Continuing with February as Dog Training Awareness month, last week we answered some what questions and this week we are focusing on how questions. This is not meant to be legal advice, but a base for understanding service dogs and the work they do for the people they assist. How do service dogs help people with disabilities, how are they identified, how are they different from others, how are they trained, how many can a person have, and how do people get them?
How do service dogs help people with disabilities?
- They are trained to perform specific tasks beneficial to the person they are assisting.
- Some examples would be the ability to recognize early signs of anxiety/panic and guide person to a safe area, guide dogs for people with low/no vision, pull a wheelchair, alert individuals who are deaf to the presence of other people or sound.
How do you tell a dog is a service animal?
- Commonly on a leash and wear a vest/harness with patch signifying service dog. This is not a requirement though. The ADA does not require any specific identification, color, or vest for trained service animals.
- The dog is under their handler’s control. Under control means being well-behaved, not wandering away from the handler, not repeatedly barking, obstructing busy walkways, and are housebroken.
- Ask 2 questions and only these two:
- Is the dog required for a disability?
- What task has the service dog been trained to perform?
- Important to know that there are laws against falsely claiming or impersonating a service animal.
How do you tell the difference between a service dog, emotional support animal, and a therapy animal?
- Service dog is trained to perform a task directly related to a person's disability.
- Emotional support and companion animals are not trained to perform a specific job or task that mitigates their handler’s disability. It is the animal’s presence that provides disability-related benefits.
- Therapy animals are invited into places of public accommodation to provide stress relief or other therapeutic benefits to individuals with or without disabilities. For example, therapy animals may be invited into hospitals or schools to provide emotional support and companionship.
How are service dogs trained?
- Not specified by the ADA
- Independently or Through organizations/trainers
- Handlers are responsible of ensuring that their dog is properly trained for their needs and will be under control.
How many can one person have?
- Most people with disabilities will have only one service animal, but there is not a set limit per person. HOWEVER, remember that a service dog is trained for specific tasks related to specific disabilities and to have more than one service dog requires them to be for separate disabilities and duties in assisting their handler.
How do you get a service dog?
- Self train for your needs.
- Through organizations that train dogs specifically for disabilities such as blindness, deafness, PTSD, TBI’s, wheelchair users, and more.
- Get a trainer to work with you and your dog.