What You Need To Know About Assistance Dogs
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Health and Wellness

What You Need To Know About Assistance Dogs

They could be both your best friend and your life line.

What You Need To Know About Assistance Dogs

We are lucky to live in an age of insane technological advances with never-ending options available to allow people with disabilities to live as independently as possible.

Also, isn’t it crazy the things dogs are capable of doing? Their tricks can range from “sit” and “stay” to bringing a beverage to their owner so that they can swallow their medication, and even bringing the medication to them. Assistance dogs can make a tremendous difference in a person’s quality of life. They could be both your best friend and your life line.

There are a few things about assistance dogs that you may not know though, so here is some helpful information to have if you ever cross paths with one:

1.People often approach service dogs and pet them without asking if it's okay. It seems harmless, but it is extremely important that you don’t pet or even talk to a service dog without asking permissionfirst.

Service dogs need to be focused on their person at all times while on duty. For example, if you start petting a service dog on the street, the dog could miss a signal of an oncoming seizure. If the dog does not catch this signal, he would not be able to alert his person and his person could end up severely injured.

Another reason you should ask for permission before petting: it could be in training. Petting or scratching may be used as a reward mechanism, and petting/scratching at the wrong time may confuse the dog or set back the training.

2. A lot of people who have assistance dogs get judged because they don’t “visibly” appear to need a service dog (not in a wheelchair, no walking stick, etc.). Just because you can’t readily see a disability doesn’t mean it isn’t there. On a similar note, some people get accused of not needing a service dog or “faking” and just wanting to have their dog with them everywhere. Having a service dog isn’t an excuse to be able to take your dog with you everywhere. Think of it as a regular piece of medical equipment, such as a wheelchair. I have heard a lot of unnecessary behind-the-back talking about people with service dogs because they didn’t “seem” like they needed one. This is not a fair statement to make. It could be a psychiatric dog for all they know: if someone has PTSD and has a dissociative episode, the dog could save that person’s life by blocking him or her from wandering into danger. You would never know that just by looking at the person.

3. Service dogs are not required to wear ID tags, vests or harnesses, though they usually do. The first time I encountered a service dog was when I was working at a place that served food, so we did not allow animals.

I was not familiar with service animal laws, and when anyone started to walk in with an animal we would respond with the usual “sorry sir/ma’am, we can’t have dogs in here." Well, I didn’t see the service dog harness on this dog (and even if I did, I wouldn’t have known what it meant), and this woman got mad at me and threatened to have me arrested. So lesson learned, service dogs can go anywhere. No ID or papers required.

4. Not only are they not required to have identification on them, but it is also illegal to deny access to a person or charge them an extra fee because of their service dog. It may be in everyone’s best interest to go over service animal laws before beginning a new job to avoid being threatened to be arrested.

If an assistance dog comes in to your business and you have doubts about it, you are only allowed to ask two questions: 1) Is this a service dog required because of a disability? and 2) What is it trained to do to mitigate the disability? You may not inquire further about their disability.

So to sum things up, just keep in mind next time you see a service dog that you should not pet it without asking first. Having a service dog is not an excuse to have your dog with you at all times and it is not okay to jump to conclusions about people who do have them. If you are in a business setting and someone comes in with a service dog, they do not require an ID, you are required to let them in, and you may only ask them if the service dog is required for a disability and what the dog is trained to do to mitigate the disability.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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