A Labrador retriever turns on a light for a wheelchair bound owner. This is only one of the multitude of tasks that service dogs can provide for their owners. Service dogs are defined as those performing specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. There is some confusion regarding the diversity between service dogs and emotional support animals, but the differences are significant.
Service Dog Responsibilities
There's little argument that a pet can calm you during times of stress, but this alone doesn't qualify your dog as a service animal. Service dogs endure months of training, oftentimes beginning in puppyhood, for a lifetime of service and devotion to an individual with a disability. Service dogs can be trained to perform many tasks, including:
- Guiding the blind
- Alerting the deaf
- Pulling wheelchairs
- Reminding their owners to take necessary medications
Service dogs have been determined to be profoundly helpful to war veterans suffering from service-related post traumatic stress disorder.
The Welcome Wagon
Service dogs are welcome in establishments normally considered off-limits for a companion pet, such as restaurants, hospitals and retail establishments. Personal discomfort or a fear of dogs is not sufficient cause to deny entry to an individual accompanied by a service dog. Service animals often wear vests to alert passersby that they are on duty, but this paraphernalia is optional.
It is not necessary to register a service dog, however, certain countries such as the United Kingdom, do require that service dogs to be certified. Assistance Dogs International is one of the most highly regarded organizations to provide this certification. Many online organizations offer service dog registry, but this registration alone doesn't classify your pet as a service dog. Significant fines can be administered to those who fraudulently try to pass off a companion animal as a service dog.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals are often confused with service dogs, but there are significant differences. Emotional support animals may accompany someone who fears the dentist, or is afraid to fly. These animals are often taken to disaster areas to comfort individuals affected by natural or man-made disasters. Under the auspices of the Americans with Disabilities Act, establishments are not required to allow entry to emotional support animals, but many places are becoming more dog friendly.