Veteran helps distinguish difference between service dogs and illegitimate service animals at Robley Rex VA hospital
The most telling signs of a true service dog are it's behavior and attention to it's handler.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In a few words, Army veteran Kevin Jankoski commands his service dog named Blitz to turn on the lights inside a classroom at St. Leonard School.
"Turn them on. Get lights, yes,” Jankoski says to Blitz.
It’s one of many tasks Blitz has been trained to complete. He can also help pick up items like keys and a cell phone. Blitz can also perform larger tasks like acting as a cane for Jankoski while wearing a walking T-handle harness. It offers Jankoski mobility assistance when his leg goes numb.
“I'm putting my pressure on the dog as I walk. And he takes every bit of it,” Jankoski said.
Blitz has had some of the best training to become a service animal. One of the most telling signs of a true service dog, Jankoski says, is actually quite simple.
“We shouldn't even know he's here,” he said.
It's all about the behavior and training.
Lately the Robley Rex VA hospital has had issues with illegitimate service dogs, and Jankoski has been helping hospital staff spot the differences.
“If they're not on a leash, they don't have a collar, they're not obeying commands and they're just walking through the hospital, chances are they're not a service dog,” Jankoski said.
Blitz has even been attacked at the VA twice by another dog.
True service dogs, like Blitz, should always have their attention solely on their handler.
“You see what he's doing right now? He's just firmly on me. He's focused on me. We're working. He knows we have a task to do,” Jankoski said.
But there are some exceptions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 allows people to train their own service dogs because already trained service animals can cost tens of thousands of dollars. That means a dog who isn't behaving properly could be in training. Handlers can give their service dog a public access test here through Assistance Dogs International which meets the ADA's requirements.
Jankoski also says another exceptions has to do with some service dogs sitting on couches or chairs at the VA. He says some dogs are medical alert dogs and need to be that close to their handlers to detect a medical emergency.
As a qualified trainer himself, Jankoski says there is a difference in the training and behavior of a service animal and an emotional support animal.
“The VA’s policy is they love that emotional support animals give you comfort, but they’d prefer you to leave the emotional support animals at home,” Jankoski said.
At the end of the day it comes down to a dog's training. And for veterans like Jankoski who's had 15 spinal cord surgeries, fake service animals are making it hard for veterans who truly need them.
“It cheapens the work that Blitz does. Because people now see your untrained, unruly dog that barks that growls that attacks people and they go if that's what service dogs do maybe I don't want to be around them,” Jankoski said.
If you're a veteran and need help training your service dog, Jankoski can be reached at Kevin@kevinjankoski.com
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.