A February 5, 2018 story by Lauren Coronado of KESQ in California carries the headline “Child bitten by a possible service dog at Palm Desert grocery store.” Though there are many interesting details in the story, the headline conveys the most important piece of information, which is that all too often there is little way to discern whether a dog is a genuine service animal or is just a pet being passed off as one.
In this instance, it was a three year old boy who was bitten, after he requested and received permission to pet the animal. Though there are instances where genuine service animals bite children, the bite usually occurs when the child surprises the dog. Here there was no surprise.
Identifying actual service animals is difficult. Mandatory training requirements are practically non-exist, and:
- Service animals are not required to wear vests or other forms of identification
- It is illegal for businesses to require proof that an animal is a service animal and not just a pet
- There are no breed requirements, meaning that a service animal could come in any shape or size
Because of loose regulations regarding these animals, many people are continuing to pass off pets and insufficiently trained dogs as service animals. These animals are much more likely to become aggressive than dogs that have received proper training. Without State and Federal guidelines there is no way to determine legitimacy.
If you or someone you love has been injured by a dog bite, attempting to determine whether or not the animal was properly trained and handled can be extremely difficult. Please, consult with an experienced attorney regarding your case and hold negligent owners responsible for the actions of their animals.