Service Dogs and their Owners Have it Ruff-Ruff at UConn

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Service Dogs for Heroes — a Veteran Benefits from Life with a Service Dog.

Our canine companions offer a great source of comfort and reverence. Many of us cannot help but dart over to pet that adorable golden retriever or German shepherd on our way to classes, and of course our university mascot, Jonathan the Husky, makes his presence known whenever he roams around campus. However, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that certain animals have other duties to attend to besides licking our faces and presenting their bellies for us to rub. One recent incident highlights the ruff-ruff experience of UConn service dogs and their owners, along with the ways in which we can improve it.

On Feb. 9, UConn student Becky Romano aired out her grievances on the Facebook Buy or Sell page. In her post, Romano asks that students not pet her service dog, Luna, for she is not an emotional support animal or anything of that ilk (specifically speaking, Romano claims that her service dog helps her recover quickly from the onset of panic attacks). Romano also requests that students withhold their urge to take photos of her and her dog, reasoning that “when you take photos of us, not only does it make me uncomfortable, but it’s also an invasion of privacy and quite frankly it’s rude.” Lastly, Romano includes a photo of her and her dog for identification’s sake, alongside three photos of informative posters regarding how best to handle an encounter with a service dog team. Needless to say, fellow students’ lack of consideration for Romano’s situation appears to be a significant pet peeve for her and her service dog.

In the aftermath of this situation, we must ensure that we behave more cautiously around service dog teams. As much as we may be licking our chops to destress and remind ourselves of home, we ought to control our deepest temptations and simply ignore service dogs altogether. After all, virtually any kind of interaction can disrupt a service dog’s duties, and it is rather easy to identify service dogs via their “do not pet” vests. Instead of invading service dog teams’ personal space, we should respect their privacy and only approach them if they explicitly permit us to do so. Ultimately, we should abide by official university protocol and avoid interfering with service and emotional support animals.

Clearly, we’re barking up the wrong tree by messing with a service dog’s day-to-day responsibilities. Perhaps we should throw her and her owner a bone and allow said dog to work without distraction; then we can finally put a muzzle over situations in this vein.


Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email michael.katz@uconn.edu.

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