National Service Dog Month on September, 2023: Harrassed by neighbor over my approved service dog, need legal advice?
September, 2023 is National Service Dog Month 2023.
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First, psychiatric service dogs ARE service dogs - not emotional support animals - and ARE covered under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). There is no legal registry required by federal law that makes one a "real" service dog. And small "lap dogs" can be service dogs, regardless of some peoples prejudice against them.
BEFORE you read further, make sure it IS a service dog. Most therapists, mental health professionals and Dr's don't have a clue what the qualifications are to have a SD is or even what one does. A note can't get you a SD if you're unqualified.
Service dog (SD): You must be disabled to have one. Must be specifically trained to perform a task, that the handler cannot perform themselves, that mitigates their disability. Is permitted to accompany the handler into no pets businesses, facilities and generally anywhere the public can go.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA): You must be disabled or elderly to have one. Does NOT have to be specifically trained to perform any task. Provides comfort, companionship and support through it's mere presence. Is not afforded public access. (I think this is what yours actually is)
Disabled is by ADA standards - NOT your Dr's opinion. The disability must substantially effect a major life activity in every day life. For a Psychiatric disability, it would have to be very severe to make daily living a struggle, even with medication. According to the ADA and NIMH (National Institute of Metal Health:
"It is not enough to have a mental illness to qualify as a person with a disability under the ADA. According to the NIMH, 26.2% of adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness in any given year, but only 6% are severely mentally ill. So more than three quarters of those with a diagnosed mental illness are not disabled by that illness and would not qualify to use a service animal even if they would benefit from one."
SD's and ESA's must behave and cannot be a nuisance. They cannot bark excessively. SD's are supposed to accompany their handler wherever they go, so barking while left alone isn't usually an issue. For ESA's it needs to be immediately corrected.
Regardless of what I or anyone else thinks, the management already approved it. It's their responsibility to explain to your neighbor that you have a right to have the dog.
This is what I would do.
A: Set up a webcam camera on your computer and record your dog while you're gone to see if it's barking. If it is, do whatever is necessary to stop the behavior. The woman had every right to be annoyed. Citronella bark collars work and they make shock collars for small dogs as a last resort.
B: Send a registered letter to the apartment manager and owner, stating your neighbor is unjustifiably harassing you. State you have a federal right to have your service dog and it was approved by them in advance. Inform them that you have proof that the dog isn't barking. State that you feel the neighbor is jealous that you have a dog and instead of just agreeing with her, they need to back up your federal right to have the dog. Let them know that the harassment is aggravating your disability. State that if it doesn't stop IMMEDIATELY you will be forced to file an injunction against harassment against her - something you do not want to do. Tell them you will also file a discrimination complaint with the housing authority and the Attorney General's office against them if it doesn't stop IMMEDIATELY.
C. If it doesn't stop IMMEDIATELY, file an injunction against harassment against the neighbor. Demand the police arrest her if she breaks it.
E. Write down every and all problems you have with the neighbor, even if they're not serous enough to have broken the injunction. Send it by registered letter to the management every two weeks. Tell them it's just to inform them of the continuing harassment.
F. Just in case things don't improve, start looking for a new apartment. In the end, it may be better for you to just move, but only without penalty.
BUT before you take any if these steps, be certain you qualify for a service dog. Taking this action will bring scrutiny upon you and if it's discovered either A) You are not disabled B) You do not qualify C) You do not have the necessary paperwork from a metal health professional or D) Your dog isn't task trained and therefore isn't a service dog, you will face Federal Fraud charges which include, but is not limited to - tickets, high fines, jail, high attorney fees and confiscation of your dog - AND you'll most certainly be evicted.
A National Disgrace?
Here's my idea from the other side of the pond, make pet ownership a privilege rather than a right, exactly the same as driving a car, with strict enforcement that includes fines and community service progressively upping to revocation of license then jail-time if it continues. Certain offenses constitute instant revocation of ownership or breeder status.
Mandatory licensing laws of owners and breeders would be the key to education. As part of the license, all dogs need to be chipped or thigh tattooed before they leave the breeder and to keep the dog legal owner records need to be updated yearly to maintain it, any mixed breeds and non-breeder dogs have a mandatory spay/neuter clause in the license, along with required proof of dog; ownership, behavior and handler training. If an owner turns in a dog, it is a demerit against their license and they are billed for the duration of their dogs stay.
Create a national database of irresponsible dog breeders and owners. Bill/fine owners for the cost of maintaining THEIR dogs in the shelter if the dog is tracked back to them or turned in by them. All dogs that come into the shelter need to be altered before leaving.
Add: I forgot rescue, I love rescue but I think they should be held to a standard too. They can have their own clasification similar to breeders except all dogs would need to be chipped and altered. They should hold perspective owners to higher standards like many breed rescues already do. I belive in national support for breed specific rescue not just RSPCA. Rescuers, in order to be clasified under rescue status need to be working under official charible orgs.
If you pick up a stray, you should be required to get a 3 month permit with local animal control at that time they can provide a primer and assistance in find the dogs owner then assist with rehoming the dog or moving them into rescue in a foster or rescue shelter capacity after a couple renewals or when the person feels they need more help. Most people here are afraid of even calling animal control, it's like they think the dog will be uthanized through the tele line. Animal control needs to actually try to work with these good Samaritans just like rescues, it's just in a more temp basis.
If you feed your dog Blue Buffalo help?
ETA: There is now a Blue Buffalo Recall:
These are the ONLY code dates being recalled:
Product Bag Size Best Used By Dates
BLUE Wilderness Chicken (Dog) 4.5 lb., 11 lb., 24lb. JUL1211B, JUL1311B, JUL2611Z, JUL2711Z, JUL2811Z
BLUE Basics Salmon (Dog) 11 lb., 24 lb. AUG2111B, AUG2211B
BLUE Large Breed Adult Chicken 30 lb. SEP 22 11 P, SEP 23 11 P, OCT 26 11 P
There is a suspected problem with ONE label of Blue Buffalo: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe. However, problems of this type generally expand either to additional labels or everything that was produced at a certain plant. I'd be cautious about Blue Buffalo products until this is sorted out.
Here's a link to the story on the recent problems with Blue Buffalo:
From the link above:
"MSU Press Release - A team of researchers at Michigan State University has discovered a group of illnesses reported in dogs across the country is linked to a specific brand of dog food from the Blue Buffalo Co. Veterinarians from across the country recently began sending samples from dogs with elevated levels of calcium in their blood to MSU's Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, director Carole Bolin said. The sick dogs had increased thirst and urination, and some of them also suffered weight loss, loss of appetite and signs of kidney damage. Endocrinologists with the Diagnostic Center, a service unit of the College of Veterinary Medicine, soon noticed the pattern and found a common factor: All 16 dogs whose samples were tested had very high levels of vitamin D in their blood and were fed a diet of Blue Buffalo's Wilderness Chicken Recipe. The diagnostic center is cooperating with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration on an investigation into the brand, Bolin said.
"The only reason we were able to identify the pattern is because of the vast national resource our center has become," said Bolin, who added her lab performs more than 1.3 million tests a year. "Because of our nationwide reach and expertise, we were able to discover this and notify the proper authorities."
It is routine for veterinarians across the country to contact the center for specialized testing to explore the causes of clinical conditions. In this specific case, all the dogs were found to have very high levels of vitamin D in their serum, a quite unusual finding. Endocrinologist Kent Refsal picked up on the pattern of cases and began to investigate. The affected dogs ranged in age from 8 months to 8 years. There were three mixed-breed dogs and 13 purebred dogs. The samples originated from eight states: Michigan, Texas, Colorado, Wisconsin, California, Illinois, North Dakota and Utah. In addition to the testing, there was either a brief written history and/or communication with the referring veterinarian to discuss the possible sources of excess vitamin D. Dogs seem to recover when the diet is changed, Bolin said, and there have not been any reported deaths related to the diet."
You're doing fine with the transition by gradually combining old and new food over a week or two. And yes, you can feed them both adult dog food as they are both adults.