Escalators and travelators are a part of many public spaces and some organisations will train their teams to use them, other organisations or pet dog owners will even more scarily just take their dogs on escalators with no specialised training. Here at Capable K9s we DO NOT train our teams to use escalators and actively advise our clients NOT to use them.
This has been an issue discussed at length in the assistance dog community and many people say that if you train your dog appropriately and exercise caution it is unlikely to result in injury and for many years I too thought this. That was until all the training and caution in the world didn’t protect my assistance dog Luigi from getting his paw ripped open in an escalator.
Luigi nicked a main artery in his paw and had to be rushed in for emergency microsurgery to reattach the artery and stitches to repair the damage to his paw pads. He was off work and on strict crate rest for nearly 6 weeks. I even had to carry him outside to potty and back in again. He wasn’t allowed to weight bare on that paw at all. It broke my heart. Luigi was a veteran assistance dog, he had been working for 8 years when this happened and he had travelled on many escalators without incident.
For this reason, I no longer take my assistance dog on moving escalators or travelators. In every public building that has an escalator will have stairs or an elevator. It is not worth the risk of catastrophic injury to my assistance dog vs the extra few minutes it takes to find the elevator. If there is NO OTHER OPTION, all escalators have an emergency stop button at the top and bottom and I will press this button (after ensuring no other person is on the escalator) and wait for it to stop moving before proceeding up with caution. Occasionally the emergency stop button also sounds a loud alarm (ask me how I know this!) and it will annoy centre management but the safety of my dog is my primary concern – without his assistance I am unable to leave the house. 6 weeks housebound really sucked and is not an experience I would like to endure again or like any of my clients to endure not to mention the financial burden such an injury creates.