Specially trained guide dogs are an invaluable asset to the lives of their owners. Unfortunately, with the increase in other types of service animals, many are concerned about the danger these animals pose toward unsuspecting victims. While some states are considering changes in service animal laws to reduce the chances of serious animal bites, Connecticut legislators have not made any changes regarding therapy animals.
The concern over emotional support dogs comes from the fact that many owners are purchasing false documents that state the pet in question is a trained service animal. Owners are taking these pets into public areas by claiming that they require the presence of the animal in order to go about their daily lives. While there are many tasks that service animals can perform, those that are true service animals undergo extensive and costly training in order to provide the specialized assistance required by their owners.
There have been incidents where a certified dog and its owner have been attacked by pets that were not properly restrained but were purportedly certified as a service animal. In at least one of these attacks, a pet inflicted wounds on a service dog and its owner that required hospitalization. Many owners are able to acquire the vests and documents from online sources, which they use to justify taking their house pets into public spaces.
Professional trainers state that an attack on a service dog can result in injuries and psychological issues that affect its ability to continue as a service animal. Likewise, human victims suffer physical injuries along with significant financial losses. Some companies, such as Southwest Airlines, are recognizing the threat that noncertified pets pose and are contemplating changes that could negatively impact those who do need these support animals. In Connecticut, if a victim suffers serious injuries and damages from unprovoked animal bites, he or she can seek compensation via a lawsuit under the state's strict liability laws.