Domestic pets and other animals are the backbone on which human civilization was built. This may seem like an incorrect statement, but hear us out.
If we didn’t have dogs helping us track prey, we would never have been as effective hunters, if we didn’t have domestic farm animals, our population could have grown or remained stable, and if we did not have horses, our travel would have been limited.
Even today, animals are incredibly useful to people, and the most common use in the modern world is aiding people. The most used animal for this aid is man’s best friend, the dog.
These dogs are invaluable to many people’s continued survival and make it easy for them to interact with the world without restriction.
Known as service dogs, these animals are truly selfless and without them, many people would be trapped in their home or unable to do anything for themselves.
However, it should be noted that the general public may not know how to interact with these dogs either. Do we treat them like normal dogs? Can we pet them? In this article, we seek to find this out.
What Are Service Dogs?
Service dogs are dogs that have been trained and certified to assist people with disabilities and illnesses.
They are most commonly used by people suffering from visual impairments or difficulties, hearing impairments or difficulties, mental illnesses, seizures, autism, and diabetes.
They are usually sturdy and medium to large breeds and can be both male and female, as long as they have desirable characteristics.
These characteristics typically include having a good temperament, a good psychological make-up, a fairly high intelligence, and overall good health.
Due to a need for these traits, the most common breeds chosen to be service dogs are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds.
The reason these traits are so important amongst service dogs is that they deal with vulnerable people of a variety of different backgrounds.
For some of these people, they are lacking in a skill or sense that is natural to our bodies and society, like being blind.
This means that they struggle immensely in a world not designed for their needs, and they rely on service dogs to guide them and keep out of danger.
For other people, they are an emotional rock that these people rely on when they are struggling mentally.
Having a calm patient animal there that you trust when you are experiencing mental anguish is an incredibly effective way to help someone through a crisis, such as a panic attack or a meltdown.
Finally, there are those who have episodic conditions. Their bodies can, seemingly, fail at a moment’s notice, and they may need help when no one is around, like when someone is having a seizure.
However, with a healthy service dog, there is always someone there to help that person or get help when they need it.
As you can see, service dogs are enormously important to a giant subset of the population, who would be at a loss without them.
Can You Pet A Service Dog?
The short answer is no. You should never pet a service dog you see in public. Let’s break it down.
he two most important things to keep in mind when thinking why you are not supposed to touch the service dog is that: 1) that the dog is working and 2) you don’t know what service it is providing.
So, for the first one. The dog is working, meaning it needs to concentrate. Considering its work is aiding the vulnerable, this is a pretty big deal.
These dogs need to be constantly vigilant to make sure their owner is alright and by petting one, you are distracting it.
This may not seem like much, but by petting it while it is working, then you are counteracting its training, and it may expect more pets in the future from random people.
It may not be a big issue at that moment, but in the future that dog may wander away to get pets, leaving the person they are helping in a very difficult and potentially life-threatening situation.
The second reason you shouldn’t pet a service dog is that you don’t know what service it is providing at that moment.
If the dog is aiding someone with limited mobility or with balance issues, petting it could cause them to fall over or get hurt, because you distracted their dog.
Alternatively, if the owner is prone to episodic mental health distress, petting a dog and distracting it from reacting appropriately to a potential episode may cause that person to have a meltdown, an anxiety attack, or something worse.
The bottom line is that these dogs are for medical purposes, and you should not distract them from that.
Is It A Felony To Pet A Service Dog?
In some states, yes, it is. In areas of the country, like in Arizona, a service dog is considered akin to a wheelchair or a white cane in that they are medical aids.
Since they are medical aids, interfering with a service dog can mean you are given a ticket, a hefty fine, or even lead to a prison sentence.
If you harm – intentionally or otherwise – a service dog, the punishment is much more severe, due to the length of time they take to train and the emotional and physical distress you put both the dog and owner under.
It will likely lead to prison sentences and potentially tagging of your person.
The world would be much worse off if it were not for animals. Dogs can be trained to help with a variety of things and make people’s lives better.
They can assist people with disabilities, alert them to danger, and even help calm the people during anxiety-filled situations. Since they are so useful and help so many people, if you see a service dog out and about, please leave it be.
You don’t know what service it is providing, but it is definitely much more important than petting the dog will ever be.