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Service Dog Licensing at San Jose Animal Care Center

Posted by on November 10, 2012

So Today I went down to the San Jose Animal Care Center to license Arya. She has been doing so well lately and after a discussion with my doctor and my mentor with a service dog I decided it was time to take the next step.

If you happen to live in:

  • San Jose
  • Milpitas
  • Cupertino
  • Los Gatos
  • Saratoga

Like I do… Can go here to register/license their Dog (or cat). In San Jose under Ordinance 20128. 7.08.610 if you own you a dog or cat older than four months of age you are required to license your animal. I live in Milpitas and my internet searches do not find an ordinance here. However, the City of Milpitas website directs me to the San Jose Animal Care Center to license my dog. So there probably is a similar ordinance. I would guess that the other cities on the list would be similar to Milpitas too.

I have had Arya for a few months now and I have been holding off licensing her because there is a cost involved and I probably don’t need to say this… but with times how they are I had to save up.

When I got to the Animal Care Center there was a very nice lady working the desk and a standard ticket system for who is next. The wait was not to long for me and I explained that my I need to license my dog and also she is a service dog and I am aware that there is an affidavit that I should sign for that as well.

She called over Dottie Barney, a manager, to talk with me. Dottie and I sat down in the waiting area while the lady at the desk entered the rest of the info she needed for the licensing.  Dottie is charged with determining if the person and dog requesting service dog licensing are qualified. We actually had a really good conversation and I was very impressed with Dottie. She is faced with quite a challenge, one that I have hinted at here before and others before me. So many people want to have their dogs with them at all times and this desire creates a need to find solutions. Since service dogs are required by law to be allowed to go where the public goes this seems to be the solution. The challenge here is that the way the laws are written. They are quite vague, and rightfully so. There are so many ways a service dog can be trained to support someones medical needs. However, there it the problem… There are some many way to say that your dog supports your needs… The real challenge is in that are those needs recognized as a disability AND is the dog trained. Dottie is faced with having to make this determination with very limited legal questions she can ask.

So what can she ask? Same things I have covered in my long post on Service Dogs. Basically are you disabled and is your dog trained. Dottie did a great job of being delicate in her questions she also asked if I have a handicap placard. Now this is not a given that all handicap people will have but in my case my dog supports a physical need, and it would make sense to have a handicap placard. She did ask what can Arya do, and this is a question that is noted in the laws.

After, these few questions Dottie shared that she sometimes has to turn down applications, and she feels frustrated by the lack of clear rules. Sometimes it is easy when someone calls from another county or city that is not supported by her office but other times the training or the explanation of the disability does not seem to match. I can sympathize that these lines can become very thin.

So what would I suggest for Dottie? Or more importantly for you going to see or talk to Dottie?

Well in my religious life there is a phrase, “If you were put on trial for being Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Not at all that I felt like I was on trial… this is more for you deciding if you should make the call to Dottie…

Training – is you dog trained? What proof do you have? Is it just yes my dog does not go to the bathroom in my house and sits when I tell it to? Or have you done formal training? In my case we have done months of certified training and continue toward the Canine Good Citizen certification. I have certificates at home showing that I have trained my dog. Would I need to show them? NO! But do I have the confidence of a professional trainer has stated that my dog has reached a valid level of training? Yes.

Medical need – Do you need a service dog for a medical need? What proof do you have? You do not need to say what your handicap is. That would be crossing the legal lines… but do you have a handicap plate? If you have a disability you most likely wear a medical alert tag. There are so many ways that you can help yourself here. It all depends on your medical issue. At least in this one time be proud of what the government has done to help you ease your condition and help Dottie and people like her that are in the same position in other counties.

Now none of this is required. Like I have said the law is very vague. But also keep in mind that Dottie is protecting you and so many other people when she is trying her best to determine the need.

For a second lets look at it from another side… If Dottie did not do her due diligence and licensed every dog that a request came for what would happen? Yes, dogs that are not trained and people who are not disabled would have service dogs. So what is so bad about that? Then business owners would be put in more pressure to protect themselves. There would be no standard for what a service dog is. Also, there are laws in some places (California for one) that cover even jail time for if a service dog is harmed as well as monetary damages. The list of dominoes that could fall is very long.

So we are left with a few people like Dottie… Doing their best to gently and politely make a decision that have legal impacts without having access to clear legal definitions.

I applaud Dottie for how she did her job today. And I ask you, since she can not, that if you go to see her… make it clear that you can be convicted of the charge of having a service dog… if you are not 100% sure you can, then in my opinion, you are not ready to see her yet.