Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Education, Education, Education…

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that falls under the U.S. Department of Justice a service dog is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability.  The tasks must be related specifically to that person’s disability such as a hearing dog to for a hearing impaired person, a mobility dog for a person with mobility issues, a seeing-eye dog for a blind or seeing impaired person and so on.  An Emotional Support Animal (ESA), therapy, comforts, or companion animal however are not considered to be service dogs and are not protected under the ADA protection because they do not provide a specific task.  There may be a state or local government law that may protect the rights of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA), therapy, comfort, or companion animals which would depend on each specific state and county government.  Now there are exclusions such as a service dog for an individual with diagnosed depression or Post-Traumatic Stress in which the service dog is trained to remind the handler to take their medication.  A diabetic alert or a person or has epilepsy again the dog is trained to alert when their sugar levels are low or to detect the onset of a seizure, these service dogs would be protected under ADA. For an individual to claim their dog’s presence “calms them” during an anxiety attack does not qualify them as a service dog either, this is a fine line.  If an individual states their dog is a service dog because the dog is able to provide a specific action to help avoid or possibly lessen the impact of the anxiety attack that would qualify the dog as a service dog because it is tasked for a specific job.  So again, it is educating the public, establishments, and others to understand what would qualify a service animal under the ADA versus the fake service dogs.    


Another potential misunderstanding is No; a service dog does not need to be professional trained.  An individual is able to train their own dog for their own disability.  Also, service dogs in training are not qualified or protected under the ADA while still in training.  There are establishments that will work with professional trainers to help train service dogs in training because of the relationship obtained over the years.  So if one is training your own dog an establishment is allowed by law to turn you and your service dog in training away.  Once you and your service dog is ready to go out, if an establishment questions if your dog is a service dog or not they are only allowed two questions: 1. Is your dog require because of a disability?  A simple yes or no answer is required here. You do not need to disclose your disability.  2. What is your dog tasked for? This is a sticky situation because this will disclose your disability when you state, for instance, they are my hearing dog or assists me with my mobility.   An establishment cannot ask for documentation, cannot ask for the dog or you to prove the task, or inquire further in regards to your disability. 
Under ADA a service dog
does not need to wear
a vest or harness. 

Another, misunderstanding is a service animal does not need to wear a service vest, harness or anything to state it is a service dog.  Some individuals will utilize the vest or a harness to lessen the confusion or prohibit individuals from petting or requesting to pet their dog however it is not required for them to be worn under the ADA.  So to some people there are positive and negatives to their dog wearing a vest or harness signifying it is a service dog and at work. 

All service dogs will need to meet all cities, state and local vaccinations requirements, they are not exempt from the vaccinations.  If your specific city or state requires your dog to be registered and licensed then you must obey those laws on top of the requirements needed for your dog to qualify under the service dog requirements.  The ADA has no specific mandatory registration or requirements just what the local governments require. 

Now this particular information was eye-opening to me, not all Federal agencies have to comply with the ADA.  For instance, the Air Carrier Access Act is slightly different in their definitions on what would comply as a service animal versus the ADA definition of a service animal as well as which and the number of questions that can be asked to determine if the animal is a service animal or not.  Now, all U.S. Carriers are to follow the Air Carrier Access Act however for foreign air carriers they are not required to transport any other service animal just a service dog. Just recently the Department of Veterans Affairs changed their policy in which service dogs are allowed on their grounds and in their facilities, prior to that it was depending up to each facility.   So even though it is a government facility, if you have a service dog and need to visit a federal government facility it is best to call ahead and check first if your service dog is allowed. 

Now this was a lot of information and even I learned some additional information that I was unware of during this article.  So again, education and continuous education is needed to help combat the real service dogs versus the fake service dogs.    

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