This Christmas, a video from a Pittsburgh mall kicked off a nationwide debate that still isn't settled. The issue: when it's okay to pet a service dog, and how to react when a dog's owner says "no."
The drama began at the Ross Park Mall, where the video starts recording midway through a mother's confrontation with a dog trainer.
As we all know, you should never pet a stranger's dog before asking permission first. Even if a dog appears friendly, only their owner knows just how they'll react to you.
Service dogs and other working dogs are an entirely different matter: these dogs need to concentrate to assist their owners, so you should avoid touching or interacting with them at all unless their owner gives you permission.
In this case, dog trainer Megan Stoff says she told the angry mother she could not touch the dogs she was training at the mall that day. Stoff says the woman came back to complain 10 minutes later, which is when she started filming.
Had this crazy experience yesterday at the mall where some lady asked if she could pet the dogs. People ask us all the time so I just said, "no." All the dogs are working so it's my go to answer. And they walked away. No big deal right? This lady went out of her way to come back with her child and yell at us for saying "no" and for not saying, "nO iM sOrRy ThEy'Re TrAiNiNg." And we should "have a sign or something." You mean the 20 patches on my dog that say don't pet? ðŸ™ƒ Entitlement these days is real. They even got mall security because we said they couldn't pet the working dogs. ðŸ™ƒðŸ˜‚ Security said that the lady was crying ðŸ˜‚ So much harassment for just saying no. This video is public and is shareable. There was no common sense here.Posted by ML Leigh on Thursday, December 20, 2018
"This lady went out of her way to come back with her child and yell at us for saying "˜no' and for not saying, 'no I'm sorry they're training,'" Stoff explained.
The upset mother argued there should be signs warning not to touch the dogs, while a dog in the video can be seen wearing a "service animal" vest with several "don't touch" patches.
The woman also threatened to call the police, and according to Stoff she tried to get mall security involved as well.
"Entitlement these days is real," she wrote. "They even got mall security because we said they couldn't pet the working dogs. Security said that the lady was crying. So much harassment for just saying no."
"There was no common sense here," she added.
Some might say that Stoff's "rude" or curt answer was what ticked off the mom, but in an interview with Bored Panda, she revealed that her autism prevents her from speaking "efficiently," so she couldn't explain herself "even if I wanted to."
"I might shake my head no, or indicate in some other short way not to pet her or talk to her, and I just want to have that respected," she said.
"People also often take pictures of us without asking and that makes me really super uncomfortable, I don't want people to do that at all."
The woman in the video also told her side of the story in a written statement to WTAE. As she explains it, she "heard a woman from the group tell us to ---- off."
"My daughter was being held by me when she used the profanity," she claimed, and said that's why shy confronted them.
Since the video was shared last month, it was been viewed more than 13 million times, and the overwhelming majority of comments support the dog trainers.
"So sorry you had to go through that," one person wrote.
"People really are just so ignorant and entitled," said another. "I'm glad the owner stood up for you."