Boulder Shelter goes to the dogs


By Max R. Weller

Being at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless at 6AM and staying just long enough to shower (and do laundry if necessary) is about all I can tolerate. It gets worse every year, with more and more mentally ill transients from Denver and elsewhere taking resources needed by Boulder County’s own homeless people. Now, BSH has decided that a kennel will no longer be provided for dogs owned by the homeless; presumably, this means that ANYONE can claim that their mangy critter is a service animal and keep it inside the facility at all times — including going through the serving line and eating in the dining room, dog hair (and worse) being shed in other people’s scrambled eggs.

Welcome, Travelers! Anything goes at BSH, where those in authority sit up late at night thinking of new ways to make a bad situation even worse:

Untrained dogs and their human handlers

I asked the BSH staff member on duty at the front desk if any inquiries would be made of dog owners claiming that their canine companion is a properly trained “service animal” — not surprisingly, she couldn’t answer my question. See: IAADP Minimum Training Standards for Public Access. It’s moot, unfortunately, because federal law allows for dog owners to use the “honor system” in response to questions. In other words, they can lie with impunity up to the point where their dog causes problems.

Even so, the rights granted to owners of so-called service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act are not absolute. See: Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals. Quoting from it below:

When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

More to the point of bogus service animals is this excerpt:

A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.

This is why I’ve suggested that the owners of service animals be permitted to eat breakfast and dinner in the day room at BSH rather than the dining room, and they might do so with their dog as far as I’m concerned. Otherwise, the untrained mutts are likely to be shoving their faces into trays of food belonging to anybody at random.

BTW, almost all of the service animals owned by homeless people I’ve seen here in Boulder, CO are out of control, and you can tell right away if you sit near the front of the SKIP bus as I do. Usually, these dogs sniff your crotch as they’re boarding with their owners, who make no attempt to correct this misbehavior.

Like so much else in re homelessness, it’s a farce . . .

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