Dealing with individuals with allergies and fear of dogs

Allergies to dogs are caused by a reaction to certain proteins found in oils secreted from a dog’s skin and in their saliva - it is not the hair itself that causes allergies. When a dog sheds hair, or its skin flakes off, these proteins are carried into the immediate environment where they may cause an allergic reaction.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. As service dog handlers, we often get asked “What do you do about people with dog allergies, or who are afraid of dogs?”. If the allergy or fear is disabling, it must be accommodated, but the person with a service dog must also be accommodated. This is usually done by the two parties agreeing to stay away from one another. Even if the allergy or fear is not disabling, most service dog handlers will try to accommodate the person as best we can. This is all best accomplished by a combination of honest and open communication and mutual respect.

Most allergies to animals are caused by direct contact with the animal so a separated space might be adequate to avoid allergic reactions. If a person is at risk of a significant allergic reaction to an animal, it is the responsibility of the business or government entity to find a way to accommodate both the individual using the service animal and the individual with the allergy.

However, as a good citizen, your team may need to wait to be seated until a proper area is available. Remember, you are being watched and your behavior reflects on every service team that follows you.

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