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Service dog not getting respect she deserves

September 25th, 2008, 09:49 AM

Violating care animal law could cost you high fines
By: John Slykhuis, Staff Writer

For a life-saving hero, Dakota doesn’t always get the respect she deserves.

The year-old great Dane is a service dog for Keswick resident Kayla Pollock.

While most people are familiar with seeing eye dogs for the visually handicapped, few know that there are other dogs just as important for the health of their owners, Dakota being a notable example.

Ms Pollock, 22, has type one diabetes, which requires her to take four to six insulin shots per day.

“I often have severe low blood sugars that can be life threatening,” she said. “To make matters worse, I live alone.”

Dakota comes for Dogs for Diabetics in Dakota, Neb. — hence, her name — an organization that specializes in training dogs to recognize symptoms dangerous to people with diabetes.

Among her skills is the ability to detect when Ms Pollock’s blood sugar level drops because she can detect a scent humans can’t.

It happened soon after she got Dakota.

“She was whining at me and I thought she had to go outside. I took her out and she didn’t do anything. She kept whining and put her paw on me. I ignored her.”

Soon after, “I just dropped”.

Fortunately, Ms Pollock was at her sister’s home at the time and there were people around who could give her insulin.

Living alone, this ability is literally a matter of life and death.

Dakota can smell the pheremones given off signaling danger even from another room.

“That’s pretty important when I’m asleep and perhaps going into a coma,” she said.

She soon learned to detect that Dakota gave off a different whine signaling low blood sugar from the one she gives when she want to go out outside.

Dakota’s talents don’t end there.

She is trained to pick items up and is also being trained to press the button on the phone for 911.

“She then barks once into the phone, to the operator knows what the situation is,” Ms Pollock said.

Why not a smaller, easier-to-handle dog?

“Well one reason I went for a great Dane is they are big and strong enough and can be trained to pull a wheelchair in case I need an amputation,” she said, explaining loss of the legs is one of the possible results of having diabetes.

Many people are ignorant of the law and don’t recognize Dakota as being a care dog similar to a seeing-eye dog.

“That’s my issue and why I want to get that message out there,” Ms Pollock said. “Many people think I’m disregarding their rules banning dogs from being in their stores. My dog is clearly marked as a service dog and yet almost daily I’m asked to leave local businesses or refused entry.”

That is against the law.

The Human Rights Act is quite specific about the rights of service dogs and their owners to have full access to any public facility, including restaurants, bars, shopping malls, taxis, buses and grocery stores.

Penalty for refusing entry or service is a fine of up to $5,000.

The law also recognizes people who may want to pass off their dog as a service dog.

That also carries a fine of up to $500.

One restaurant in Newmarket almost ended up being slapped with a fine.

“I went in and the server said, ‘You can’t bring your dog in here’. I explained the law to her, but she continued to tell me I couldn’t come in. Some of the other patrons were getting involved and offered to help, but I was quite embarrassed. She said ,‘Lady, you’re just being difficult’. I told her I’d call the police.”

The manager intervened and apologized profusely.

It has also happened in grocery stores and taxies in Newmarket and Georgina.

“The exception is Paul’s Taxi in Georgina. He’s completely fine with it,” she said.

Ms Pollock hopes for more public awareness of service dogs.

“I hope publicity will help people understand that dogs are being used for much more than aiding the blind,” she said.

“They are used for the deaf, for alerting medical emergencies before they happen and even for people with severe psychiatric disabilities. Clearly guide dog and service dog etiquette is not understood.”

Also not understood is that when out in public on the leash, service dogs should not be touched or petted.

“This is a distraction. They are working. My life depends on Dakota being able to perform her job.”

After a recent hard day’s work, Dakota was reclining on the couch, blissfully ignoring several other inhabitants in Ms Pollock’s home.

“I take in traumatized or abused exotic birds,” she explains, fondly caressing the head of her Quaker parrot Luke, who lives there along with her silver crested cocatoo Mango and green wing macaw Sidney.

As a certified avian specialist and animal behaviour consultant, Ms Pollock understands the needs of animals.

She just hopes you will understand the need for people such as her to have their service dogs without being abused in public.

kudos for her to get the message out, but :loser: for the business's for being ignorant

September 25th, 2008, 10:14 AM
Unfortunately people associate service dogs as labs or BMDs. The public is unaware that there are so many breeds and mixed breeds that are also performing such required jobs to help out their fellow humans.

It is the lack of media attention perhaps, thus human ignorance. Maybe if the dog had a special collar or a visible indication that they are service dogs -it would signify that this dog is working. I am thinking along the lines of handicap parking signs (obviously not exactly like this) that differentiates them from others.

September 25th, 2008, 10:41 AM
from the pic (& also seeing her & Dakota around town)

he wears a red vest. I am sure it says service dog on it or something along that lines.

I thought service dogs have to? so that people know they are working?

September 25th, 2008, 10:56 AM
I really don't know Diamondsmum - maybe someone can shed some light on this...

September 25th, 2008, 11:33 AM
As far as I know, All service dogs MUST wear a vest, or the handle collar (like for a seeing eye dog) while they are working, and unless the owner says its ok, people are not allowed to touch them.
NOT allowing this dog to be with his owner while in stores or wherever is DEFINITELY against the law! I hope these people wake up and realize that they could get in some serious trouble!