What makes a dog a service dog?

A service dog in uniform in downtown Portland, Jan. 30, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Katarina Dooman’s shadow is named Sam. He is her service dog and goes everywhere with her — airplanes, public pools, mass transit, into restaurants and grocery stores.

And he wears his service dog uniform the whole time.

“I get a lot of questions, a lot of push back, if I don’t (have him in it,)” she told KOIN 6 News. “They just think he’s a pet.”

Katarina Dooman has a service dog, Jan. 30, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Katarina Dooman has a service dog, Jan. 30, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

But he’s not. He’s highly trained to detect Dooman’s seizures.

But there are others whose dogs are questionable.

Robert Scheller lives in downtown Portland and said he sees dogs in a Safeway story “all the time, and I’m sure they’re not all service dogs.”

Oregon law says dogs and small ponies are allowed inside grocery stores and restaurants if they are trained to perform a specific task. Service dogs are allowed to go anywhere — including grocery stores, restaurants and hospitals.

The fourth most common complaint lodged with Oregon’s Food Safety program in 2013 was about dogs in grocery stores.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture received 63 complaints about the canines from citizens.

And there is no certification required to be a service dog.

Employees at grocery stores or restaurants can only ask two questions if a person wants to bring a dog into their business:

Is this a service animal?
What task is the animal specifically trained to do?

They can’t ask for proof the dog is a service animal and the dog is not required to show proof with a “service dog” vest.

“That’s as far as that dialogue is supposed to go,” said Bob Joondeph, the executive director of Disability Rights Oregon. “There is not required proof under law.”

Emotional support dogs are different. They aren’t required to perform a task but instead provide emotional support for those with psychiatric problems.

These dogs are not allowed into grocery stores or restaurants, but can go on planes and in no-pet housing as long as a doctor’s note is provided.

Dooman said she would support mandatory certification for service dogs in order to protect the integrity of hard working dogs like Sam.

“Absolutely, I think they should be safe in public. They should have to pass a certification to be safe.”

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