Saturday, April 13, 2013

So What Is A Service Dog?

Here in the United States, a service dog is a dog who has been trained to assist his (or her) ill or disabled owner.  Most people are familiar with Seeing Eye or Guide dogs, and hearing dogs. But there are lots of other kinds of service dogs. Some help with balance, and mobility.  There are dogs who can predict seizures, and dogs who assist diabetics.  There are blood pressure dogs. In addition to medical service dogs, there are also service dogs for emotional support, particularly for people suffering PTSD.  
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1996, all are considered service dogs.
Service dogs can go anywhere, including restaurants, hotels, museums, supermarkets, movie theaters -- any place that's open to the general public.  This sometimes upsets people, either because  they don't understand that service dogs do not necessarily have to be Guide dogs or because they just don't like dogs.
There is no formal, national registry for service dogs in the United States. Nor is there any official, certification process, no licenses, no ID cards. This also upsets some people, because they think "anyone can say their dog is a service dog."
In fact, it's not that easy. Service dogs have to be impeccably behaved. They can't bark at other dogs or jump up on people. They have to be perfectly house-trained. If a service dog creates any kind of disturbance whatsoever, the dog and its owner are legally required to leave the premises. So although small children can scream and yell and run around restaurants while their parents pretend not to notice, service dogs can't. 
How does a dog get to be a service dog?
Catch up with us next time and find out!

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