Service Dogs in NYC
My intent was to start blogging and create an entry at least once weekly. As you can tell, this is my fourth entry and I haven't quite kept good on my promise to myself. I think this brutally cold winter in the city must have given me writers block since my hands were always left with little to no feeling! I'm going to free write more, and comment on topics that have important points to them, but are in no particular order.
Today, I want to talk about having a service dog in New York City. I would have to say that it is by far the hardest place I have lived with my dog. Granted, we have only lived in two places prior to moving here (Chattanooga, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia), but there are many reasons NYC is a bit tougher. First, I have an 80 pound dog that isn't able to fit in a man bag, purse, backpack, or any other carrier that you see these small dogs shoved into. He walks along side me, and as anyone that lives in the city knows, space is pretty tight here. The grocery stores have aisles that are barely big enough for people, nevertheless a man and his small horse :) Restaurants seems to squeeze as many tables into their allotted space as possible, making room for an animal this size pretty much non existent. On top of that, you have the lovely subway system. I really have to plan my trips around rush hour, and even during off hours the subway could be packed like its 5pm on a workday. I wish I could say that people make way for someone with a service animal, but that isn't always the case. On top of that, the floors can be pretty disgusting (particularly after rain) and I do my best to keep Earl on his feet vs letting him sit down and absorb who knows what is on the floors. If I decide to upgrade and take a cab, I then have the challenge of flagging a cabbie down that will be willing to take a service animal. While it is illegal for them to deny a ride to someone with a service animal, it is not illegal for them to mistakenly pass by because they didn't see you. In essence, getting a cab to stop is like striking a conversation with someone rushing to an appointment with their headphones in their ears. I have found uber is the best play here, since you can request a car and then let them know you are traveling with a service animal. In addition to the above mentioned, an overall challenge is the fact that most places you go are packed with people. That is ok for Earl since he is used to that, but with people comes many that don't respect the general rules of a service animal. Those are to not pet a dog without the owners permission and certainly not let your infants and children poke their fingers at a dogs face while explaining that "their baby absolutely loves dogs"! Finally, something I have gotten used to here is consistently reciting the law spelled out by the Americans with Disabilities Act. I would say 1 in 3 places I go into will challenge the fact that Earl is a service animal, that I'm not blind (since that is what most people think of when you tell them he is a service animal), and that I would even need a dog. That prompts me to explain the rules and law surrounding public access, and depending on how much friction is made, will depend on if I decide to even give them my business after the fact.
While the challenges are greater in a city like this, I will continue to speak out for all those that can't to help make access easier for those with legitimate service animals. There are many out there that don't have properly trained dogs that throw a vest on them and try to take them into public places. These people continue to undermine the real use of working with dogs to help mitigate people's disabilities and hopefully there will be harsher legal consequences for them in the future.