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U.K.-Based Disability Rights Advocate Berated by Animal Rights Activist for Using a Service Dog

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In what’s becoming a more common experience for people with disabilities, a U.K.-based disability rights activist, who is blind and has a service dog, was accosted by an aggressive animal rights advocate who called the use of service dogs “cruel.”

Dr. Amit Patel was at a bar getting a drink with his friend, Jonathan Attenborough, who is also blind and has a service dog. The pair had just come from the Animal Star Awards, where Patel had given a speech about how blind people are being confronted by people in public for having a service dog.

While sitting at the bar, Patel said he and Attenborough were approached by an animal rights activist who aggressively confronted the men. Patel shared on Twitter:

Last night: two blind guys & our dogs at a bar, having a quiet drink. We then get accosted by an aggressive women screaming that we’re cruel for having Guide Dogs. Not only was she in our faces but at one point I thought she‘d get physical. Not a comfortable position to be in.

Animals Rights Advocates and Service Dogs

While Patel said he’s had this experience a few times before, the woman at the bar got in his face and Patel and Attenborough said they were concerned the interaction would escalate. He told Global Newsroom he could “feel the spit” on his face while she was yelling and told them they were as bad as “people who organise dog fights and cock fights.”

“There sadly are many people who share the same views as this woman and I’ve had a few similar situations, but this one was very aggressive and almost violent,” Attenborough shared on Twitter.

The women further told the men to “burn in hell” before she was ushered away by her husband, according to Global Newsroom. Patel said normally he tries to have a conversation with animal rights advocates who approach him to share that service dogs are much more than “just” a mobility aid. But in this case, Patel felt the woman was not interested in a conversation.

“I’m sad to read that so many assistance dog owners have experienced similar negativity regarding their working dogs,” Patel said. “My @Kika_GuideDog isn’t just my mobility aid, she’s an integral part of my family. I rely on her as much as she relies on me, we’re a team.”

Patel’s experience isn’t uncommon for people who use service dogs. In July, for example, a vegan and animal advocacy organization, Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV), called out people who use service dogs as exploiting animals. In the comments of AV’s post on Instagram, some called out the account for ableism, as well as for a lack of understanding about service animals.

What Are Service Animals?

Service animals support a number of people with disabilities and health conditions, including people who are blind, like Patel. Service animals can also help people with diabetes detect when they have low blood sugar, protect people with epilepsy during a seizure or provide grounding for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Service animals (which are different than emotional support animals) are typically dogs or miniature horses.

After ongoing criticism for disability advocates, AV doubled down on its position that animals should never be used for human service. They added that the “real” source of ableism is to use service dogs, who have a lower IQ than humans.

“Many people claim ableism if a vegan is against the use of service animals, forgetting that breeding a species of lower IQ than us to be servile and then expecting them to ‘work’ for us is what is truly ableist,” the group wrote.

View this post on Instagram

Many people claim ableism if a vegan is against the use of service animals, forgetting that breeding a species of lower IQ than us to be servile and then expecting them to “work” for us is what is truly ableist.⁠ ⁠ Seeing as dogs, for example, cannot give MEANINGFUL consent or sign any contractual agreement to work a specific job, we stand firmly against the idea that it can be moral to breed dogs—or even lead dogs already in existence—into a life of servitude.⁠ ⁠ Speciesists often tell us, “Animals don’t have rights because they don’t have duties” (that is, they do not do jury service, pay taxes, vote, and so forth), yet these same people expect animals to WORK for us?! This is the epitome of human entitlement, of speciesism, and of ableism.⁠ ⁠ As an unapologetic, abolitionist, VEGAN organisation, we make NO APOLOGIES for what we have said with regard to anything on animal use, and we will continue to demand an end to all industries that use animals, regardless of treatment.⁠ ⁠ The clue is in the name: SERVICE animals. That should tell you everything you need to know about why we, as abolitionist vegans, consider this mantra exploitative and unjust. And if you are vegan, then you should, too.⁠ ⁠ #animals #serviceanimals #animalrights #vegan #vegansofIG

A post shared by Anonymous for the Voiceless (@anonymousforthevoiceless) on

What You Should Know About Service Dogs

Criticism from some animal advocates is not uncommon, but as Mighty contributor Kaelynn Partlow wrote in her article, “12 Misconceptions About Service Dogs,” it’s a major misconception that service dogs don’t get any time to “just be a dog.” Partlow wrote:

Being a working dog is arguably the best life a dog could have. They’re able to be with their handlers almost all the time, no matter where they go. They have a job and a purpose and most get a higher quality of care than many humans. They get to play like any other dog.

As he attempted to explain to the woman who accosted him in the bar, Patel said on Twitter that his service dog has a wonderful life, just like the thousands of other service animals out there.

“Our dogs are so loved, well cared for & love their jobs,” Patel tweeted. “If they didn’t, they wouldn’t work.”

Header image via Dr. Amit Patel’s Twitter

Originally published: October 21, 2019
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