BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Aiming to stem a growing tide of dog owners declaring their dogs as “therapy pets,” printing fake identification cards and demanding access to food service locations including restaurants and supermarkets, the Boca Raton Pet Enforcement Team (BRPET) is initiating new enforcement procedures effective today.
Dog owners who are claiming that their pets are “therapy dogs” must follow these guidelines:
- Carry a doctor’s order at all times declaring your condition, the cause of the condition, and what function a therapy dog is providing to help you deal with your condition.
- Your dog must take a standardized test in which he or she will be put through various stressful situations to see how it reacts and what function it serves in dealing with these situations.
BRPET officials, which serve all of South Palm Beach County, say it’s taken too long for these rules to go into effect.
“The therapy dog ruse needs to be brought under control,” said Steve Shanklestein, executive director of enforcement. “If a Boca Raton or South Palm Beach County resident is so unable to function in the world that he or she needs a miniature schnauzer to effectively cope with crowds at Saks or Delray Market Place, then that resident really should be staying inside. Dogs are not humans, they’re dogs. They lick things, they go to the bathroom where they choose, and they often smell. They have no business being in stores, restaurants or supermarkets. The concept of therapy dogs is as laughable as it is sad.”
But Eileen Nussbaum of the “Therapy Pet Foundation For A Better Florida” says Shanklestein is wrong and the new rules are a disgrace.
“All you have to do is spell dog backwards to understand how important they are in our lives.”
BRPET Officers are authorized to issue one warning citation, then may confiscate the dog if its owner doesn’t have appropriate medical paperwork or if the animal fails the “stress test” more than once. Owners will be banned from bringing these animals into public locations. The owner’s photo and identifying information will be posted on a public Pet Authority website that store and restaurant managers can review to determine whether the “therapy pet” truly is anything more than an animal with fake ID.
Congress passed legislation last year excluding “Therapy Pet Individuals” from HIPPA protection, meaning that medical conditions of those claiming the need for therapy pet assistance is not protected from public review.