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Smith: Bless the dogs, bust the cheaters

You know me, Mr. Nice Guy. But I'd like to see $500 citations slapped onto anyone who brings a pet dog onto a bus or into a restaurant or other business or public building and pretends that it's a trained and certified service animal.

I was glad to see Jeremy Hay's PD story on the issue as I've known of people who take their dogs into places where pets aren't permitted, then become righteously indignant if they're challenged about whether the animal is truly a service dog.

You would hope that the honor system would work here. You'd hope everyone would recognize how important it is that we suspend the No Dogs Allowed rule for disabled people who truly rely on a dog from one of Sonoma County's pioneer agencies, Canine Companions for Independence or the Bergin University for Canine Studies, or another bonafide service dog agency.

You'd hope it would be clear to all that this essential exemption for service dogs will become meaningless if it's routinely abused by people who go wherever they please with a dog that may well be a comforting pet but is not a true service dog.

My heart goes out to the disabled or blind person who's on a bus or at a restaurant with his or her trained dog, and he or she has no idea what the unofficial service dog that's approaching might do.

And it's a crime that the actions of those who place bogus vests on their dogs are unnecessarily putting business owners and bus drivers on the spot, and are causing genuine keepers of service-dogs to be regarded suspiciously and resented.

I'd like see service-dogs cheaters treated the same as people caught parking in a disabled-only space with a blue placard they're not entitled to. If it weren't for the hefty fines, I do believe every blue space would be taken up by an able-bodied someone fleecing the system.

The people who take their dogs everywhere and pretend they're service animals contend they're not hurting anyone but they are.

I might ask someone who defrauds the service-dog rules: If the ship is sinking or the ballroom is on fire and our only hope of getting everyone out safely lies in helping those with impairments to exit first, who may perish in the back because you faked your way to the front?

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