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Skateboarders are terrorizing service dogs

By Thor Halverson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 23, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Thor Halverson

The UA and the UAPD's actions have been unsatisfactory to date in dealing with the problems of skateboarders' wrongful actions. In the past, the issue of skateboarders' effects on service dogs has been raised, but no valid, reasonable and acceptable response or action has been taken.

Service dogs are very valuable to people that need them, and the safety of the dogs is paramount to the ability of the dog to perform properly. Of late there have been incidents whereby the safety of the dogs has been compromised by the recklessness of skateboarders or even of other dogs unleashed on campus. These dogs' performance has either been affected or been so devastating to the dog that its term of service was prematurely ended.

When reported, the actions taken by the University of Arizona and the university police seem to indicate the issue is not a big deal. One example of this occurred at 9 p.m. at the bus stop on University Boulevard and Park Avenue, when two skaters, at different times, after a warning by me to be aware of my service dog, did not respect my dog nor what I said. One of the skaters actually veered closer my dog and uttered something to the nature of F-you.

This angered me and when I returned to Christopher City I called the UAPD. The reply by the officer was to the effect of, "Well if it happens again, just call 911, and we will have someone check it out."

This upset me because it was totally inappropriate and did not supply a solution to the problem. If it happens again, am I to just run up to the person and ask him or her to sit down while I call the UAPD to file a report? That is pretty much what the officer suggested, for it is neither logical nor of any help to me to have to track down the skater and get his or her name.

Another incident that proves the reluctance of the UA to even address the proper issue of service dogs is when a service dog was actually struck by a skateboarder. The service dog's whole career was on the brink of collapse. The dog's ability to perform now depended on if the dog had the ability to maintain its duty while the skaters came by.

The dog needed to refrain from being afraid, thus staying on duty and alert to the needs of the partner. This is not easily done with a simple pat on the head and "Let's go." It is just not that easy. This is aggravated because the service dog might see the danger to itself as equal danger to the partner, and act negatively. Some might even break character and shirk away or flinch away from the person, or if leading a blind person, misdirect the person. Such results ruin the effectiveness of the dogs and the trust and partnership between dog and human.

A compatible service dog is not an easy find. Only 2 percent of all dogs even have the innate ability to become service dogs. Of that number, only about 10 percent have the personality that will match with a partner.

On average, the cost of service dogs is about a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. The average training time is two years, before the dog is considered a full-fledged service dog, and training continues throughout the dog's lifetime and the partnership.

Again, I stress how urgent it is that you understand the gravity of these facts as you interpret the emotions and concern - and even anger - of the people involved.

There have already been past and present students who have lost dogs to the negligent actions of others. Service dogs have been forced to end their service and careers because of "accidents" on the UA campus.

There is no need for this to occur.

I expect a clear debate and at least a better attempt to resolve this barrage of carelessness. I assure you, for every dog whose service is ended because of the denial and misguided efforts of the UA, future problems will arise, that if not solved now, will get only worse.

This is not a problem to be placed upon a record only to be re-taped again later; this is to be solved, not filed away. That is deletion of evidence, but I declare it is not erased upon the mind of the dogs and of the partners. WE are disgruntled, and we are serious. We want action, not distraction.

Thor Halvorsen is Arizona State Coordinator for the Deaf Watch Organization.