On service dogs
Editor of the Reformer:
I read Susan Daigneault’s letter about service dogs and hygiene that appeared in Thursday’s Reformer with interest (Oct. 24). For me the issue is much bigger than hygiene. My partner is blind and works with a highly trained service dog from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. We have experienced an increasing problem with dogs people claim are service dogs or dogs wearing a "service animal" vest bought on the Internet.
Quite often these dogs are not really trained as service dogs and exhibit poor behavior. We have witnessed these dogs breaking fragile items, barking and even urinating in a store. You might wonder why this causes a problem for my partner when it’s not his dog wreaking havoc. It does because it makes store owners question the validity of his highly trained dog and hesitate to allow us into their establishment. In one local restaurant the hostess had difficulty seating us because there was another ill behaved "service dog" in the restaurant at the time and she couldn’t seat us near him. She made it clear to us that she recognized the authenticity of our dog and questioned the other dog. She was clearly uncomfortable and did her best to seat us far from the other dog.
Business owners are in a bind because they are very restricted in what they can ask about service animals. If they are told an animal is a service animal they must accept that answer. There is currently no easy way to differentiate between the real deal and a fake. A well trained service animal becomes "invisible" in a business or public space -- no barking, no sniffing, no scratching, no aggression toward other dogs or people and no sitting in shopping carts. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act it’s a federal crime to use a fake service dog.
I implore people who choose to bring their untrained dogs into public areas and claim they are service dogs to think again. Please consider the problems and difficulties you are causing for people who really need the assistance of their service animals. You are compromising their freedom and ease of mobility and you are breaking the law.
Dummerston, Oct. 24
Editor of the Reformer:
A recent article in the paper ("Vermont schools eager to try new standardized tests," Oct. 21), suggests that Vermont schools are eager to try new tests in 2015 to replace the current testing regime. Unfortunately, the article also states that schools plan to make changes in their courses in anticipation of the new tests.
My experience in teaching taught me that the most useful courses were designed to anticipate the needs of students as they moved through the educational system and into the work force. It does not make sound educational sense to design the tests first then redesign the courses so students will be prepared for the tests. Yes, testing scores may be good, but it certainly does not assure that the course material in any way will serve students well for their future classroom and/or employment needs.
Standardized test scores are far less important than appropriate and adequate academic preparation for students’ future educational and employment careers.
Newfane, Oct. 24