Yes, New Jersey should train its employees when it comes to service dogs (Opinion)
New Jersey is proposing a new bill that would require businesses to provide mandatory training for their employees when it comes to service dogs. This is on the heels of an incident that occurred in 2013 when a blind man was refused service because of his service dog. That particular incident occurred in Essex County.
As a result, New Jersey lawmakers recently drafted a bill that they believe would better address situations such as this and prevent them from becoming a problem in the future. This might sound like a good idea on the surface, but does it really address the core issue?
Essentially, what our elected officials proposed would make it easier for anyone to bring a dog into an establishment. Now, this may be welcomed news for people who have legitimate service dogs, but it also opens the door for anyone to bring their dog into a place of business and falsely claim they're a service animal.
Now yes, I do think they may be onto something here when it comes to New Jersey businesses providing training for their employees regarding service animals. However, what I believe they should be trained on isn't something the state would necessarily be on-board with.
I used to work in retail when I was younger. I wore multiple hats over the years from stocking the shelves, to inventory control, and even management of an entire store.
I worked for a big box company that specialized in supplies for offices and schools. And more often than not, many of the dogs brought into the store were not service animals.
How could you tell? Well for one, some of them barked at other people. Service dogs are very disciplined and know what their role is.
Service dogs also don't get dressed up in cute outfits and placed in handbags. We've had our share of witnessing this with small breeds. C'mon, you're not fooling anyone.
But you get the point. Many people abuse the laws we have in place and make it harder for those who legitimately need a service dog.
And this problem makes it extremely difficult for New Jersey's businesses. In my experience, we weren't allowed to say anything to the customers other than asking them if their animal was a service dog. And we had to take their word for it and hope they wouldn't get upset if we did decide to ask.
But anything beyond that, the waters got murky for us. We simply couldn't ask to see any verifying documents as that wasn't allowed for us to do.
So that left businesses defenseless and forced them to allow all dogs into the store. Even if the customer was obviously faking, we weren't allowed to confront or call them out.
This brings me to my point regarding businesses training their employees. But it's not something we can do... yet.
I would like to see employees trained on how to approach asking for proof that their dog is indeed a service animal. In addition, procedures should be in place regarding how to handle difficult customers who refuse to comply.
But in order for this to happen, the state needs to make it clear that businesses can ask for documentation. In addition to what's being proposed, they should also mandate all people with service animals have proof with them when entering an establishment that their dog is legally licensed for the service they provide.
If we can address that, then we can build from there and teach employers and employees how to handle people trying to pass their dog off as a service animal.
By no means am I suggesting we burden those who legally need a service dog with even more to worry about. In fact, I think it's a shame our laws are set up in such a way that encourages people to abuse the system and make it harder on everyone.
Actually, maybe our elected officials should require training for themselves and learn what difficult spot businesses are in when it comes to people pretending to have service animals. Unless something is done to provide the tools to stop those guilty of doing this, the proposed bill is simply a waste of everyone's time.
Also, keep in mind that elected officials work for us. So if they feel this is necessary for New Jersey businesses and their employees, then there's absolutely no reason why they should be excluded since they are employed by the citizens of New Jersey.
I know many of us have an opinion regarding this topic. See what Jeff Deminski had to say about it, along with more details regarding the proposed bill (Click here to check out his story).