GREAT FALLS – Animals can do amazing things when it comes to human health. Whether it’s creating camaraderie, improving overall mental health, or even protecting in times of need.
And for some people, it is often difficult to leave your dog at home when you go to the grocery store or have a quick bite. But placing an untrained dog in a “no pet” facility could put one person’s life at risk.
Dee Dee Baker heads the Dog Tag Buddies organization in Billings, which brings together and trains service animals for veterans with certain disabilities: “There are so many untrained dogs that are misrepresented, it is a major disadvantage for our veterans and their dogs.”
And she’s right.
Martina Gunter and John Lynn are U.S. Air Force veterans who completed the Dee Dee program and have faced multiple incidents of an unruly dog â€‹â€‹attacking their service dog.
“There have been several occasions in one place in Great Falls that the doormen of the shop don’t actually question anyone who can get away with an animal,” Gunter recalled, recalling one aggressive case. â€œThe gentleman came in with an animal in a service vest and stood at the checkout closest to customer service. When he saw that there was another dog in the shop, he immediately pulled the leash, brought his handler to the ground and tried to prevent the dogs from coming to Willie and me. “
Fortunately for the two, staff stepped between them to prevent further immediate damage, but the stress stayed with Willie long after the other dog was removed.
John Lynn was run over by an untrained dog in a supermarket. He explained, â€œI live by the grocery store and they go in all the time. People know me, management know me, they love my dog â€‹â€‹but one day I walked in there and this dog immediately started pulling and barking on my dog. I then took my dog â€‹â€‹to the other aisle to get out of the situation, but my fear increased, my dog’s fear increased and we had to leave the shop. “
Both situations could have been avoided. It is very important to Gunter and Lynn that companies understand their rights when it comes to animals in their business.
“Of course it starts at the very top and I believe that companies or local managers should train their employees in how to properly evaluate service animals,” said Gunter. “I would be delighted if an employee would stop me in every shop I go into with my dog â€‹â€‹and ask me the ADA questions.”
These two questions are:
- Is that a service dog?
- What work or tasks has the dog been trained for?
“If you are a trained service team, you should be able to answer these questions without any problems,” says Gunter.
At this point, not only is it a wrong judgment to pose as a fake service animal, it is also illegal.
In 2019, Montana signed a bill and then amended the service animal laws to better align them with the ADA service animal laws. The law resulted in wrongdoing charges for anyone caught falsifying a service animal.
For many of us, our animals are part of the family, but leaving them at home could just mean someone else’s life.