Have you ever seen a person with a service animal walking on the street? Have you wondered how to interact with them in a safe and respectful way?
In an effort to enhance awareness around service animals, Young Worker Committee (YWC) member Brittney, interviewed her sister Bobbi, who is visually impaired and requires the use of a Seeing Eye dog.
Q: How has a service dog impacted your life?
A: The impact of my service dog has had on my life is immeasurable. I can navigate quickly and safely, and with more confidence than ever before. I also have a sense of companionship as sometimes you can feel very alone in the world. People are not always kind to those with impairments and disabilities – but my service dog is there for me and has saved my life on numerous occasions.
Q: Why do people require service animals?
A: There are many different reasons to have service animals, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diabetes, hearing, vision and mobility issues, autism and epilepsy. I have a service dog as I am visually impaired.
Q: What is the biggest reason public education around service animals is so important?
A: There is very little public education and awareness on the subject which in turn makes it difficult when I’m out with my working dog on a day-to-day basis. People don’t understand the parameters of a working dogs, the do’s and don’ts, and the proper etiquette. This makes it not only difficult for us to get around, it can also be dangerous. If the public is educated, it makes for a more positive experience for everyone. Education helps ensure the safety for those who have disabilities as they know they can travel safely without distraction.
Q: What are some of the main rules for the public to follow while your guide dog is working?
A: When a service dog is working, it is of the upmost importance that they not be distracted and that means not being touched, talked to, fed, called, or even photographed. It is also important to not test what a service animal can or cannot do – they have a very important job and all these little things can cause danger to the working team.
Q: How can SEIU-West and the YWC help?
A: Assisting in public education would be key. The more people understand the importance of working dogs would make travel and living so much easier. More and more service dogs are appearing in public to help make the lives of those with disabilities easier. But it all comes down to education. (The YWC will be welcoming Bobbi for a panel discussion at our upcoming conference on August 20-21! If you’re 35 or under, be sure to register!)