With just a wag of the tail, a therapy dog can make someone in a hospital, nursing home or special needs person feel better.
When people think of medical service dogs, they usually think of seeing-eye dogs for the blind, or perhaps they think of the therapy dog. A therapy dog is not the same as a service dog. A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas. While a visual assistance dog is a service dog, there are many other amazing jobs that these incredible canines can be trained to do.
These dogs are trained to do various jobs as medical service dogs such as:
• Alerting for help
• Alerting prior to a seizure (diabetic, epilepsy and other types of seizures)
• Alerting to a change in insulin levels
• Open/close doors, drawers and refrigerators
• Pick up dropped items
• Assist with mobility issues
• Mitigate the challenges of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
• Assist the hearing impaired, those with autism and so much more
As a rule, service dogs are allowed to go anywhere that the general public goes. That includes any privately owned businesses that serve the public such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxi’s, theaters, concerts, sports facilities, etc. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that businesses allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are allowed. If you enter a business and are told that you cannot bring your dog inside, you simply tell them that you have a disability and that this is your service dog. By law, a business is not allowed to ask you what your disability is, nor can they demand proof that your dog is “certified”.
The difference between therapy dogs and service dogs? Says Dawn Marcus, MD, of www.dawnmarcusmd.com, “While service dogs have leagal standing to allow them in public places, e.g., public transit, stores, restaurants, etc., therapy dogs do not have this same legal standing and are only permitted in select places when performing therapy dog services. For example, a therapy dog may go in to a reading program at a library for an hour, but if the handler is then planning on searching for books, the dog is not permitted then — only during the scheduled therapy dog program.”
In addition, a service dog is also legally permitted to travel on any public transit system with their owner (not in cargo) including buses, trains, boats, planes, etc. For complete information on traveling with your service dog, please review the special set of regulations dealing with airline travel.
These very special dogs help to give people back their self-confidence and independence. We are so often told how vulnerable a disabled person feels in a crowd or maneuvering a large public area such as an airport. With their loyal and highly trained therapy dog at their side, disabled people often forget about the challenges they faced prior to having this wonderful support system.
Image Credit: The U.S. Army