service Dog?

9. Never make assumptions based on the dog's breed. There are no breed restrictions on Service Dogs according to the law. Each INDIVIDUAL dog selected to be trained as a Service Dog is evaluated thoroughly to determine if its personality and demeanor are suitable for Service Dog candidacy.


This is why we can't have nice things ...

May 19, 2008

This Veteran took a four-month-old puppy to the VA, refused to remove it when asked by the VA Police, and was issued a citation to appear in Federal court because of it. Now he’s crying foul, and claiming the puppy is a Service Dog.

First of all, the VA is not required to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The VA falls under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Although this is the case, VA policy as published in the Federal Register in 2015, is that the VA will follow the applicable Federal laws (the ADA).

The ADA defines a Service Dog very clearly: “Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability.” (Source:

The ADA also describes what does not qualify as a Service Dog: “The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals (ESA). If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog's mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.” (Source same as above.)

A four-month-old puppy is a puppy. At that age, most puppies have just barely been housebroken. Although I am certain that the puppy is empathetic, and that the Veteran and it are forming a fantastic bond upon which to build its task-training, it’s not a Service Dog yet - it’s not even a dog; it’s a puppy. At best, a puppy can function as an ESA. ESAs are not covered by the ADA, nor are they allowed access to VA properties per VA policy. It’s that simple.

I fully support Veterans having and training Service Dogs for treatment of PTSD or other disabilities. I do not support this kind of abuse of the system, however. This incident is exactly why those of us who use PTSD Service Dogs have run in to so much trouble with the VA - because people take advantage of lack of knowledge on the VA’s part, or try to push something they know (or should know) isn’t within the law.

A task-trained Service Dog takes years of work to train. In fact, training never ends, because dogs grow and change as they mature, just as humans do. This Veteran apparently does not understand the ADA, or if he does, has decided that he can make his own version of the rules. Not only is he making those of us who have worked with our dogs for years, and who do everything within our power to ensure our Service Dogs’ behavior is exemplary at the VA, look bad, but incidents like this could completely jeopardize what little access we have at the VA. Again, the VA does not fall under the ADA. It is within the legal rights of the VA to simply deny all access to Service Dogs - and people pushing the issue in this manner could cause that to happen.

We, Veteran Service Dog handlers, have fought tooth and nail for what little access we have gained at the VA. This could set us back years.

The PTSDog Facebook page, this Web site, and my book, PTSDog: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Service Dog are all about education and sharing correct information about the ADA. I do everything within my power to support Veterans seeking out a Service Dog, needing assistance or advice with access issues, and more. Incidents like this show me I am not working hard enough. A little accurate knowledge would have gone a long way toward preventing this. In my opinion, this Veteran is in the wrong. Rather than accept responsibility, he went to the media and blew this up into something which could have negative repercussions for all Vets who use Service Animals and are in the VA system.

I don’t often agree with VA policies. However, in this instance, the VA was right, and this Vet is in for a rude awakening when he stands before the judge in Federal court.