Army veteran John Sutton and his service dog, Jack, arrived at a Houston VA Clinic for an appointment and a guard told him he couldn't come in with Jack.  John, a bronze star recipient, says he has brought Jack along to PTSD therapy sessions at the same clinic before.

The issue seems to be whether Jack is a "service animal", like a seeing eye dog with a designated "job", or an "emotional support animal" providing no direct assistance.  I guess helping those suffering from PTSD by calming them, alerting them to stress level increases, reminding them to take their medicines, turning on lights in some cases and even clearing rooms for them isn't "assisting".

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A very dear friend of mine has one of these dogs and he and Harley (that's Harley in the picture) have never been turned away from a restaurant, business or anywhere else. Let alone the very freaking clinic that is supposed to be helping them.  There are more problems at the VA than just long waits, boy.

While the geniuses at the top figure out how to define service animals, here's some advice from my brother about dealing with service dogs yourself:

  • Wherever you are, let 'em in. The won't bite, poop, gnaw or do anything bad. Their highly-trained, expensive animals.
  • Don't ask the dog's human why they have a service dog.  I know that sounds like a stupid thing no one would ever ask but, well, some people just aren't too bright.
  • Don't rush up to the dog suddenly.  Little kids are usually the culprits with this one so, watch them.
  • Same goes for your dog.  Keep him back unless or until the service dog's owner tells you differently.
  • Some animals are ok with being petted and some of their humans allow it.  Some don't so, never assume.  Typically, service dogs should NOT be petted.
  • Same goes for offering the animal a treat. It may be ok, it may not be. Ask.
  • Sure, they're dogs and they probably know how to do a few tricks, but they're under no obligation to do them for you. Keep your ball and your commands to yourself.

The dogs are trained to alert their owners to a number of things, in a number of ways. If the dog starts to climb on the owner or bark or whine and the owner says he has to leave, he has to leave.  The dog's not spoiled, hyper or needing to pee. He's doing his job.