Ah, kinda sad that my first blog post is about a touchy issue, but I am just so livid right now, I need a safe place to let out my thoughts.
I should start with basics I guess. I'm 29 years old and my husband and I live in San Jose, California. I'm originally from Puerto Rico, and moved to San Jose for work at 27. My husband is from Indiana. I met my husband at work, and we recently got married. I've had a number of various health issues all my life, and it was recommended to me that I look into getting a dog to help mitigate some of those issues. And so Penny came into our lives. Unfortunately I lost my job (ironically I suppose, after a string of missed work due to health issues, but no way to prove it was related to that), and so the task of training Penny to be my service dog has fallen on my own hands. We were able to save some money and sign her up for a professional obedience class as well, but for the specific tasks that I need her to do in order to help me, we are attempting them on our own. She's currently a service dog in training. Our current goal is to get the basic training out of the obedience class and then try and work her all the way up to Canine Good Citizen, and by then fingers-crossed we'll have a little money saved up to get her tested by an professional service dog trainer that can "certify" that she can indeed do all of the tasks that are required of her, and so forth. If we are ever able to afford professional training instead of just testing and certification then we'll gladly go that route, but for now we're on our own save for the obedience class. I've done a lot of heavy research and reading on the ADA and am aware that she does not need certification or ID or any of that stuff, so long as she can do the tasks that are needed in order to help mitigate my conditions, but we figured that having her at least past the AKA CGC and a specific test issued by a licensed/professional service dog trainer or organization wouldn't hurt.
Penny is currently 4 months old and is doing quite well. She has some issues sometimes but I expect those as she's still a baby. Most importantly, she's doing very well when it comes to the specific tasks I need her to do, so I am feeling confident and reassured that we're going down the right path.
Fast forward to now. My parents are going to be visiting San Francisco around mid November (before Thanksgiving), from Puerto Rico. Originally, my mom wanted my husband and I to stay with them in the city, so I told her that'd be fine but that she would need to mention to the hotel that her daughter had a service dog in training. Our first language is Spanish and I had a hard time explaining to her the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal but it seemed like she had finally understood and everything was ok. She called me this morning nearly in tears because every hotel she called stated that they did not accept pets and that if it was an emotional support animal that they needed to see a doctor's letter or worse yet, a "registration document" and they charged a fee. I told her that that was not true, as the ADA does not require any of those things for a service dog and although my pup is still in training she has the same rights (as far as I understand) and that she is not an emotional support animal and thus does not need a letter as that is not the reason she is a service dog at all. I ended up telling her not to worry about it and that I'd take care of it and to just at least make sure she could find a room for her and my dad cause worst came to worst my husband and I could just make the drive to and from every day if we had to.
I'm currently just feeling overwhelmed and upset and don't really know what to do. I don't want to show up and be one of those angry ranting customers as I don't think that'll help at all. I considered calling the hotel myself and explaining the situation but my husband said they would probably know it was related to my mom and give me the same spiel and I really cannot get into a heated argument with them about it, that would only make one of my conditions worse so it's not worth it. I think we are just going to visit them and make the drive instead. I am concerned though that the staff will still ask me to get out or to leave Penny outside even if we aren't staying and are just visiting my parents and have to enter the lobby or want to eat at their restaurant, etc. I understand that they are within their rights to ask even a service dog to be taken out if it's misbehaved but that hasn't even happened yet and so far we have no reason to believe she would misbehave, but regardless if she did misbehave then yes, I would of course take her out, that's what I would do for any business that asked if if she was misbehaving. I am fairly certain that the law does state clearly though that they can't preemptively ask us to remove her from the premises when she hasn't even stepped foot inside yet. I'm debating with myself about whether or not we should get her a service dog vest and id, and it frustrates me that we would even have to since the law is also clear that these things aren't required. San Francisco (the Bay Area in general I think, cause it happens down here in San Jose too) has an issue with people getting fake service dog ID's and vests and even fake "service dog registry" papers and I think this may be what some of the hotels are used to/thinking off and that is just maddening to me. My disabilities are invisible save for when I have an episode and then it becomes clear, and one of the tasks Penny is being trained with is to ease the passing of an episode by either using specific methods or otherwise following commands to get help. Unfortunately she cannot help prevent an episode but she can help make it so that when an episode does occur it is not as dangerous to my life as it could be otherwise. These are not things that are evident from just looking at me though.
I don't know if we should just give in and "if you can't beat them, join them" and get one of the fake vests off amazon or somewhere like that and call it a day. It frustrates me to no end since I shouldn't have to and the law states that I shouldn't have to but ignorance is such that I almost feel forced to. I just don't know what to do. I assumed we'd have some issues traveling (we'll have to take several flights come December as we have no friends or family in this area) but it didn't occur to me that we'd be having issues already. Maybe I'm being naive, I don't know. :(
That aside, I realize plenty of people make this drive every day for work but one of my conditions doesn't generally allow me to make trips like this -for airplane rides I have to be heavily medicated- so even though we've lived here in the area for a couple of years we've only been up to SF once and we only got as far as the GGB and then back as my health just didn't allow anymore. I'm doing a lot better now and Penny helps counterbalance the other negative effects of the disorders and with my parents having a hotel room to refer back to in case I needed it, we figured it was a good a time as any to try for a real trip. So that said, if we do end up just having to make the drive every day, does anyone know of some activities that we could do that are dog-friendly where we could take Penny and just have her be a dog for once and not have the added worry? I think I remember people taking their dogs to the Golden Gate Bridge area but with the furloughs I'm not sure that space will be open, and I don't really remember if the dogs were allowed or people were just sneaking them in. I've heard there's a beach around that area as well that lots of people take their dogs to. Any parks that are also good for sight-seeing? I always carry doggy bags on me for picking up after her, and she is always on her leash (and close to me not loose-leash unless she's off training duty and relaxing/playing) and I've heard that SF is supposed to be a really dog-friendly city overall, but my husband is concerned about where she'd do her business. I assume there's grassy areas/lawns, etc like here.
Well, thanks for listening/any help in advance!