I’ve seen and heard a lot of confusion regarding service dogs lately. I know of many clients with service dogs that have been discriminated against. I also know of many clients that confuse a service dog with a therapy dog. So, what exactly is a service dog?
As of 2011, only dogs are recognized by ADA (The Americans with Disabilities Act) titles II and III. (Although there are provisions for other animals.) Before then, any animal qualified! Now, any dog that performs a service to an individual with a disability qualifies. Keep in mind, not all disabilities are visible. These dogs are allowed to go anywhere the public is allowed to go.
Often, service dogs are professionally trained to do specific tasks. While training is a must, *professional* training is not a requirement as long as the dog’s handler is capable of successfully training the tasks in need. Often, service dogs are visibly identified as such. This is also not a requirement, and there is no one certifying body responsible for these certifications. Having ID for a service dog does make life easier for many individuals, however.
When it’s not obvious what tasks a service dog provides, and/or the dog does not have a visible ID, staff of establishments may inquire about the dog, not the person or the disability. Appropriate questions would be- 1. Is the dog required because of a disability? and 2. What work has the dog been trained to perform? While service dogs are allowed anywhere the public is allowed to be, they may be excluded if- 1. the dog is not under control, or 2. dog is not housebroken.
It is important to know that service dogs are not pets. They are working dogs, and should not socialize with the public when they are working. NEVER PET A SERVICE DOG. The key difference between a service dog and a therapy dog is that a service dog provides service to an individual with a disability. A therapy dog provides therapeutic support to other individuals. While therapy dogs are also awesome, and often allowed places pets may not be allowed, there are no requirements that therapy dogs must be allowed in public places.
Questions regarding service or therapy animals? Need help training a service or therapy animal? Direct inquiries to Aja! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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