Service dogs in San Francisco 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 Service dog laws 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.
How to Register a Service Dog or How to Scam the Disabled
I'm often asked how you register or certify your service dog, the answer is "You Don't". Companies that claim to register or certify your animal without training are simply taking advantage of the handicapped to make a dollar. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect which gives handicapped persons with service animals legal protection to be accompanied by the animal in public places.
Understanding the ADA
So lets first define what a service animal is, According to the ADA, an animal is considered a service animal" if it has been "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." As you see, the word certify or registered doesn't appear in the law. As a matter fact the US government does not register, certify, license or approve any animal.
So What's a Service Dog Owner to do?
First, make sure you meet the definition of a disabled person and that your dog is specially trained to perform tasks related to your disability. Trying to pass off your pet as a service animal is a federal offense and comes with severe penalties. Outside of the two requirements spelled out in the ADA you don't have to do anything. If you feel identifying your service dog will make your life easier then purchase a quality photo service dog tag, vest with patches or a cape.
How Do I Certify My Service Dog?
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.
Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs - What's the Difference?
Wow, is there a lot of information on the web about how to go about doing this. Some of it is even quite amusing-that is, if you know what you're doing first.
It's always best to start out with taking a look at the federal civil rights laws (under the Americans with Disabilities Act) and the civil rights laws in your own state. These are the ultimate authorities and really all you need to make a determination. By the way, if there seems to be any disagreement or conflict between the federal laws and your state's laws, it's important for you to know that the federal laws trump your state's laws.
To sum up, having some kind of visible identification for your service dog, while not required by law, can make your life so much easier than you might imagine. So it's most highly recommended for both of you!