Sunday, December 29, 2013

Service Dogs



 Service Dogs

 
Most people thing of guide dogs for the blind when they hear "service dog". However, many people benefit from having a service dog.
 
Those with autoimmune diseases may need a service dog to retrieve dropped items, provide emotional support, provide mobility for those in wheelchairs, and many other tasks.
 
If you think a service dog is right for you, there are some things you should know. First of all, you must be healthy enough to care for the dog. He will need regular vet visits, food, fresh water, etc. If you're unable to provide these things, then someone in the home will need to care for the animal.
 
You will need to determine if you can train your own dog or if you would rather obtain an animal from a group like Canine Companions for Independence. CCI doesn't charge for their dogs. They are provided by donations. You can read about their organization on their website.
 
If you decide to train your own dog, you should first enroll in a basic obedience class. If there is a PetSmart in your community, they offer basic obedience and most will help you with advanced obedience. Our local PetSmart trainer will assist with training on some basic assisting behaviors.
 
For those communities where there isn't a PetSmart, try a local community college or ask at a local pet store if they know of anyone who provides basic obedience training.
 
Dana L. Marshall has some great advice and books on website. If you're thinking of self-training your dog, I strongly suggest reading the information on her website.
 
Assistance Dogs International provides standards for service dogs. They have a copy of the test they require members of ADI to administer before placing a service dog in a home. If you train your dog to their standards and your dog can pass this test, your dog is NOT considered certified by ADI.
 
Federal Law provides access for those with service animals. You are not required to have a certification. There are many companies that try to sell certifications without ever seeing the dog, but they are just asking for your money and are not necessary. A copy of the law may be found here.
 
Once your dog is trained, you may take him anywhere the public is generally allowed. Staff may only ask you two questions: 1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and 2. what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

The staff may not ask you what your disability is, or ask you to show a certification of training. They also may not ask you to have the dog demonstrate his ability to perform the task.

You may download the PDF from the ADA site or Amazon sells cards that outline the law that you may give or show to anyone who questions you about the service animal.

In conclusion, if you feel you would benefit from a service dog, review the sites above, then decide whether you want to apply for a trained dog, or put in the work to train an animal to fit your needs.

If you have a service dog, I would love to hear more about you and your animal.
 
 

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