Traceability codes for guide dogs get their debut at the 2022 Paralympic Games

At the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games, 68 guide dogs were selected as special volunteers to help the athletes. These dogs all have a new identification QR code, which, when scanned provide important details about the guide dog. The new  identification system is integrated into China’s product quality traceability system, which is used for tracking many kinds of products and was created using big data, cloud computing and blockchain technologies. With these technologies, the new identification system makes the traceability code the dogs wear immune to counterfeit.   

U.S. Implications

As a guide dog user, I have long wished for a national system for identifying legitimate service animals. A program such as this would allow hotel and travel providers to scan the unique code for a service animal and determine if it is legitimate, it’s vaccine status and more.  Implementation of a system such as this would take care of one large problem with fraudulent service animal use in the travel and hospitality industry. At present, those who can’t bear to leave their dog at home, can easily obtain fraudulent identification cards which are easily purchased from a myriad of internet companies. The result of this is often misbehaving or nuisance animals masquerading as service animals do little more than give legitimate service animals a bad name in the eyes of the travel and hospitality industry workers.  I’m not sure if this kind of system would ever be implemented into the United States because of the fears surrounding government tracking and overreach. I for one would welcome a national registry, and it could start as simply as each service animal user being required to register the animal and obtain an identification card. 

Tracking

During the early days of COVID, China implemented an identification and tracing system which tracked the user’s vaccination status, and helped to trace infections and exposures of the virus. I remember so many news stories about people being upset with the system and hated the fact that the scanning of the QR code would give a detailed profile of the user’s movements around the country, and those they interacted with. With the divisiveness of our country today, I can’t even imagine a similar system being implemented for any cause, even the identification of service animals. 

False Identification

A nationwide system to identify legitimate service animals of some sort would be a great benefit for service animal users, especially if there was a way to make it immune to counterfeit. There have long been talks about a national registry or service animal identification system. This would be a good first step, though I fear there will still be internet doctors willing to prescribe service animals to anyone willing to pay.  

Training

The second head of the fraudulent service animal monster is lack of training. Those who obtain false identification for their dog so they can bring them on flights and into hotels often own the animals who are the least trained, or afraid of people and traveling. They put their poor pets into a situation where they are prone to bite, bark and be a nuisance to those around them. I don’t think the uninformed understand how much training, and socialization a guide dog goes through before it even is considered for the guide dog program. I cannot tell you how many times I have been exiting a restaurant and the hostess or wait staff will tell me they didn’t even realize my guide dog was under the table. They often relay a story of someone bringing in a small biting-prone dog which sits under the table and barks at everything that goes by the table. They relay that it is a true treat to see an animal with impeccable training in their establishment. 

Knowledge is key

Everywhere I go I love to take time to talk with and educate the public about the role my guide dog plays and what she has had to accomplish to become part of a guide dog team. It is through education legitimate service animal users can start the process of changing the mindset of service industry workers away from the eye rolling and bemoaning the fact that someone is bringing an ill-trained faux service animals into their establishment and toward seeing the legitimate service animal as a valuable asset to the handler. 

What do you think?

Do you believe people should be able to purchase vests and identification cards for faux service animals? What are your ideas for a national registry for legitimate service animals? I’d love to hear your opinion on this, and any ideas about how we can move our government forward with some sort of program – it doesn’t have to be all encompassing, it can be a first step.  

More information

If you would like more information about the identification system China put in place during the early days of COVID, you can read this article, 

https://correspondent.afp.com/new-codes-governing-everyday-life-china

If you would like to see a short video about the guide dogs that were used in the Beijing 2022 Paralympics, and learn about the new identification system, you can go here.

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2022-03-14/Traceability-codes-help-guide-dogs-provide-efficient-services–18oGdiYlBdK/index.html

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