This took much longer than I expected to write. Many people on the Chronically Hopeful Facebook page were interested when a service dog post went up about a month ago. Please understand that I have done research to the best to my ability. This is just a general overview. There will be additional service dog posts in the next few months.
There is a substantial difference between a service dog and a pet dog in the eyes of the law and social norms. Let’s begin with the basics. A service dog is for an individual with a physical disability. These dogs are allowed to go anywhere and everywhere their human goes.Assistance Dogs International elaborates on this, “Service Dogs assist people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. With special training, these dogs can help mitigate many different types of disabilities. They can be trained to work with people who use power or manual wheelchairs, have balance issues, have various types of autism, need seizure alert or response, need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar, or have psychiatric disabilities. These specially trained dogs can help by retrieving objects that are out of their person’s reach, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to indicate that help is needed, finding another person and leading the person to the handler, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance, providing deep pressure, and many other individual tasks as needed by a person with a disability.” There are many tasks a service dog can be trained to do. Additionally, service dogs can be paired with humans for autism and hearing.
Your pet dog is not allowed to accompany you in public without a specific reason. Many view a service dog as medical assistance or even medical equipment.
Service Dog Central provides some clarification on the differences between psychiatric service dogs and therapy dogs. “A therapy dog is an individual’s pet which has been trained, tested, registered and insured to work in a hospital, nursing home, school, or other institutional settings. The therapy dog and his partner visit to cheer patients, to educate the community, to counter grief and stress, and generally be good canine ambassadors within the community. Most therapy dog partners are volunteers, but some states recognize professional therapy dogs partnered with therapists and other mental health professionals.”
Psychiatric Service Dogs are generally for people with a mental impairment (these words are chosen to line up with the laws that are in place). A mental impairment in the case would include mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD would fit under emotional/mental illness. They can be granted access in public places.
A partial listing of therapy dog organizations:
The Delta Society http://deltasociety.org
Therapy Dogs International http://tdi-dog.org
Therapy Dogs Incorporated http://therapydogs.com
On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access.
On the other hand, emotional support dogs have very limited public access. Emotional support animals provide compassion, support, and friendship to his or her owner. These animals have an irreplaceable role in their human life. Not only do these animals assist their humans emotionally but also improve physical health. Many studies support that animals lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride, reduced stress levels, reduced feelings of loneliness, and increased activity. Currently, my cats are emotional support animals. I have a special bond with each. Furthermore, they can sense when I am going to pass out, fall, or shake. Even so, they are not allowed in public. I wouldn’t bring them out in public either because that would provoke anxiety.
A multitude of agencies is out there. My first recommendation is to speak with your vet if you have one. Each agency is different. However, most share that the waiting list is long. Comparing agencies is vital. Furthermore, get as much information as possible on each one. Due to this reason, some people also find training agencies. Either your current pet dog (if he or she is qualified) or adopting a dog than the trained works with you both.
Some additional agencies include but are not limited to:
NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, also known as Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans), is a non-profit organization and is based in Princeton, Massachusetts. Our Service Dogs become an extension of their handlers and bring freedom, physical autonomy, and relief from social isolation to their human partners who are deaf or have a disability.
Accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the internationally recognized governing body that establishes industry standards and practices, NEADS offers a wide spectrum of Assistance Dog services, including: Deaf & Hearing Loss, Combat Veterans, Physical Disability Classroom, Therapy & Ministry, Children with a Disability Children on the Autism Spectrum, Deaf & Hearing Loss, Veterans, Physical Disability and more.
Assistance Dog’s International can help you find a program closer to you. They have a variety of resources.
Service Dog Trainers A list of trainers across America.
I hope this information is helpful. Please share your pet’s name in the comments!