As the saying goes, “give them an inch, they will take a mile.” This is true with some owners and their dogs.

In past decades, I would encounter a service dog once in a great while, and it was obvious the owner was blind or otherwise handicapped. In this decade, we have a new term, “support animal,” which is a little less regulated.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the American’s With Disabilities Act states that service animals are defined as being individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, or calming a person with post-traumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack.

Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Under the ADA, state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice or signal controls.

Service animals must be trained, and do not interact with anyone other than their owner. Support animals, also referred to as emotional support animals, are also specially trained.

By using the umbrella of support animals, many owners think this is like a license to bring their pets anywhere they wish. I have encountered numerous dogs while shopping or in restaurants and other businesses the past few years. On one of my last trips to Walmart, two Rottweiler were growling, snarling and barking at anyone in their path. This new train of thought is both dangerous and a health hazard.

People allow their dogs to defecate or urinate in the isles, even lifting their legs on food and merchandise. My husband does janitorial work and must clean up this type of biohazard almost daily, because the owners just walk away from it. They also push them in carts where other customers place their food. Trained support and service animals do not do this, and I am not talking about them; I am talking about pets.

Another issue is that owners claiming their pet are service or support animals make it hard on those people who are actually in need of this service. Many of them are subject to harassment because others have abused the service and support terms.

People should not have to be subjected to this when they shop or dine out. Leave your pets at home. Stores today offer services where you can order your groceries and then drive to the store and pick them up. Some of them even deliver straight to your door. DoorDash has recently began in Rock Springs, along with other businesses that deliver their own food, so you can order your food online from a variety of restaurants, and it will be delivered right to your door. So with all of these options, you don’t have to leave your pet alone.

In the case of pets, some owners really do take a mile.

Connie Wilcox-Timar is the lifestyles/community reporter. She can be reached at lifestyle1@rocketminer.com.

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