Service Dog 101 – Part 1

Golden Retriever - Training Page PhotoWelcome to my new monthly series: Service Dog 101

a) Let’s start with…What is a disability?

An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

“Major life activities” include functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking and breathing, learning and working.

You must meet these criteria before you will be considered to be a potential service dog handler. There is extensive and intensive training – both for the person (with the disability) and the dog.

b) What is a service dog?

The Americans With Disabilities Act states that a service animal is a “dog”, with the rare exception of a miniature horse. This eliminates the possibility of someone stating their snake, ferret or chicken is their “service” animal. Don’t laugh…this is still a problem in many areas of the U.S. Service dogs are trained to mitigate a disability, i.e. guide for the visually impaired/blind, alert for hearing loss, alert/assist for seizure activity, alert for cardiac deficiencies, alert for low blood sugar, assist with post traumatic stress disorder, assist with activities for those who are wheelchair bound and many more situations.

BOTTOM LINE…service dogs perform physical tasks that mitigate an individual’s disability.

What service dogs are NOT…”emotional support dogs,” “therapy dogs,” “animal assisted crisis response dogs.”

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