Service dogs in Santa Barbara are amazing. They have been extensively trained, live strict but loved lives, and take care of their owners like truly no one else can. The dogs’ abilities to detect seizures, pick up dropped items, and even warn owners of impending stroke or heart attack make these dogs literally life savers.
With all the amazing things these animals can do, it’s no wonder we have learned to accept them in places we usually wouldn’t, like a restaurant or the office. But there is a growing cynicism towards service and support animals in general, and mostly because of misunderstanding, and I’ll admit that I used to be one of these people.
I was not raised in a house with pets, and I never could understand the “emotional support animal“. I could understand a seeing eye dog or a dog that assists with the hearing impaired, but these are obvious needs that a dog could help with. When I would see articles about an emotional support pig or bunny, I would roll my eyes.
The Best Law on service dogs in CaliforniaA service dog encourages outward expression from a young boy with autism.
A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder .
Although assistance dogs have traditionally helped people with disabilities such as blindness or more recently deafness or mobility disabilities, there is a wide range of other disabilities that an assistance dog may be able to help with as well, including psychiatric disabilities.A Psychiatric service dog in training Service dog being trained to run over and lie in handler's lap to provide calming pressure.
Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability. Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy. Moreover, the dog can be an extremely useful companion in any controlled training concerning cognitive functions, as "walking the dog" for instance, which simultaneously offers any person several situations or encounters where cognition activates.
Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Many psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler—usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities, and there are even organizations dedicated specifically to supporting psychiatric service dog handlers.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual," and therefore allows handlers of psychiatric service dogs the same rights and protections afforded to those with other types of service animals. Service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, are allowed to accompany their handler in any location that is normally accessible to the public whether or not health codes or business policy normally would allow a dog to enter, provided the dog behaves properly and does not interfere with normal operations (e.g. barking, biting, defecating, or obstructing other people) or pose a direct threat to the safety of others.
An alternative to a psychiatric service dog is an emotional support animal, which may or may not have specific training related to the handler's disability, but provides companionship and emotional support. They do not qualify as service animals in the United States, though they do qualify for several exceptions in housing and air travel.
The Fair Housing Act also allows tenants that have service animals or emotional support animals to stay in housing that does not allow pets. Some individual state laws may also provide additional guidelines or protection.
The Air Carrier Access Act also permits psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals to be permitted to travel in the cabin when accompanied by a person with a disability.
People with psychiatric service dogs are often faced with several problems that other service dog handlers typically do not experience. While guide dogs for the blind and hearing-impaired and helper dogs for people who use wheelchairs are well-known to the public, dogs for psychiatric conditions are not. Further adding to this issue is that many people with psychiatric conditions do not appear to have anything externally wrong with them, and because of the heavy social stigma of mental illness, the handler may be reluctant to explain their condition or the dog's trained tasks even in the vaguest of terms. In addition, the dogs can be any size (even toy breeds) depending on their trained task, yet there is a common public misconception that all service dogs are medium or large breeds. Any of these issues can lead to other people inappropriately impugning the dog's status or pressing the handler to divulge medical information about themselves.
Your Dog and the Law - Legislation and Dog Ownership
What's the difference between a service animal and a therapy animal?
A service dog focuses on the needs of its handler. A therapy dog works with its handler to focus on the needs of others.
Service dogs assist an individual with a disability. They're trained to perform tasks that the person cannot perform for him or herself. A few examples might be alerting to the sound of a siren, pulling a wheelchair uphill, retrieving an item from a grocery store shelf, alerting to low blood sugar, or guiding a person down the street. Service dogs focus primarily on the needs of their handler.
For more information see the following links:
Psychiatric service dog
The following is a summary of possible legislation in your area that may affect you and your dog
Leash Laws - Leashes laws not only protect the community at large but also the dog itself. Normally, when a dog is in a public place, the owner is required to be in control of the dog on a leash that is six feet or less. Complaints may result in warnings, fines and/or having the dog impounded. Many municipalities have specific designated areas where a dog may be off leash as long as it is licensed, current on its vaccinations and friendly to people and other dogs.
Noise Ordinances - These ordinances are common in most cities and often include excessive barking. Complaints may result in warnings, fines and in some cases even having the dog impounded.
Livestock Laws - In many rural areas dogs can legally be shot or euthanized for harassing or killing livestock and the owner may be required to compensate for any losses.
Animal Cruelty Laws - These laws are designed to protect animals including dogs. Definitions vary widely throughout different areas ranging from intentional injury or killing to neglect in providing food, water and shelter to abandonment. Penalties also vary widely from felony convictions to fines and misdemeanors.
Antifreeze Laws - Antifreeze is typically sweet to the taste, yet highly toxic. Some areas require that antifreeze have a bitter agent added to it, to make it less palatable, but this does not normally apply to wholesalers. Thousands of dogs die each year due to poisoning.
Airline Laws - In the U.S. dogs being transported by airline are required to have adequately sized and ventilated kennels with handles and be clearly marked. They must also be provided with adequate food and water depending on their age. Puppies under 8 weeks old are not allowed.
Breed Bans - Many cities, counties, provinces or states, and even countries have introduced legislation banning or controlling certain dog breeds. These are typically aimed at the pit-bull or other guardian breeds. It is also not unusual to find certain apartments, housing complexes or gated communities banning certain breeds. Some insurance companies are also not insuring homeowners with certain breeds.
To learn the specific rights and responsibilities you have as a dog owner contact your local animal control agency.
How to Register a Service Dog or How to Scam the Disabled
There are certain responsibilities associated with owning a dog. Some of them are legal while others are merely customs. All dog owners should make sure that they know the responsibilities associated with owning a dog in their area. Knowing the customs and legal responsibilities of a dog owner in your area will not just make you a better dog owner but also help you avoid legal nightmares and lawsuits. This article will focus on the legal aspects of owning a dog.
There is no universal dog law. The laws vary from country to country, from state to state, from city to city and sometimes even from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. It is therefore important that you check the local law in the area where you live. Taking advice from a friend living a few miles away can be a big mistake as the rules can vary between his location and yours. It is also very important that you make sure to check dog rules in other areas before travelling with your dog as you can not assume that the same rules will apply in other areas. This in not only true if your travel abroad but also if you travel within your own country.
Dog law is a very complex matter due to its local nature and it is therefore very hard to give any general advice to dog owners besides to research local laws and contact a dog lawyer if any problem arises.