Georgia Pike is fed up being stopped in public and asked for identification.
The fourth-year student at the University of Victoria is visually impaired and relies on her service dog, Grainger, to get around.
But not everyone believes her.
“People will come up to me and say, ‘is your dog a service dog?'” she said. “I say yes and they say, ‘can we see some I.D. for it?'”
It’s become an almost daily occurrence.
Pike was recently stopped multiple times in the same mall by different security guards and, once, was asked three times for identification while trying to board a ferry.
“It’s become quite debilitating, recently, because it happens so often,” she told Gregor Craigie, the host of CBC’s On The Island.
“I’ll sometimes just opt out of trips with friends because I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
She carries a wallet stuffed full of IDs — one from the training school and one from the government for her dog and four indicating that she is visually impaired — but said constantly being asked to prove herself points to a larger issue.
“People with disabilities in B.C. … have to prove to random strangers day in and day out that they have the right to be in a public location,” she said.
“It’s constantly reminding people that they have a disability and that we’re different.”
Pike is not the only one being stopped and asked to prove the legitimacy of their service animal, according to the CEO of B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs, William Thornton.
He said he’s heard of several similar cases, recently, with at least one person being denied entry to a business.
“This subject really is more about fraudulent dogs than it is about the legitimate dogs,” Thornton said.
“There’s great abuse out there with people buying equipment online — I.D. cards and jackets and then saying that they are a legitimate dog.”
His organization runs education programs to help businesses distinguish between legitimate service dogs and fraudulent ones.
Pike agreed more education is key.
When she’s out with Grainger, she said, there are keys signs that he’s working: he’s not sniffing around or misbehaving, he doesn’t bark, and they are constantly communicating with hand signals.
“What I would love to see is that businesses are trained and educated on how to spot a service dog,” she said.
“I feel so safe being guided by him and it’s people around me who are interrupting our work and interrupting our day.”