As most people are aware, the topic of what are “support” animals and true “service” animals has been much in the news, particularly in regard to airlines and themed attractions. We’d like to offer our prospective visitors a friendly reminder about such animals and what the difference is. We are pleased to report that service dogs enter our two attractions all the time, and we are happy to welcome those families who visit us with these wonderful animals. But why are some dogs not allowed?
At the AiG attractions, we have often struggled with this issue. Our highly trained public safety department has had to deal with all sorts of different situations in regard to “support dogs” vs. “service dogs,” always keeping the safety of all of our guests at the forefront if dogs are on site. You might be shocked to learn of the different sorts of animals people have tried to bring into the attractions as service animals, when they are not. But if you’ve seen some of the news items about what animals people have tried to bring on airlines or into shopping centers, you wouldn’t be so shocked.
Our attractions adhere to the ADA guidelines set by the US government (https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm). When guests arrive with dogs, they must answer questions as per the ADA guidelines and recommendations. The rules are clearly posted on our attractions’ websites, (https://arkencounter.com/rules/; https://creationmuseum.org/rules/). Now, it’s important to note that the ADA does not register any particular dogs. Some people will go online and purchase a supposed animal registration certificate, but that’s really no different than someone purchasing a “degree” online!
We always seek to ensure the safety of all guests, as well as the safety of the animals in our zoos when dogs are around.
One of the challenges faced by our staff is that some people claim they have a service animal when in reality it’s a support animal. As they deal with people arriving with dogs, our safety officers often find it difficult to ascertain whether the dog is a true “service dog” or a “support dog” instead. Of course, we want to ensure we do whatever we can to help people of all abilities to enjoy our attractions, including coming with a service dog if needed. And we always seek to ensure the safety of all guests, as well as the safety of the animals in our zoos when dogs are around.
There have been times when people have disagreed with our safety officer’s decision to deny entry to a particular animal into our attractions. There could be a multitude of reasons for not allowing a dog (or other animal) in, such as the following: the animal is not a true service animal as defined by the ADA; the dog doesn’t exhibit behavior that indicates it has been trained as a service animal should be; the animal will exhibit behavior that suggests it could react poorly to our zoo animals and cause problems there; the animal is considered a possible risk in knocking over children and causing hurt/harm, etc. The ADA has a list of details our safety officers use in evaluating each animal situation. We have had situations in the past where such animals have caused hurt or harm to others. As a result, our safety team is very concerned that such incidents don’t happen again. These well-trained professionals have an enormous responsibility to protect all of our guests.
If an animal is denied entry, the owners are presented with a few options, such as leaving their animal in their vehicle or, if the temperature is too cold or hot, dropping off the dog at a local kennel. And then the party is welcome to enter the attraction.
Sadly, in these days of social media, people who react negatively to a situation where their animal was denied entry have sometimes posted very negative and inaccurate statements about what happened and have even contacted the news media. Whenever an animal is denied entry or there’s been any safety concerns to address, our safety team has to write a detailed report. Usually there is more than one staff involved in such situations, and these staff, as witnesses, are required to write reports. Also, our head of public safety will pull all videos from security cameras and check them against the reports to make sure the reports are accurate. These reports are then sent to the leadership of the ministry. And yes, we do have lots of security cameras at both our attractions. When you compare the footage to what a person claimed may have happened, it’s often night and day.
If you read a negative post on social media, please allow us some benefit of the doubt in regard to the possibility there is much more to the story, per Proverbs 18.
Our safety staff knows what differentiates a “support” animal, not covered by the ADA, and a true “service” dog. This department consists of highly trained officers, including those certified in canine units. This training helps ensure the safety and well-being of our guests. In this day and age of threats, violence, and security issues, we can’t have situations where our canine units or safety officers are compromised in any way.
By the way, if you read a very negative post on social media about such incidents or any other incident that supposedly occurred at our attractions, at the very least, please allow us some benefit of the doubt in regard to the possibility there is much more to the story, per Proverbs 18:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)
These trained professionals have had to deal with major medical issues of our guests, and have actually saved lives.
Our public safety officers regularly receive accolades from our guests for their careful, watchful eye over our attractions. In fact, these trained professionals have had to deal with major medical issues of our guests, and have actually saved lives. I am very grateful for them.
Please pray for our safety officers as they work hard to ensure they do what is best and right for the safety of all who come to our attractions. Thank you.