Many people, including seniors, are eager to speak out when something bothers them. One of the issues being debated right now is whether people are trying to pass off family pets as service animals. Legislators are being asked to study the issue. It is imperative to protect the rights of the disabled as well as the rights of others in the community. An increasing number of people are relying on animals to provide comfort in times of extreme stress, but bystanders are often suspicious of their motives. Where do you stand on this issue? Keep in mind that you can’t always identify a fake service dog, just as you can’t always “visually” detect whether a person is disabled. Society has a lot of issues with “invisible disabilities.” Just because a person doesn’t look disabled does not mean that they are not. Undoubtedly there will always be somebody trying to skirt around the edges of the laws, but try not to lump everyone in that category. The role of the modern-day service animal is much more complex than it was when the traditional “seeing eye” dogs appeared on the scene. Now we have many categories of service animals. There are dogs that can detect impending seizures, episodes of low blood sugar or panic attacks. Dogs are trained to recover dropped items, assist with mobility, retrieve medications or emergency equipment and in general assist their handlers in many ways. You may not be aware that there are also “emotional support animals.” These animals are trained to give comfort to people with emotional or psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, social phobias and panic attacks. Handlers have to be able to prove that they have a real need for an ESA but they may not have to prove it to you. If you need to know if the dog under the table at your favorite restaurant is entitled to be there, you are free to ask, but try not to always assume the worst. For people living with disabilities, a service animal can be the key that opens the door to independent living.