Many people who have a disability use a service dog so that they can take part in everyday life. These animals can do many things to help someone with a disability. For example, a service animal can help guide those with visual impairments; can alert their deaf owner to particular sounds, and can fetch things for owners who are not mobile or perform certain tasks like switching on lights.
A service dog can also help their owner's well-being through the close bond that is formed between them. Often they can help their disabled owner feel more confident about everyday routines. The dog can bring more freedom to their owner's lives. Stress and loneliness can be reduced because having the dog allows their owner to interact more socially and feel less anxious about various tasks.
By law, a service dog cannot be denied access to any place that their owner has a right to enter.
The History Of Service Dogs
Dogs and humans have had a special bond for thousands of years. These animals have served as friends and helpers to people for a very very long time. In ancient Egypt, dogs were kept as special pets and often mummified with their owners to preserve the beloved animal for its time in the afterlife. Fascinatingly, a fresco was found in the ruins of an Ancient Roman city, which shows a blind person being helped along by a dog. The Ancient Romans also used these animals for military reasons.
In Europe during the 1700s, dogs helped to recover wounded soldiers as well as helping to carry messages to the front lines. In the 1750s, guide dogs started being trained regularly as helpers for blind people in a special Paris Hospital.
Using dogs to help the blind on a large scale is believed to have started in Germany. World War One resulted in many soldiers being left blind, often as a result of mustard gas. One doctor is thought to have left his German Shepherd dog with a blind patient during his rounds. The dog became very protective of the soldier it was left with. After that, the doctor - Stalling - asked the German Ambulance Association of which he was President to retrain dogs used in the war to help blind veterans.
The first American guide dog school was founded in 1929 and was called "The Seeing Eye".
Definition of a Service Animal
Only dogs can be recognized as a service animal under Federal Law (although in certain circumstances outlined in the ADA, a miniature horse can also be a service animal).
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) indicates that a service dog is a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for someone who has a disability.
Those particular things that the dog does must be directly related to the person's disability.
For example, someone who has epilepsy might have a service dog that can sense when their owner is going to have a seizure and help their owner in particular ways during the seizure.
An emotional support animal, as well as therapy, comfort, or companion dogs, do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. This is because emotional support animals and other types of support animals have not been trained to perform tasks related to their owner's disability.. Some State laws do allow owners with an emotional support dog into public places.
Sometimes it may not be obvious that the dog is a service animal. In this case, someone working in a public place can only ask the owner two questions. First, they can ask whether the dog is a service dog because of the owner's disability. Secondly, they can ask what the dog has been trained to do to assist the person with a disability. They cannot ask for any documents in relation to the dog. They also cannot ask for the dog to demonstrate its task. They are also not permitted to ask about the nature of the owner's disability.
How Can My Animal Become A Service Dog?
A service dog is different from any other household pet.
If an owner wants their pet to become a service dog, they should assess the dog's condition first. This will help make sure that the dog's age and health make it suitable to become a service dog. The dog's personality is also very important. If the dog is regularly nervous or aggressive, they may not be suited to the role.
Ideally, potential service dogs should be calm, alert, capable of learning, be reliable, want to please, and be able to adapt to different situations.
The dog has to be well-trained to become a service dog and be able to follow simple commands. They should also be able to do the task they have been trained to do related to their owner's disability.
The simple commands the would-be service dog needs to be able to obey are commands including "heel,"; "stay,"; "down,"; and "come."
Possible service dogs must be well-behaved in public places. For example, barking, or jumping up in public would be inappropriate for a service animal.
Best Breeds For Service Dogs
The ADA does not specify that only particular breeds can be service dogs, which means any type of dog can be a service dog.
The top five breeds for a service animal are German Shepherd, Labrador, Golden Retriever, Standard Poodle, and Pomeranian. While some may not immediately come to mind as most likely breeds to be service dogs, these dogs have the most suitable temperaments, traits, and physiques for the job.
For psychiatric service dogs, Standard Poodles, Labradors, Havanese, Miniature Schnauzers, King Charles Spaniels, and German Shepherds are among the most suitable breeds.
How Should A Service Dog Be Trained?
When the potential service dog can follow basic commands and can behave well in public, the dog can then be trained to do a particular task related to their owner's disability. This can take time.
Someone with a disability has the right to train their dog themselves. The ADA does not require that the dog be trained by a professional service dog training program, and there is no minimum length of time the dog must be trained for. However, it is important to put in the time so that the potential service dog is trained properly.
It is a good idea to include training in public where there are lots of distractions, to see how the dog handles these situations. For example, the dog's owner could take the animal to a public park, or a restaurant, or a store, or mall.
Food treats and praise are often used when training a service dog. Harsh words and punishment will not achieve the desired result. They can lead to the dog fearing its owner and less likely to be willing to cooperate in training.
Some owners may want or need to seek professional help to train the dog appropriately. A professional dog trainer can provide help to the dog's owner in how to get the dog to perform the particular task. The owner can practice the task with their potential service animal regularly each day. Some local organizations may be able to assist with training the possible service animal if the owner does not feel up to doing so.
How Can Someone Qualify For A Service Dog?
To qualify for a service animal, a person must have a disability.
"Disability" is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
This includes people with a history of this impairment and people regarded by others as having this impairment.
There is no specific list of physical or mental impairments in the ADA.
If a person has a psychiatric disability, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they might have a psychiatric service dog. These dogs are specifically trained to help relieve their owner's mental disability. They are not emotional support dogs, as they are trained to do things which help their owner function as normal as possible.
Service Dog Registration
Dog registration, while not compulsory under Federal law, is a way to recognize a dog as a service dog formally.
To get a service dog registered, the dog registration process is free and simple. There are various websites that offer dog registration services. The owner provides information about themselves, their disability, and provides a photo for the service dog registration. An email will confirm the dog registration process is complete, and a photo ID card is provided. The service dog registration site can be searched for verification purposes.
While service dogs do not have to wear any particular tags, vests or harnesses under Federal law, these can often be very useful. Some stores, restaurants, and so on may well refuse to allow service dogs into their premises. This can be very confronting and stressful for the owner.
While service dog registration is not mandatory under the ADA, service animals are subject to local dog licensing requirements.
Caring For A Service Dog
Under the ADA. Service animals must be under the control of their handler - usually their owner - all the time. Sometimes the handler might be someone who is with the individual with a disability. Being in control of the animal includes things like feeding, vet care, and grooming.
When in public, the service dog must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered. However, this is not required if doing so would interfere with the service dog's work, or the owner's disability means they cannot use these devices.
If that is the situation, the owner has to use their voice, or a signal, or any other way of keeping control of the dog.
If a service dog is not under control in a public place, and its owner is unable to bring it under control, the staff at the public place can ask the owner and the dog to leave.
Traveling With A Service Dog
Under Federal Law, airlines must allow for persons with a disability (whether physical or emotional) to be accompanied in the aircraft cabin of the aircraft with a service dog or emotional support animal. A fee for the accompanying dog is not allowed to be charged by the airline. And not be charged a fee.
An owner traveling by plane with a service dog will have to explain to the airline how the animal provides assistance to them, in particular, what tasks the animal performs for them. The owner may have to explain this to Homeland Security as well. Airlines usually ask to see the photo ID which an owner gets when they register the animal and which identifies the animal as a service animal.
An owner who travels with an emotional support animal will need to produce a letter from their licensed therapist or medical doctor. This will need to explain that the animal has been prescribed for an emotional disability.
In both cases, it is worth contacting the airline in advance of travel to confirm the individual airline's requirements.
Some airlines will ask owners to have a vest on service animals, or an identifying patch and a service leash, although these are not required by law.
In hotels, service animals cannot be left in the owner's hotel room unsupervised. The animal must remain with, and under the control of their owner at all times.
A hotel must allow an owner with a service dog the same chance to reserve a room at the hotel as other non-disabled guests can. The hotel cannot restrict the owner from reserving only a pet-friendly hotel room.
Hotels cannot charge owners of service animals for cleaning dog hair that has been shed in the hotel room. But if an owner's service dog damages the hotel room, the hotel can charge the same fee for the damage it would charge any other guest.