Posts Tagged ‘ADA’

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If you suffer from an emotional or physical disability you may be wondering what qualifies a dog to be a service dog. In this post, we will answer that question and give you some facts you will want to know when getting a canine for the purpose of service.

Can My Dog Be a Service Dog?

Many people ask the question of whether their current dog can be a service dog? The answer to this question is dependant on what you need your service dog to do for you. If you have a dog for emotional support or to help you with stress and/or anxiety, then there are no restrictions on the canine companion. In fact, an emotional support animal (ESA) can be anything from a snake to a horse but know there are restrictions on this type of “service” animal.

However, if you require a dog to do more than just offer comfort, then you will need the canine to be properly trained to do the tasks required. For example, if the dog has to pull a wheelchair, then a Chihuahua will not be considered a service dog as it simply would not have the strength to complete this task.

Obedience Training

Whether you train your dog yourself or enlist the help of an agency or professional trainer, your service dog must be obedience trained. This entails the basic commands of sit, stay, come, down, drop, heel and leave. Depending on the breed of dog you have chosen or already have this can take weeks to months to accomplish.

Socialization Skills

Another important quality your service dog must possess is socialization skills. A skittish, hyperactive or unruly dog will not do well as a service dog. Your dog must be quiet, calm, relaxed, alert, and of course, friendly.

Work Tasks

To qualify as a service dog your canine must be able to demonstrate the ability to do the work tasks that you cannot do for yourself. This can include fetching medicine bottles, opening drawers, or even alerting you to a drop in your blood sugars or of an oncoming seizure.

Public Access Training

How your dog acts in public areas is crucial to having a service dog. These working dogs must not respond to any of the noise, commotion, chaos, food smells or people when out with its handler. This type of training may take several months before your dog is desensitized to hustle-and-bustle of being in a public place. Some dogs may never have the ability for this type of public access training and therefore would not be considered a service dog.

Service Dog Rules

Because a service dog is there to help the handler there are rules your dog must follow when out in public. These include;

No sniffing of people or merchandise No barking at people or other animals No begging for food or table scraps No jumping onto people or objects No lunging at passing people or other animals No overexcited or hyperactive behavior No eliminating in an inappropriate area. Dogs must learn to relieve themselves on command. Handler’s Behavior

There are a lot of rules for a service dog to follow, but what about the handler? Some agencies may have you sign a form that both you and your service dog will behave accordingly when out in public. This can include;

Being prepared to answer the questions of “is the dog a service dog and what task does it perform for you?” Being polite, confident and courteous even if the people you are dealing with are not familiar with the American Disability Act and service dogs.

Although it is not required by law, a service dog vest and/or badge is helpful when taking your working dog out into the public. You may also register your service dog with a reputable organization. This informs people at a glance that your dog is there to provide you with a service and not just a pet you are trying to “break the rules” with.

Service Dog Qualification Is a Process

Having a properly trained and accredited service dog is a process that takes time. Even though you can take an ordinary dog and turn it into a service dog, it will have to exhibit the qualities it takes to do this important work. It is also highly recommended to start your service dog training when your dog is just a puppy. Teaching an “old dog new tricks” will be much tougher, and he may not be able to accomplish all the tasks and training required to be a full-fledged service dog.

The Difference Between Service Dogs, Emotional Support Animals, and Therapy Dogs

Although service dogs for the deaf and blind have been used for decades, doctors and mental health professionals are now attesting to the benefits dogs (and other animals) bring to those individuals that need emotional or stress-relieving help.

However, since this practice of emotional and therapy pooch is relatively new, we tend to clump the jobs these animals do all into one category. Sure, we know these dogs are important to the individuals they are helping but do we know the difference between service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs?

We’ve consulted with the experts to clear up the mystery and misunderstanding of this important trio.

What is a Service Dog?

According to the organization, ‘Please Don’t Pet Me,’ a service dog is defined as a canine assistant that helps those with physical disabilities. This can include those folks in wheelchairs, limited vision or hearing, epilepsy and a wide array of other physical health problems. This type of dog works to help the disabled person do things and live a life he/she may not be otherwise able to do.

This type of human/canine partnership is protected by The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act, DOJ/HUD Fair Housing Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act. These laws ensure the canine will be granted access to public buildings, airlines, and no-pets apartments/condos.  

A service dog should not be petted by strangers when on duty, as this can be a distraction to the animal which could cause harm to the disabled person.

Since service dogs are highly trained from an early age, obtaining a service animal can be quite costly. Most organizations quote around $20,000 for a service dog. Depending on your country and city of location this fee may be paid by individual fundraising, government programs or by the service dog organization itself. If you are unable to afford a professionally trained service dog, you may train your service dog yourself.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Unlike a service dog, the emotional support animal does not have to be highly trained to do its job. The main focus of an emotional support animal is to be there to provide unconditional love, support, companionship and friendship for the person with a psychological disorder. The idea behind this type of partnership is to help those individuals that may suffer from severe depression, anxiety issues or debilitating stress. A doctor, mental health professional or psychotherapist can prescribe an emotional support animal for the person in need.

The role of the emotional support animal isn’t always awarded to a dog. It can be a cat, bird, turtle, rabbit or even a horse.

According to ESA Doctors, these animals are also allowed onto airlines and into ‘no pets allowed’ housing as long as they have an ESA letter or document from a mental health professional.

How Can I Get an ESA Letter Online?

What is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is also trained, but for a different purpose. This dog should be naturally friendly, easy-going, loving and able to handle any situation from calm to chaotic. The therapy dog is used for the sole purpose of bringing stress-relief to those in need. This can include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and more. Therapy dogs are accompanied by a handler (usually the pet parent) and can be interacted with, in fact, it’s encouraged.

The role of the therapy dog can vary from visit-to-visit, depending on where it is needed. Therapy dogs are used in grade schools to encourage reluctant students to read aloud; they may sit with patients that are critically ill or just in need of a pick-me-up, as well as actively participating in someone’s physical rehabilitation.

Albeit an important type of service, therapy dogs are not usually allowed into public places, airlines or those living quarters where there are no pet policies in place.

The Importance of Assistance Animals

The dog and human bond go way back in time, so it’s only natural that we would integrate them into the service world. Dogs have a special intuition that allows them to know when a person is hurting emotionally or is physically ill or disabled. And for this, we are truly blessed to have the lovable canine to be our partners in life.

Whether you need a service dog, emotional support animal or therapy dog, the canine is always on duty.