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Meeting A Working Guide Dog Team.


–by Marion Gwizdala


Have you ever seen a blind person with a guide dog and want- ed to know more about how they work together? When you see a guide dog at work, you are watching a highly trained team. Each partner’s contribution is essential for independent travel. As the head of the team, the blind person’s role is to maintain con- trol of the guide dog and to direct the animal where the han- dler wants to go. He or she does this by giving the dog directional commands such as “Forward,” ”Left,” and “Right,” which are sometimes accompanied by hand gestures. The guide dog’s role in this partnership is to obey these commands, except when to do so would place the team in danger, called intelligent disobedience. Since the guide dog and


handler function as a team, the following should be kept in mind: * It is a violation of state and


federal laws to deny service to or segregate a disabled person accompanied by a service animal. This includes stores, restaurants, taxicabs, parks, health care facili- ties, zoos, or any other place the general public is admitted.


* The law prohibits public


carriers such as buses, trains, or planes from refusing to serve a disabled individual accompanied by a service animal. Furthermore, disabled people accompanied by service animals have the same rights as other passengers to choose where they sit on such car- riers where no other legally estab- lished seating requirements exist.


* When you see a guide dog or other service animal in


public, it is working. It is important that others not interfere with the dog’s work; therefore, never touch a guide dog or its gear, never call a guide dog by name or speak to it, and do not make noises or do anything to intentionally distract the dog.


* Never feed a service dog.


It may make the dog more diffi- cult to control in places where food is present such as restaurants and grocery stores. In addition, dogs can have sensitivities to cer- tain types of foods, so there is a very real possibility that feeding the dog may make it ill and unable to work.


* Assume that the disabled


person can function safely and independently in most situations. Therefore, never take hold of the person, the dog, its leash, or har- ness at any time. This is especial- ly important when the team is making a street crossing. Blind people know when it is safe to cross by listening to traffic pat- terns. It is the blind person who tells the dog when it is safe to cross the street; it is NOT the dog that makes this decision.


*The guide dog does not Marion and Sarge. * Businesses may ask if a dog is a service animal and what


tasks the animal is trained to perform but may not ask about the nature of the disability or require any sort of identification or documentation for the service dog.


* Businesses may exclude a service dog only if it causes a


direct threat to the health or safety of others, is not housebro- ken, or is out of control and the handler does not take immediate action to correct the behavior.


48 THE NEW BARKER


necessarily know where the blind person wants to go. The handler gives the directional commands, and the dog avoids obstacles along the way such as other people, shopping carts, overhanging trees, and steps or staircases. If you think a blind per-


son needs some assistance, feel free to ask. * When blind people travel to an unfamiliar area, they may


ask directions as anyone else would. When giving directions to a blind person, speak to the person. Do not call the dog or try to get it to follow you. Guide dog users sometimes use a “Follow” command, but the blind person will give it. Also let the blind person know about turns to be made so he or she can give the proper direction to the dog.


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