Why can’t you pet service dogs?

Most people intuitively know you should not pet or disturb service dogs in any way.

People see the vest and the disabled person and usually put two and two together.

And if that does not do the trick, they can usually get close enough to the dog to read that the vest says something along the lines of:

DO NOT PET.

WORKING SERVICE DOG DO NOT DISTURB.

DO NOT PET OR DISTURB.

But why exactly are you not permitted to pet or disturb service dogs in any way? That is precisely what we will answer in this article.

What is a service dog?

Service dogs are dogs that are specifically trained to complete a task or do a job for someone who is physically handicapped.

Due to the physical tasks that they are trained to complete, service dogs as well as their owners have the most rights granted to them under Federal Law. They are also granted access to the most public areas.

Thus, because they are trained to assist disability, service dogs are granted access to:

  • No pet housing
  • Airplanes
  • And are allowed in public places such as restaurants, stores, and Uber

Service dogs wear their vests in public because this lets the public know that he/she is a working animal.

So why can’t you pet service dogs?

To be clear, it is not illegal to pet a service dog. You will not get arrested or fined if you pet someone’s service dog by mistake, provided that the owner does not get ill or injured because of this.

So while it is not exactly illegal, it is highly discouraged and in fact, common courtesy.

In reality, you should not distract a service dog in any way, shape, or form.

This means:

NO petting
NO talking to
NO saying his/her name
NO eye contact
NO action in the attempt to get the dog’s attention

You should not do anything to distract a service dog because a service dog is not an ordinary pet.

They are a WORKING service dog and their primary focus should be on helping their owner and keeping them safe.

When the dog is distracted he is not paying attention to his job and his disabled human handler could very easily get hurt. And if that happens, you will be to blame.

Even though service dogs are trained to ignore these distractions, at the end of the day, they are still animals.

No dog is perfect and no amount of training can make a dog completely numb to any and all possible distractions. All people have a responsibility to not deliberately try to take a service dog’s attention away from healing his/her owner/

So what should you do when you encounter a service dog and their owner? The best course of action is to either ignore them or do everything you can to stay out of their way. If you want to be polite and helpful, maybe hold the door open for them.

But other than that it is best to just leave the owner and their service dog alone.

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