If you are a guide dog user who has traveled to or from the state of California or spent time in that state, and/or if you anticipate traveling with your guide dog to California, the California Council of the Blind urges you to consider taking the following action: Contact the Legislative Committee described below to express your opposition to continuing support for the State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind…(Read More)
The 2017 GDUI Elections will commence on Saturday, May 27 at 12:00 A.M. EDT, and run through Sunday, June 4, 2017 at 11:59 PM (EDT).
GDUI is seeking candidates for two (2) positions in our May 2017 elections: 2 Director Seats (3 Year Term)…(Read More)
Special Announcement: The GDUI Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program (DAPP)
October 6, 2016
We want to share this information about GDUI’s Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program with all of our members and friends – and all of their guide dogs – who are living right now in the path of Hurricane Matthew. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers, and if, as a consequence of this, or any natural disaster, you need our help to provide care for your dogs, we want to be there for you.
The new chair of the DAPP Committee is Will Burley. The best way to reach the committee is to call GDUI’s toll-free number: 866.799.8436.
Because we know that adversity can befall any one of us, leaving us with few resources and even fewer places to turn for help, Guide Dog Users Inc. offers the Disaster Assistance and preparedness Program (DAPP). The Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program is available to GDUI members who are teamed with a guide dog. The DAPP fund was created in June 2011 with the funding provided by a private donation.
GDUI members with working dogs recovering from a catastrophic event can apply for a stipend to purchase dog food and other essential supplies on behalf of their working dogs.
We encourage all GDUI members who are currently working with guide dogs to read the instructions outlined below carefully; if you find yourselves facing financial crisis in caring for your dog as a result of a natural disaster or catastrophic event, please call or e-mail and ask us for help.
Who can apply
- Once the application is submitted, the proposed funds shall be issued only to a current GDUI member with a current working guide dog.
- Guide dog and handler must have been directly and negatively impacted by a recent disaster and in need of financial assistance for the well-being of the working dog.
- GDUI’s Disaster Assistance and Preparedness Program funds will be available for three (3) weeks from the first date of a known and declared disaster.
- Each GDUI member with a guide dog will be allowed a onetime monetary assistance grant of $50.00 after the application is processed.
- Prior to releasing any funds, the applicant’s required information and qualifications will be verified and approved by the DAPP committee.
- Upon approval, the funds will be issued by GDUI ‘Treasurer (or designee), to the applicant or directly to a vendor such as a pet food store or veterinarian depending on each circumstance.
- An applicant must live in the affected area and have been negatively impacted. Additionally, the working guide dog must be in immediate need of resources to ensure proper daily care, food, medicine, veterinary intervention and/or to meet other needs.
How to Apply
Please note, in the event the handler does not have any means of contacting GDUI due to the present disaster, he/she may have one of the following individuals or organizations communicate on his/her behalf: family member, friend, veterinary hospital or clinic, Humane Society, Red Cross/hospital, Salvation Army, religious institution, local or acting police or fire department or similar agency.
Depending on the individual circumstances, additional assistance may be requested by the applicant, based upon prior approval by the DAPP committee for possible additional funds.
- The approved funds may be issued in the form of a gift card from a known store which carries pet/dog supplies or tendered as a pre-paid credit card. Funds may also be directly transferred to a Veterinarian or Veterinary hospital or clinic. The monies may also be issued by a GDUI check or money order, wire transfer or other means depending on the handler’s circumstances. The means of issued funds will be determined by the treasurer (or designee) in consultation with the applicant.
- All information submitted to GDUI by the applicant may be used by the GDUI Board of Directors or committee of the Board for purposes of determining approval of the application. All information will be held in the strictest of confidence. A news release may be issued but the name of the recipient and/or guide dog will be kept confidential per applicant’s request.
***Exceptions of Eligibility*** The Disaster Assistance & Preparedness Program is not available for a retired guide dog, a puppy in training and / or puppy raiser, or any household pet.
***APPLICATION Process*** All necessary information is required before any funds will be issued. Required Information: The following information may be provided by telephone, text message, or e-mail before eligibility is determined. We are sympathetic to the high stress levels experienced by both guide dog handlers and their dogs, and we will do our best to secure all the required information so we can respond quickly. Please have the following information ready when making initial contact:
- Handlers full name, home address, city, state, zip code and phone number(s), at the time of the disaster.
- If applicant’s living situation is unsustainable, i.e., homeless/shelter/family/friends, GDUI require the following information: the name of the shelter, the name of the shelter director, and phone number of the shelter. If staying with family or friends, please provide the name, address and phone number of new location.
How to Contact GDUI DAPP Volunteer Staff: Applicants and/or those assisting the applicant should call or Email GDUI’s Office Manager at this Toll-Free Number: 866.799.8436. Our office manager will follow up quickly with the DAPP Committee and GDUI’s treasurer so that you can receive the help you urgently need as quickly as possible.
ACAA Update Announcement
Dear GDUI Members and Friends, The information included in Jenine Stanley’s update below will be interesting to everyone who travels via U. S. air carriers with their guide dogs. I thank Jenine Stanley for sharing this update with our members. It will also be included in GDUI’s upcoming PawTracks issue. Please don’t hesitate to contact Jenine <email@example.com>, or me <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or Tony Stephens email@example.com with any concerns or suggestions that you may have. We’re closing in on the date of the final committee meetings, by which time we will either succeed in improving the regulations that guarantee our civil rights when we fly or the RegNeg process will end in a stalemate. I hope that the disability community succeeds in improving the regulations which implement the Air Carrier Access Act. Making the kind of progress that will diminish the number of encounters with untrained pets we may have to endure while traveling through airports and flying is especially important to those of us who depend on our guide dogs and service animals to improve our safety and comfort in all environments, whether on the ground or in the air.[BEGINNING OF ARTICLE]
An Update Regarding the Air Carrier Access Act Regulations-Negotiations Process
Jenine Stanley[GDUI President’s Introduction: Early in 2016, the U. S. Department of Transportation announced and convened a formal process for negotiating changes in the regulations which implement the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the law that guarantees certain civil rights protections to people with disabilities who wish to fly on American air carriers, and allows people with disabilities to acquire the accommodations they need in order to fly safely. Although GDUI applied for membership – as a stakeholder – on the formal committee which is negotiating changes in ACAA regulations, the Department did not grant our request to participate as members of the formal committee. Fortunately, Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy and Legislation for the American Council of the Blind, and Jenine Stanley, a former president of GDUI and an employee of the Guide Dog Foundation, have been representing our needs and our positions admirably at formal committee meetings and during the negotiations process. I have been participating as a member of the Service Animals Working Group, which meets via conference call in-between formal committee meetings and which serves to advise committee members.
The first formal ACAA RegNeg Committee meeting was held in early May, and the Committee has been meeting for several days each month since then. The U. S. Department of Transportation ruled, from the very beginning, that all negotiations would be completed in October. The next, and final committee meeting will take place on October 12-14.
Below is Jenine’s summary of the negotiation process that has taken place thus far. GDUI appreciates hers and Tony’s active participation and advocacy on our behalf. By the time you read this article, the negotiation process will have ended, and hopefully, we will be able to anticipate changes in the regulations regarding Service Dogs, Psychiatric Service Animals, and Emotional Support Animals that will make flying safer and more comfortable for us and for our guide dogs. Below you will find Jenine’s update. I encourage you to contact me or Tony Stephens or Jenine, or the U. S. Department of Transportation, with any concerns that you may have about the negotiations or their outcome. Thank you, Jenine, for your hard work on our behalf and for providing this update for PawTracks readers.]
Several people have asked about the meetings I’m participating in regarding the Air Carrier Access Act changes. Here’s the long and short of this process which began in May.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) put out a call for representatives of the disability community, organizations and airlines to take part in a Negotiated Regulation process called, strangely enough, a “Reg-Neg process.” This system is designed to pull together experts in the subject matter to craft proposed regulatory language for the DOT to review and use in its Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for given issues. This particular Reg-Neg is unusual in that there are 3 separate issues being discussed, access to In-Flight Entertainment (IFE), provision of accessible lavatories on single-aisle aircraft (Lav) and definition of Service Animals (SA). The reason I’m using abbreviations here is that this is how we refer to the 3 groups.
In this Reg-Neg, 25 people have been convened to form the ACCESS Committee. I represent the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs and in essence, the organized service animal training community. Other representatives include American Council of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind, Psychiatric Service Dog partners and National Alliance on Mental Illness, among a host of others from the airline industry. If any one would like a link to the site established for this committee, let me know privately. I do not think I have the authority to post it here.
In the beginning of this process we assembled based on several factors. DOT recognizes that the system of defining service animals under the ACAA is not working in practice. As a result, safety concerns regarding service animal handlers, fraud by members of the public who either do not have qualifying disabilities or just want to fly their pets at no cost, and the erosion of civil rights for people with disabilities who work with service animals are rampant.
Our goal on the 19-member Service Animal Working Group (that’s 19 voting members) is to come up with a proposal that changes the definition of service animal in ways that eliminate as much risk of fraud, while minimizing damage to our animals and our civil rights. The Working Group (SAWG) is made up of voting members of the ACCESS Committee and many others from the service animal community. The list of SAWG members is available. There are 5 people serving as co-chairs of this committee from the “Advocate” side, me among them. The groups represented besides mine are: Paralyzed Veterans of America, Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, National Alliance of Mental Illness and Independent Association of Canine Professionals. (We’ve been working from a list of around 15 points involving this definition for the past 5 months now. Below, I will try to explain the key, or tent pole issues of this list and why it’s taking so long to do something you’d think was not rocket science.
Before we get started, let’s get one thing clear. The ADA does not apply in any way, other than for comparison, to what we will discuss. The Air Carrier Access Act is the set of regulations to which we refer. OK, got that? Got it.
So, why is the ACAA service animal definition broken you ask? Right now it allows for animals of a wide variety of species to be recognized as service animals. This means turkeys, birds and yes, even pigs, fly…free…as service animals, if the passenger says they are service animals.
That’s at least true for the majority of animals trained to do work or perform tasks to help with someone’s disability. This training also includes public exposure or access training so the animal not only does things for us but also is accustom to behaving properly in public places and chaotic environments like airports and airplane cabins.
There are 2 subcategories of the broad definition of service animal that some people may not understand. Each of these has different requirements.
Psychiatric Service Animals (PSAs) are exactly like my guide dog in that they have been trained to do work and perform tasks to help someone with a psychiatric disability. They have also had public access/exposure training as part of their ability to be with their handlers in public places. Nowhere else in civil rights access law are people who work with dogs that perform such functions forced to provide the proof they are under the ACAA. PSA handlers must provide the airline with a letter, on the letterhead of a mental health professional, which includes a stated diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSm5) as a justification for the animal.
This same letter must be provided if someone has the last category of animal, and Emotional Support Animal or ESA. ESAs have no formal training to do work or tasks and though some may have degrees of public access/exposure training, not all do. ESAs do though help their users through their presence, keeping the person calm, grounded, etc., during the stressful time of flying or during activities at their destination.
Given those definitions, you can see how confusing this is already. Add to that a growing industry of on-line providers of vests, certificates, medical letters and more to be able to get your pet deemed a PSA or ESA or even a standard service animal, to avoid the $150 and up fees for bringing pets aboard air carriers, and you have a recipe for disaster.
There is also very little ability to enforce control over animals that misbehave either at the airport or on the plane due to fear of social media reprisal against the airlines.
We’ve identified 3 tent pole issues in this situation. A tent pole issue is one that is critical to continuing the process, i.e., we can’t go to sleep until we put up the tent and we can’t put up the tent until we find and work together to erect the tent poles. Hope that makes sense because many people aren’t familiar with that term in a process like this apparently.
Our 3 issues are: Species limitations, whether or not to even include ESAs, and what type of documentation/verification/justification people would provide to claim their accommodation of having an animal travel with them.
Species limitations sounds like a simple thing on which to agree. Not so. There have been several proposals put forward by both airlines and advocates. Both industry and advocate groups agreed initially that Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSAs) should be melted into the general definition of service animal without documentation requirement. Both sides also agreed that there should be 2 distinct and separate definitions, one for “service animal” and one for Emotional Support Animal (ESA). This would allow for different treatment of each type of animal and lessen the confusion and stigma associated for ESA and PSA users. DOT also provided us with “springboard language” from which to work. Unfortunately, DOT did not see our distinction of separating the definitions but does say that if this is something both sides support, it can’t be ignored.
All of these proposals limit the types of animals to dogs. Some proposals add cats as there seem to be some advocates who can cite examples of service cats.
The side that opposes adding cats does ask for a specific timeline for DOT to review the use of other species. DOT can review aspects of regulations any time it wants but by making a specific request to do so within a time period, it’s more likely to happen.
I’m on the no cats for now side and base my logic on the 2010 update to species in the ADA. The Department of Justice chose dogs for a number of reasons.
I can say with a fair amount of certainty that most service dog training programs agree with this view.
We have also given handlers of miniature horses some access similar to what is done under the ADA definition, because it has been done. We included Capuchin Monkeys as having similar limited access so they may fly with their handlers. Such monkeys are professionally trained to provide disability mitigation in a person’s home. The monkey *must* remain in its carrier throughout the flight though as they do not have public access/exposure training.
OK, that’s issue 1. We all seem to agree on service animals having the ADA type definition, doing work and performing tasks and having public access/exposure training, and also being at the very least, dogs, miniature horses and Capuchin monkeys.
Emotional Support Animals, should they be included and if so, what species should be allowed?
The species question is, in part, key to the initial question, should there still be a category of ESA?
Early in this process we asked the airlines to show us the scope, from their data, of problems or incidents involving any type of “service animal”. We learned several things from this information. 1. Airlines do not keep records of incidents involving service animals of any stripe. They need to tease this information out of all incident reports in many cases, which is why we don’t call it data.
- Airlines often don’t distinguish or even know the difference between an ESA, a PSA and a service animal. They specifically have difficulty between the first two types of animals as they both require the same level of documentation, something the gate and flight crews rarely see.
- The number and severity of incidents involving “ESAs” was significantly higher than it was for traditional service animals. Incidents primarily involved arguments about proper documentation but also involved animal misbehavior, including biting flight crews and other passengers. People with traditional service animals report having their animals growled at, lunged at and yes, attacked by animals whose owners claim they are ESAs.
This would tell many people that ESAs are a bad idea and should be removed from consideration. Many airlines and advocacy groups have this view, based on the fraud or lack of education of ESA owners.
The SAWG though wants to be sure not to penalize those who truly do need an ESA and handle their animals responsibly. We are including them but under a separate definition.
In our first straw pole on the issue, it appeared the airlines agree with this point.
Where we all disagree is in the number of species represented and the restrictions placed upon ESAs that are not placed upon traditional service animals. Remember, we’ve pretty much agreed that Psychiatric Service Animals are now included in the traditional service animal definition.
There are several positions among the Advocates about species and containment of ESAs. I’ll outline them here with the designation AP1, etc., as they are in our materials.
AP1. ESAs are dogs, cats and rabbits. All ESAs must fit into FAA-approved pet carriers and must be in those carriers unless providing disability mitigation. When doing so, they must be on the person’s lap and connected to the person by a leash or tether. If the animal is not behaving according to the behavior standards laid out in the ACAA (which are already there by the way, the flight crew can require that the animal be put back into the pet carrier for the remainder of the flight.
AP2. ESAs are dogs, cats and rabbits. Cats and rabbits must be in FAA-approved pet carriers but can come out for disability mitigation. They also can be required by the flight crew to be put back into the carriers if misbehaving. Dogs have no size limitation but if they are well-behaved, they can enter the aircraft and remain outside a carrier. If they are knowingly not well behaved, they must remain in the carrier, with the same rules as for cats and rabbits.
AP3. Only dogs that can fit into FAA-approved carriers are ESAs. ESAs cannot be removed from carriers.
The DOT has a position in its “springboard document” similar to AP3 but dogs have no size limitation and no carrier restriction.
All animals, service or ESA, must be under the control of their owners and must have leashes or tethers unless providing disability mitigation that prohibits them, such as distance retrieves. (This is taken almost directly from the 2010 ADA wording on control, by the way.)
Now, guess which position I hold? Yes, AP1. It makes little sense not to allow animals whose purpose is to assist through their presence, i.e., being able to hold and pet them. The rules for pet carriers are the same as those for baggage that goes under the seats, so the animals would not be available during the most stressful parts of the flight. Requiring them to remain in carriers defeats their purpose and stigmatizes them as “pets who fly free” or “fakes”.
AP1 also allows for the animal to be returned to the carrier if it is not providing a service to the person. Since most incidents we’ve heard involve ESAs, we want a means of controlling them and removing them from other service animals, passengers and flight crew. This cannot be done for larger dogs if allowed.
Honestly, this particular aspect of the regulation definition has split the Advocates in several directions. I’d urge anyone considering commenting to remember why this Reg-Neg was convened. Safety for service animal teams was one of the paramount concerns expressed by advocates. Given that fraud, either intentional or through lack of education, is also an issue, particularly with ESAs, we regret that AP1 limits access for those with larger dogs as ESAs, but something has to give to achieve the goals here. We do appreciate your support for AP1.
This is by far the most controversial part of the entire definition. The current state of play is that if you have a traditional service animal, you are not required to do anything, other than possibly answer the two questions allowed under the ADA as well as the ACAA, which are:
“Is that a service animal required because of a disability?”
“How does that animal assist you with your disability?”
These two questions can be asked by airline staff. They cannot ask, however, anything specific, such as “What is your disability?”, “Can you demonstrate the dog’s work?”, “What’s the dog’s breed, weight, size, training provider,…
If you have a PSA or ESA, you must provide a letter, 48 hours in advance of your flight, stating your diagnosis and that the animal is necessary. This letter must be on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional and must include their name, address and license number. The letter is good for 1 year.
In theory this sounds good enough to prevent fraud. In practice, it’s just the opposite. Many reading this post can show lots of examples of where to get credentials for your pet on line to transform it into either and ESA, with a real doctor’s note, or a traditional service animal.
AP1. Since the airlines feel more secure with some type of assurance that we are who we say we are and that our animals are what we claim, traditional service animals or ESAs, we have come up with a decision tree concept. This is a form that goes something like this:
I am traveling with an animal. Yes/No
If yes: My animal is a(n( Pet/ESA/Service Animal
If Service Animal, then some language would appear that says you attest to the fact that you do have a qualifying disability, not what that disability is, but that you have one, and you require this animal to assist with said disability.
You will also attest to the fact that the animal has been trained and will remain under your control, and that you are responsible for damages caused by the animal.
This short data form would be filled out as soon after your ticket purchase has been confirmed as possible. Just how that will happen is not yet clear but suggestions include the form being part of the ticket reservation process on an airline’s web site or 3rd party ticket seller’s site, an email being sent with the confirmation of ticket purchase with a link to the form on the airline’s entry site, etc.
This data form would need to be completed by anyone traveling with a service animals or ESA no less than 12 hours prior to the flight. If you don’t get it done prior to the flight, you may be required to do so at the airport, may be asked for additional documentation or may be asked to take another flight, giving you time to complete the form.
If you have done so ahead of time though the airline cannot ask you anything else about your animal (dog in most cases). This does not apply to any other type of assistance requested or offered by the airline involving your disability, such as meet and assist. It just means you won’t get questions about your dog from the airline staff.
Arguments on this point are quite vehement. People with traditional service animals have not been asked to do anything extra to gain access to flights with their animals. Many people feel that this is discriminatory and that identifying themselves ahead of time to the airlines as a person with a disability primes the staff for inappropriate and often infantilizing treatment.
I can’t argue that. It happens.
Unfortunately we are at the point though where the regulations involving animals on flights have come to a tipping point of safety. Cabin space is at a premium. In order to secure our rights, sadly, we are going to have to start notifying the airline of a need for the accommodation of having our service animals with us.
The airlines would rather we *all* got a 3rd party to verify that we have disabilities and that we need our animals for said disability mitigation.
What do we get by checking boxes on this form? Good question.
We, not a 3rd party, are responsible for the accommodation request. The airlines can deal with us directly if there is any question about our animals. Completing the form holds someone who is fraudulently representing themselves or their animals to a legal standard for which they can be punished by law if found guilty. For many people that threat is enough to stop them from completing the form and taking their pet, who has never been out of their yard, on an airplane.
The airlines do truly want to stop people who *are not disabled* from claiming accommodations designed for those who are. Yes, there’s a financial component on their side but the people we deal with on the ACCESS Committee and SAWG are very angry that people would disrespect people with disabilities and the work that goes into maintaining the training of a service dog, just to get something free. They see much more of this rampant fraud than we do directly.
My final word on this is that we need to realize, unfortunate as the “group slap” mentality is, that we are going to have to justify our need for our animals in some form, across the board. People who use other assistive devices have to do so as well under certain conditions. No, a national registry of “legitimate service dogs” will not work.
The airlines are looking into ways of voluntarily keeping your information about your animal in some type of passenger profile, be it your frequent flyer account or other information so you don’t have to check every box, every time. They are also looking at how you would deal with canceled flights or stand-by situations, even switching airlines during a trip. Trust me, thanks to discussing this with many different people, we’ve tried to think of everything.
Finally, if we don’t agree to this concept in some form, it will be forced upon us by DOT. That’s not necessarily a threat. It’s just a reality.
I appreciate any questions regarding this process. the final meetings for this Reg-Neg will take place October 12 – 14 in Washington, DC. The public is welcome to attend.
(End of Article)
Guide Dog Users Inc., (GDUI), is the leading consumer-driven organization of guide dog handlers in the world. GDUI is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and is a founding member of the Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations (CADO).
We strive to promote civil rights and enhance the quality of life for working guide dog teams. Drawing on the experiences and varied knowledge of its members, GDUI provides peer support, advocacy and information to guide dog users everywhere. In addition, GDUI works with public entities, private businesses and individuals to ensure that guide dog users enjoy the same rights to travel, employment, housing, and participation in all aspects of life that people without disabilities enjoy.
The collective knowledge and experience of GDUI’s members drives constructive dialogue breaking down barriers of ignorance, opening doors for those of us men and women who live and work proudly and independently partnered with a well-trained guide dog.
The information and helpful resources shared here on GuideDogUsersInc.org are provided as a service to all who are interested in the guide dog and handler partnership. We invite you to explore our website and to become a part of GDUI!
Dear GDUI Members and Friends,
Two Important Deadlines Rapidly Approaching This Coming Week End! The first is the last possible date for you to get your application in to be chosen as one of two to receive a substantial stipend to help you with expenses associated with attending the GDUI Convention....Read More »
Dear GDUI Members and Friends,
Board Meeting Recording: If you missed our board meeting on Saturday, you can listen to the proceedings from beginning to end by using Dropbox or SendSpace or simply dialing your phone. Here’s the information you need from Sarah:
Hello GDUI members and friends,
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Dear GDUI Members and Friends,
GDUI Board to Meet on Saturday, March 18, 2017! Don’t miss our board meeting this coming Saturday. Every member, and every one of our friends, is a welcomed guest at our GDUI Board meetings. The meeting will begin at 1:00 p.m., EDT – That’s 10:00 a.m....Read More »
This is what Discrimination against a guide dog user who is flying with her guide dog sounds like! Check out Jonathan Mosen’s weekly podcast, The Blind Side, for this week, in which Jonathan interviews Sue Martin about her horrendous experience on March 1, of being bullied, refused appropriate seating, and...Read More »