Public Access Follow-Up

Over the past month, the FSDS has worked diligently to follow-up on the recent access challenge at Bearizona Wildlife Park.  For our teams, this is an excellent learning case as this particular challenge was multifaceted.  The questions that were raised are:

  • Is Bearizona in violation of the law for failing to provide adequate facilities for the confinement of service dogs under ARS 11-1024?
  • How does the law view the “reasonable accommodation” plan that the park has in place, in terms of Animal Cruelty Law?

In order to be able to provide our readers with reliable information, the FSDS has sought out the assistance of legal and regulatory bodies.

  • To answer the legal questions we contacted the AZ Attorney General’s Office, and they have indicated a willingness to take the complaint if the handler involved wishes to pursue this
  • To address the requirement that a facility must maintain a safe confinement area,  we contacted the U.S.Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), as they are charged with the responsibility of inspecting zoos and wildlife parks, requesting that:
    • An on-site inspection be conducted to ensure that the park establishes a safe confinement area for service dogs that meets the standards in both AZ service dog and animal welfare laws, and
    • The facility be provided with education on service dog laws to assist them in compliance, moving forward

Public Access: The Current Dilemna

Public access challenges are an unfortunate reality in the lives of most, if not all, service dog teams.  At the current time, we believe that at least some of these challenges are a “push-back” from the community in response to the mounting problem of fake service dogs in public.  This has undermined public confidence and left many businesses wondering which SDs are credible, and what the risks to their business will be if not.  What is clear to all is that there is a need for public education on this topic.  What is unclear is which places present the greatest challenges or where the main thrust of our efforts needs to be placed.  Anecdotally, there are many stories of challenges.  The reality for SD Program Directors across the State is that we have a limited view of the magnitude of the problem, and this is due to the fact that we only become aware of a problem when one of our own teams brings it to our attention.  Based upon the reports we receive, it is our current belief that:

  • A handler is able to correct most challenges on any given day, and does not pursue a report
  • The vast majority of those reports to Program Directors are able to be corrected by our intervention
  • Only a fraction of a percent of all reports require the attention of DOJ, the State Attorney General or another regulatory body
  • We are witnessing a new generation of public access challenge, whereby legitimate teams feel forced to leave a public place in order to remove their team from contact with a poorly or untrained team that is not in control

As Program Directors are the “go-betweens” it is important that we devise a reliable system of collecting information regarding this problem.  It is only through a clear understanding of the problem that we will be able to advocate for the types of changes to public education that will truly address the issues our teams face.  We further understand that public access challenges are shared by all teams, and in order to gather the sort of statistics required to produce change we need to be able to access reports from the greatest number of teams possible, and the SD community needs to report the same data in one unified voice.

To this end, the FSDS has contacted several other service dog training programs located in different geographic regions of Arizona, to request cooperation in this effort.  An agreement has been reached with a small handful of these programs to work collaboratively and build a joint reporting form that can be used by all teams, regardless of where and how the team has trained.  Skilled individuals from each program, with expertise in data collection and analysis, will monitor these reports and be able to identify patterns regarding access challenges.  This is an exciting development, as it represents the first time that AZ programs will join forces and work collaboratively to problem-solve.  The message to our teams, and to the State, is that we stand united in our efforts to improve the daily reality of SD teams.

We have jointly devised a short and simple report form that can be used by teams.  The link to this form is on the websites of all participating programs.  SD teams across the State are urged to report all challenges, whether or not they are able to resolve them.  This will be necessary to produce the numbers needed to lend significance to the data.  We will notify readers when this becomes available.  Remember that you have a choice- you can be a part of the solution by reporting, or a part of the problem by remaining silent.  This unified effort permits every team who has ever been challenged to lend their voice to the solution.

If you have experienced an access challenge, please proceed to the reporting form.

 Classroom News

SAMSUNG CSCEstrella Mountain Campus– This past month our teams have been learning to work with distractions, maintain a stay in public places and master recall.  To this end, they have made several trips to local parks in order to provide the dogs with real life experiences.  While there, teams have been greeting the public, providing education on service dogs, and also allowing the public to greet their dogs in order to prepare the dogs for the “greeting a friendly stranger” stations on the upcoming Canine Good Citizen and Public Access Tests.  We wish to thank our Intern Instructor Lisette Borja, and student trainer Joslyn Jendry for filming a CPR training video for our program, and Joslyn for her extraordinary job in teaching food “leave-its” to her SDIT Remy.  Pictured at right, Remy demonstrates exceptional mastery of this skill!

Paradise Valley Campus– It seems like only yesterday that we welcomed a quiet and shy group of teens to the FSDS.  Two short years later, we are on the verge of graduating a competent and confident group of young adults from our training program.  Graduation is a bittersweet time for our teams.  On one hand there is the sadness in knowing that the time has come to send their dogs to their new handlers.  On the other hand, there is tremendous pride for these extraordinary young adults in knowing that in their young lives they have managed to make a huge positive impact on their community.  Students are aware that this is not good-bye, as many will stay in touch with their recipients and dogs.  Just as their parents must now prepare to send their students out into the world to attend college, so must the students prepare to send their dogs out into the world to work.

To our graduating students– we are so very proud of each and every one of you.  Take pride in knowing that you have made a real difference in the lives of your recipients, and in the lives of every member of the community who you have helped to educate over the course of the past two years.  Remember that while it is important to be good at what you do, it is also important to be a good person while you are doing it.  Your classroom performance indicates that you are good at what you do.  Your actions in mentoring your recipients, and turning over the leash on graduation day indicates that you are good people.  The amount of good that you have accomplished is immeasurable.  We hope that you will long remember the sense of personal satisfaction and joy that can only come from giving of yourself to others.  You are on a good path, and we hope that here you will remain for all of your life.  A life spent in service to others is a life well-lived.  Congratulations to all of you.

To our parents– take pride in knowing that your years of sacrifice and hard work in raising these wonderful young adults has paid off.  We wish to express our sincere appreciation to you for allowing us the privilege and honor of working with your son / daughter.  We also wish to express our appreciation for opening up your hearts and homes to our SDITS and for the love and care you have provided to them over the course of the training program.  On graduation day, look into the eyes of your recipient to witness their joy and relief in knowing that the help that they have long dreamed of has arrived.  Know that you have played a crucial role in making this happen.

Outreach Program

Just a reminder that effective June 1st, 2015 all teams applying for certification will be required to complete the SD 101: Orientation Course for handlers.  Certification is not just about the dog, it is about the team, and it is crucial that handlers receive appropriate education in order for them to be able to function effectively in public.  Given the mounting public access challenges we are witnessing, handlers face increasing obstacles in their daily work.  It is imperative that we provide our handlers with the necessary education to assist them in navigating these hurdles safely and successfully.

Canine First Aid and CPR Training

We are accepting names of individuals who are interested in attending a Canine first Aid and CPR class this summer.  The class will be most likely held in north Glendale, exact dates TBA- and pending interest.  This class is open to all individuals ages 12 and older.  With school out for the summer, this is a perfect opportunity for youths who have pets at home, or seek to pet-sit to earn money.  This is a 6 hours class, and is a perfect day event for those students who are not attending summer camp.  This comprehensive class covers topics that include but are not limited to prevention of illness and injury, puppy-proofing your home, nutrition and wellness, heat and cold emergencies, bites and stings, poisoning emergencies and the basics of first aid and CPR.  All individuals who successfully complete the class will receive their 3 year certification.  The cost is $75 per person.

Our Sincere Thanks To

  • Dr. and Mrs. Albert Amshel for their donation of $50
  • Norman Palmer for his donation of $25
  • Betty S. Ponto for her donation of $20
  • Robert and Cynthia F. Simon for their donation of $20
  • Dwain and Karen Carlson for their donation of $100

We are grateful to these wonderful individuals for their support of our mission to provide fully certified service dogs at no out-of-pocket cost to military veterans, first responders and others who have served our community and our nation.

Graduation 2015

A reminder to all students and recipients to turn in their guest lists to teachers ASAP.  We must provide the caterer with a final head count and need to have the lists finalized by no later than May 4th.

We recently received lovely notes from some of our recipients from last year, who are all  enjoying an improved quality of life thanks to the hard work of our students, and the assistance of their service dogs.

Felicia was awarded “Breezy”, and wrote to say that she and Breezy have just completed their first year of college, and were the first service dog team to be inducted into the Honors Institute.  They completed an internship, and were just hired as summer counselors at a camp.  Felicia was thrilled when the camp staff sent a new hire letter to Breezy as well!  They plan to participate in an arthritis walk in the near future.  Breezy was credited with saving her life shortly after graduation last year.  When Felicia had an adverse reaction to a chemical, Breezy alerted the family to trouble by waking them up in the middle of the night.    The family rushed Felicia to the hospital where the physicians told her that her dog had saved her life.

Sean was awarded “Addie” and together they have done well in college.  Sean is completing his degree in Jewish studies and plans to be a Rabbi.  He reports that Addie has learned to alert him to changes in his medical condition, and is able to assist him in navigating curbs and steps, and providing balance and support.  Sean enjoys greater mobility thanks to the presence of Addie and is grateful to the student who trained her.


Photo Gallery

apr2apr1apr5apr9apr8apr11apr12Dustin and Leisel George and Porter Roger_Willow Tione Heather Storck