Monday, October 17, 2016

We Need to Work Together – Shelters & Rescues to help our Veterans & First Responders

A pet does not care what your race, gender, sex, or nationality is. A pet does not judge you.  A pet cares about you as a person and will give you unconditional love in return for a warm loving home, food and water.  This is the reason why pets are such good companions when it comes to helping to treat individuals with Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is similar to having panic or anxiety attacks, a form of depression and stresses something a pet can pick up on better than even a human counterpart such as a spouse.  Pets are critical to helping individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to manage their attacks whether at home or when they go out in public.  Luckily, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Service Dogs qualify until the American with Disabilities Act stating “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability” (2011).  However, pets whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA therefore do not qualify under the guidelines or protection of the ADA Law.  Those pets are not allowed to enter restaurants, stores, or other facilities unless they are dog-friendly establishments. 

Every day twenty-two veterans take their lives due to their suffering of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  First Responders such as police, emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and fire fighters are also high risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of their employment.  These individuals choose to protect our lives over their own, they leave their families every day knowing and their families knowing that they are going to do their best to save a life and save a family from the one horrible door knock but at the same time it may cost them.  They pray, their families pray and we should all pray that our armed service members and our first

responders are safe and remain safe.  However, behind the scenes it does cost them.  The things they experience, the things they see and the things they have to go through are embroidered inside them.  It may not be visible now but eventually it will catch up with them and come out, it is then it starts to affect them and in affect their family – this is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.   This is where a companion or better yet a service dog is their most valuable asset.  It is their “battle buddy” to veterans or a confidant to the first responders, it doesn’t matter what a pet is consider to them it helps to ease the anxiety, depression and stress.  It is someone who will be there for them and give them the love even when no one else understands.   

Just as these individuals is needing rescuing with a service or companion dog they are able to rescue dogs from shelters and rescues giving pets a second chance, when those dogs may not have had a chance.  Shelters and rescues need to work with local veteran committees, first responders, and their families to see how each other can help each other.  It is a win-win for all. 

When someone abuses the use of a service dog with a fake service dog with a kit they purchased of the internet in an establishment it causes that establishment to question all service dog teams entering their establishment which is an undue stress onto those already stressed.  Let’s think about it, would you want that added stress added onto your loved one?  Added onto you?  NO, I highly doubt it.  These individuals and their families have sacrificed enough.  Stricter laws and higher penalties are needed to be added in order to eliminate fake service dogs, making it easier for the real service dogs.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Misrepresenting your Pet as a Service Dog, not fair to a real Service Dog

Our pets are our part of our family and it is understandable that many of us want our pets by our side just as we want our children by our side however to diminish the extent of the time, dedication and service that a true service dog provides to those who truly needs a service dog versus those who just wants to have their pet by their side or to save a few dollars just cannot be justified.  It is nice to see that it is now punishable by law, when someone misrepresents their pet as a service dog. 

It has become more recent that individuals are abusing the system in order for their pet to fly with them free of charge and out of a carrier, to go into stores with them and to be with them all the time by stating they are their service dog.  By law a service dog/pet does not need to wear a vest or have specific documentation however they do need to be trained for a specific task and be under the control of the handler at all times.  An establishment by law can ask a handler if the pet provides a service and what is the pet trained to do?  Real service dogs have stringent guidelines and training, they are no longer a pet but a medical necessity.  A handler’s life is in the balance of their service dog whether it is a Seeing Eye dog, hearing dog, diabetic alert dog, seizure alert dog and so on.   

There are specific service dogs that are bred from birth to be service dogs.  There are also dogs that are rescued and then trained to be service dogs pending what the service they will be training for is.  Either way, a real service dog usually starts training at the age of two even through as they are going through their puppy stages and playing there are toys and games that ultimately assists with eventually will be a task when they become a certified service dog.  Not all pets that enter the service dog training whether bred from birth or that are rescued actually become a certified service dog, it takes dedication and discipline which not all dogs have to become a service dog.  Those dogs are not destroyed but are adopted or sold to become family pets, remember a certified service dog is not a pet but a medically necessity for the handler. 

Once a service dog goes through the training and becomes a certified service dog, their training does not end there.  Each year the service dog team (dog and handler) are retested to make sure the dog is still performing the tasks they were trained for, if the dog fails it goes through retraining and if the dog fails again the dog is no longer a service dog.  The dog will be adopted to another family as a pet while the handler will be assigned to another certified service dog.  A service dog cannot be disruptive or out of control in any public place because even being a service dog they can be requested to leave.  So even real service dogs can be requested to leave if they are being bad. 

With the extensive training a real service dog goes through and the lifesaving service they provide to their handler as well as their handler  counting on them to be there for them and knowing the handler really cannot go anywhere without them because it could cost them their life.  Individuals who do not need their pet as a medical necessity should be thankful and not abuse the system.  When they abuse the system it only makes it harder for those who really need the system.  One day it could be you or someone you love then you will realize the extent of what is takes between the documentation and training to qualify for a service dog then to be questioned or ridicule due to the misrepresentation of fake service dog.  I only pray and hope it does not happen to you or someone you love but think twice before you misrepresent your pet as a service animal.  There are many stores that are now pet friendly, employers that are pet friendly, restaurants with outside eating areas for those who want to bring their pets and even public transportation who allow pets.  Research your area and try a different approach then misrepresenting your pet; it only makes it harder for others who already have it hard enough.

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