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MORE ON SERVICE ANIMALS

Rules and regulations

 

February 24, 2017



According to a study conducted by the University of Arizona, there are roughly 387,000 service dogs throughout the United States (http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/). With so many animals working to help and protect their owners, why are so many people oblivious to the rules and regulations, protocols, and overall dogs themselves?

Three hundred eighty seven thousand seems like a pretty large number, but in context, it’s actually quite small. If going with the ratio of one service dog per one citizen with a disability, it would only take care of approximately 0.9% of Americans who live with a disability. A definition of a “service animal” is an animal who has been trained to assist someone with a disability, which includes a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability (https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet). The Americans with Disabilities Act, also known and will be referred to as the ADA, covers only dogs- of any breed- trained to do specific work, under Titles II and III (https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm). States have the control to allow other animals to be a service animal, besides dogs. In the state of New Mexico, dogs and miniature horses, under 100 pounds, are allowed to be classified as a service animal. Some states allow ferrets to be service pets, as they alert their owners to seizures. There is even a report of a boa constrictor alerting to seizures by being carried around by its owner: when a seizure is coming, the snake gently wraps itself around the owner until he gets to a safe place to lay down until the seizure passes (http://blog.ncpad.org/2010/12/13/6-of-the-most-unusual-service-animals/).

Service animals and therapy animals are different. A service animal helps with disabilities. This can include leading the blind, alerting to seizures, fluctuating blood glucose levels, or anxiety attacks. Therapy animals help social, emotional, or cognitive aspects. Therapy animals are paired with patients while doctors monitor the therapy. For example, if the patient has depression and has a hard time motivating his or herself to do daily functions, having a therapy dog can greatly improve their life. The dog can motivate the patient to go outside to walk the animal, feed, or brush the dog. If the patient is having a hard day the dog can play with him/her. Another example includes stroke patients. During therapy to regain skills, such as hand movement or walking, doctors can pair a patient and a dog, again, for motivation. Walking the dog (with a doctor or third party) or petting can improve therapy and increase the speed of recovery.

It is truly amazing how helpful animals can be in our day-to-day life, whether they are pets in our household or a working companion, whom we may owe our life or sanity too. For more information on service animals, laws and rules regarding the animals, or whether they may be beneficial in your life there are many online resources including the ADA (https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm), National Network (https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet), and Service Dog Central (www.servicedogcentral.org), including many trainers and businesses!

 

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