Annual Data Report

As many of our readers are aware, the FSDS has taken our responsibility to serve and protect those with disabilities and to help educate the community very seriously.  There is a lot more to SD issues than simply training and providing dogs.  We believe that we have a responsibility to address any follow-up problems that are brought to our attention as needed to fully protect our teams, and promote safe SD practices here in our community.

In April of 2019, the FSDS was approached by three large entertainment venues in the community, and our support was requested in investigating and responding to the myriad challenges they were experiencing with regard to service dogs (SD) at their locations.   A training session was scheduled, with all three venues represented.  It was agreed that further investigation was warranted.   The model for this project was that the venues would all collect data in a uniform manner and relay the data to the FSDS on a quarterly basis.  The FSDS would harvest the data and provide the venues with quarterly and annual reports.   Anonymity was guaranteed, and outside of the original venues the remainder of the community would not be provided with the identity of the venues involved.

This month we report the key findings of this ongoing study.

The total number of cases based on data during the study period from April 1 – December 31, 2019 was extrapolated to give us an expected one year total of 699.33 cases.  The margin of error, based on sample size was calculated to be 4%.  Incidents are reported as percentages per 100 teams identified.  All potential SD teams identified were screened by asking the two ADA allowable questions:

  1. Is this a SD required because of a disability?
  2. What work or tasks has the SD been trained to perform?

Any team that was unable to provide correct answers to both questions was denied entrance.

Information was then collected on location and timing of incidents, whether the encounter was for an initial screening or subsequent problem and the nature of any problems.  We also gathered information regarding presence or absence of visible identification and the type of identification displayed.

A full Public Disclosure Copy of the report is made available on request to those in the community who are empowered to effect positive changes.  Requests should be sent via email and should be on letterhead.

Major Findings

  • The majority of incidents (42.43%) occur between the hours of noon and 8 p.m.
  • As the staff became more adept at screening, initial screenings increased from 88.82% to 93.79% (5.3% increase) of encounters.  At the same time, the incidence of problems decreased from 11.18% to 6.21% (45% decrease) of all teams per quarter.
  • The average annual rate of problems that occur with regard to the number of identified teams that entered the venues is 8.77%.
  • The most common problem identified was “dog not on a leash or tether”, and this accounted for 10.2% of all problems annually.
  • Encounters at the main entrance to the venue accounted for 30.79% of reports, while encounters located within the main entertainment area accounted for 49.86% of cases.  Thus, combined these accounted for 80.65% of all reports.
  • At the outset of this project it was reported that violations of public health and sanitation codes due to individuals with purse dogs dangling the dogs over public food was occurring at least 2-3x/day per facility. All venues instituted a “Four on the Floor” policy as of day one of data collection. The result was both immediate and dramatic.  From that point forward, data shows that the incidence of these problems plummeted to only 1.43% per year.
  • There appears to be an inverse relationship between the display of generic ID and the ability of the staff to detect any evidence of disability.  Staff reported that in 91.46% of cases a potential disability was not apparent, and at the same time it was reported that of all teams who displayed identification, 92.31% of these IDs were labeled as generic.
  • Handler aggression is becoming increasingly more common,rising from 4.61% to 12.41% throughout the year, with the annual average reported as 7.91%.

Please note: Not all disabilities are evident and that these venues have exercised care not to take any action that has potential to discriminate against an individual with a genuine disability.  In order to ensure to protection for those legitimate teams with invisible disabilities, venues elected to err (if needed) in the favor of the handler.

It is reported that the incidence of dubious claims of SD tasks are a common occurrence.  In many cases, individuals have made claims that their dogs perform tasks that it is not possible to teach a dog to perform, such as telling time.  A dog is not able to notify a person throughout the day at precise time when they must take their medication.  Some other dubious reports are for conditions that are not disabling.  For example, one person reported that their dog alerts them to a pregnancy.

We are very concerned over numerous additional reports of situations which have potential to place a dog in danger or are simply are not in the best interest of their health.  One person arrived pushing a paralyzed dog in a baby stroller, claiming this to be a SD.  There are multiple reports of small dogs that are stepped on by distracted individuals in a crowded venue, causing direct harm to the dog.  We are also receiving reports that many dogs that individuals attempt to bring into the public space do not display their county license tag on the collar, as required by law.  Though we did not specifically set out to track this problem, it is noted that this is common.  Absent a county tag, businesses have no assurance that the dog has received the required rabies vaccinations (required for licensure) and this poses a real concern for public health.

Recommendations for businesses:

  1. All staff should receive annual training on SD law and screening to provide protection for patrons from fake teams and to decrease liability to your business from untoward incidents.  .
  2. All entering teams should be screened by asking the two ADA permitted questions; in order to prevent a team from being repeatedly questions by multiple staff we suggest some form of clearance such as a hand if the business is a large entertainment venue. Staff can explain to patrons that the purpose of the stamp is to ensure that they are not repeatedly stopped, and are able to fully enjoy their experience.
  3. Institute a ”Four on the Floor” rule if you offer food services.
  4. Have clear policies in place to address cases where handlers become aggressive, in order to de-escalate matters and prevent harm from occurring to staff.
  5. Maintain incident logs in order to understand those days or times when incidents are most likely to occur, allowing you to target interventions and work more efficiently.

Recommendations for teams:

  1. When stopped for screening, remember that businesses are only doing their job and that screening out fake teams in advance is for your benefit; please be pleasant and cooperative.
  2. Ensure that your dog is on a leash or tether unless the nature of your disability prevents you from managing this.  In those cases,your dog must be under good verbal control.
  3. Please do not display online purchased ID; ADA law does not require you to display identification so these is no benefit for you to do so.
  4. If you have a purse dog, do not dangle them over unpackaged public food at buffets, salad bars, bulk food bins, produce areas, etc. ; also do not permit your dog to sit at the table or be fed from the table in a public place, as this can cause contamination to condiment trays.
  5. Please avoid baby strollers as these can block aisles in crowded venues and create a potential fall risk.
  6. If your dog is out of sorts and having a bad day, please do not bring them into the public space.

Remember that having a SD accompany you into the public space is not just a right.  It is a privilege, and along with this privilege comes both rights and responsibilities.  We ask all teams to be cognizant of this and present at all times in a manner that inspires confidence and respects the rights of others, in the same manner that you wish for your own rights to be respected.

 Did You Know That…

You can deduct your SD expenses on your taxes if you are training a dog for your needs, or if you already have a dog that has been trained and is working as your SD?

Many new SD handlers may not be aware that this expense is deductible on your taxes.  We recommend that all SD handlers as well as those who are currently training a dog for your own needs take the following steps to accurately track expenses:

  1. Purchase an expandable file and label each section by month; store original receipts for all purchases you make for your SD / SDIT in this file; this includes but is not limited to food, training treats and exercise toys.
  2. Maintain a spreadsheet for all expenses including the name of the vendor your made the purchase from as well as date, amount and description of item.
  3. Log in all veterinary visits as these are deductible, as is mileage to and from the clinic; you may deduct mileage expenses for 2020 at the IRS allowable rate of $0.17 per mile.
  4. Maintain a log of all travel to and from SD training classes, as this is deductible at the above rate; include date of class as well as starting and ending mileage.

Classroom News

Beginner Class – our beginner class continues to impress and this month we would like to acknowledge the following teams for their exceptional work:

  • SDIT Scooby & DeAnna have made great progress on touch and perch work
  • SDIT Dani & Keeta have mastered great body awareness with our 4 in a box game that teaches rear end awareness and confidence.
  • SDIT Solomon & Henry are making great progress on removing the lures with heel side and sit/ down.
  • SDIT Caroline & Ceila have also mastered body awareness with our 4 in a box game and touch
  • SDIT Coco & Soyini have mastered back up in a straight line with hand signals and have great sit / down stays while handler walks around them in a circle.
  • SDIT Willow & Lindsey are making great progress on no jumping when being greeted and walking on a loose leash at heel side.
  • SDIT Bailey & Yamill have been making great progress on going to “place” and sitting nicely for petting
  • SDIT Socorro & Tina made exceptional progress on their beginning stages of “go find” and place
  • SDIT Mando & Brian are doing great work on backup, removing the lure, using hand singles as well as the commands of “go find” and “bringing back the toy” which will then lead to bringing back other items.

Advanced Class – this class has been out and about the community learning public access skills and practicing their advanced tasks with distractions.  If you encounter our class in public, remember to always approach a team from the front and ask before attempting to pet.

  • SDIT Samson & David are making great progress on “go get help” at further distances and avoiding distractions.
  • SDIT Bruno & Irmarie made incredible progress with the “closer” command and also getting help with added distractions
  • SDIT Dakota & Nicole are doing an awesome job at alerting when a crisis happens and getting help at a far distance with distractions.

Wellness Tip

Spring arrives later this month, and with that comes Spring cleaning. Just a reminder to all to keep cleaning agents locked in a secure cabinet that is inaccessible to your dogs.  Also, please remember to clean up all tools after use.

March is National Poison Prevention Awareness Month.  The A.S.P.C.A. has an Animal Poison Control Hotline that is open 24/7, and that number is:  (888) 426-4435.  A consultation fee may apply.  This number should be kept handy in the event that you are unable to reach your local veterinarian.  If you suspect that your dog has been exposed to any poisonous substance, contact your veterinarian or poison control without delay.

With Sincere Thanks

Many thanks to the following individuals and groups who have supported the FSDS mission to provide services to our community:

  • DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
  • Valerie Schluter
  • Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand
  • Barry Mackean
  • Ugly Tuna Sushi / Surprise AZ
  • Martin Chorzempa
  • Sue Vereb
  • State Farm Insurance / Fanelli Agency
  • Amazon Smile

We would also like to thank the following individuals who have generously donated their time and talents to help us further our mission:

  • Tom Linton
  • Bill Weigt
  • Shalanndra Benally
  • Crystal Mercado
  • Charlotte Steele and grandmother (same name)
  • Olivia Wyatt

We appreciate your commitment to serving those in need and value the important role you have all played with the FSDS.

Photo Gallery

Enjoy these photos of our new pups practicing their perch work, and learning “place”.  Our advanced class took a ride on the lightrail and explored downtown Tempe to learn how to navigate public transportation and work with distractions.

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