People who use service animals frequently
are denied access to zoos. Here's why:
Zoo denial myths
by Ed and Toni Eames
Ed and Toni Eames are longtime disability activists and members of
the National Federation of the Blind.
- Most zoos routinely deny people the right to come into zoos with their
assistance animals, and usually cite the following reasons:
1. Assistance dogs might become so excited, distracted or frightened
by zoo animals that they might cause injury to their disabled partners.
Under such conditions, the zoo might be liable for the injury.
2. Assistance dogs might get so excited that they would break away from
their disabled partners and frighten or attack the zoo animals.
3. Zoo animals would get so frightened by the presence of an assistance
dog that they might, in terror, injure or kill themselves. (Sometimes,
this argument is reinforced by the experience of packs of wild dogs invading
some zoos and creating havoc.)
4. Some zoo animals, particularly those from Australia, might see dogs
as natural enemies and might respond by flight or attack. It is argued
that in Australia the dingo is a natural enemy and dogs are similar to
5. The presence of assistance dogs might result in the transmission
of cross-species diseases. Thus, assistance dogs could transmit canine
diseases to zoo animals and vice versa.
These myths are based on the "what if" syndrome; they're rarely
rooted in reality. Like many myths developed to justify paternalistic policies,
they're said to be only "protecting" disabled people.
The first three are based on invalid assumptions about the training
and behavior of assistance dogs, the inability of disabled people to control
their canine partners and the response of zoo animals. Assistance dogs
cannot be equated with wild dog packs which have, on occasion, invaded
zoo grounds and caused considerable damage and injury to animals.
Almost every expert I have consulted says young children and many adults
present more of a threat to zoo animals than any assistance dog or group
of trained dogs could.
More by Ed and Toni Eames
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