Service Animals: A Guide to Festivals

By: Sierra Judge (@sierrajudge)

 

If you’re anything like me, if there is a dog in the area it’s the first thing you notice. My friends and I normally point dogs out to each other through the car windows or when we are out in public. Seeing a dog can brighten up my day. Who doesn’t melt when a dog looks at you and gives you those cute “come pet me” puppy dog eyes? 


The first time this happened at a festival, I was the happiest girl in the world. My two favorite things in one place. After overcoming the initial joy of seeing the pup, I began to get a little concerned about if this is actually a safe place for them. My first thought was that dogs are sensitive to loud noises, which they were currently surrounded by. I felt concerned that they may hurt their ears. It also seemed like an overwhelming environment for a pup.  

 

service dog


The first time I ran into a dog at a festival was outside at the Orlando Amphitheater, the second was on Holy Ship. Seeing the dog on Holy Ship really blew my mind because not only was the dog attending the festival, it was also the first service animal I had seen on a cruise ship. I was missing my pup at home deeply, so I asked if I could say hello to the beautiful working dog. It is extremely important to ask the owner before approaching a service animal. This golden retriever was very friendly and happy. 

This adorable pup is an AKC service dog leading an owner who suffers from vision impairment.  

It is always advised to not bring any animals who are not friendly. In a stressful environment, an animal can feel intimidated and show hostility toward others. Service animals who do attend should always remain on a leash for safety reasons and with their owner. The animals are with their owner the entire duration of the event. 

Although many festivals strictly allow service animals, some festivals are dog friendly! This tends to be mostly smaller/local music festivals. If you have a pup who loves to go out, search your state for some of these events! “Animal Palooza” in Indiana and “Woofstock” in Virginia are some examples of dog-friendly fests, whose proceeds help local shelters! Even if the music may not be your typical style, it may be a fun opportunity for you and your pet, and give you a chance to see how your service animal might do at a larger event. 

 

dog noise canceling headphones

 

If you have a service animal and are considering bringing them to a festival, there are some things to consider before actually doing it. Some festivals are much more strict than others, and most venues have specific policies they must follow regarding service animals. Keeping your pup comfortable during the event is essential for them to be able to do their job and protect you. Monitor your time spent in the sun to avoid overheating and provide water and bathroom breaks for the pup regularly. Service animals should also be given breaks in a shaded area and have time to rest. Having ear protection is extremely important not just for your pets comfort, but to keep them safe. Even with ear protection, standing by the rail right next to the speakers is not good for your pet. If they are not used to being in large crowds, they may not be comfortable in any congested area, such as the front sections or overcrowded walkways. 

 

EDC Service animals

Above is the EDC Las Vegas 2020 Service Animal Policy. 

 

There are a variety of brands and choices when it comes to hearing protection for your pup. Searching “dog noise-canceling headphones” will show you all of your options. They do not necessarily fully cancel noise, but they greatly change the volume to low enough that it is safe. Shown are Mutt Muffs hearing protection. 

It is best to hang with your pup toward the back of the crowd, where you can still enjoy the show while putting little stress on your furry companion. You should only bring your registered service animal to a festival if it is necessary for your safety and well being. As much as I would love to bring my pup to every event with me, it can be better for them to stay home in certain cases. 

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