Service Dogs are a lifeline for many individuals with disabilities, providing them with independence and support. Despite their importance, numerous myths and misunderstandings about Service Dogs persist. Continue reading to clarify common misconceptions and shed light on the truth about these incredible animals.
Myth: Service Dogs are Only for People With Visible Disabilities
Truth: Service Dogs are invaluable companions, meticulously trained to perform specific tasks that assist individuals with various disabilities. These disabilities include various conditions, from physical impairments that are often visible to those that are not immediately apparent.
For example, a Service Dog can be trained to provide a sense of security, companionship, and calm to an individual living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Diabetic and epilepsy alert Service Dogs are trained to detect and alert their handlers to changes in blood sugar levels, signal them to take action, retrieve medication, or even dial for assistance on a specialized device.
Myth: Service Dogs Must Be Officially Registered or Certified
Truth: According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — a federal law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities— a Service Dog is not mandated to undergo any official registration or certification process. Instead, the defining characteristic of a Service Dog is its ability to perform specific tasks. In other words, the critical qualification for a dog to be considered a Service Dog is its specialized training to assist with the handler’s particular needs stemming from a disability.
The ADA explicitly focuses on the functional abilities of the dog rather than any formalized documentation or identification, recognizing these animals as vital aids for their handlers’ daily living activities and full participation in society. The provision ensures that a Service Dog can accompany individuals with disabilities in public spaces without the burden of proving certification or registration.
Myth: Service Dogs Must Wear Specialized Vests or Harnesses
Truth: The ADA does not require Service Dogs to wear any identifying gear. Service Dogs are working animals, not pets, but identifying vests or badges are not legally required to be considered a Service Dog.
Myth: Service Dogs Never Play or Have Fun
Truth: Service Dogs are more than just working dogs; they’re valued companions and team members whose contributions are immeasurable. Beyond their dedicated service, it’s essential to acknowledge they also enjoy and require time for leisure and rejuvenation. When not on the clock, they engage in various playful activities and restorative relaxation, which is beneficial and crucial for their mental and physical health.
Myth: Anyone Can Train a Service Dog
Truth: Training a Service Dog requires specialized knowledge and skills. While it’s true that owners can train their dogs, most Service Dogs undergo extensive training by professional organizations.
Myth: Businesses Can Ask Numerous Questions to Determine if a Dog is a Service Dog
Truth: Business personnel are not authorized to inquire about the nature of a handler’s disability, nor can they demand medical proof. Similarly, it’s not permissible for them to request a demonstration of the dog’s capabilities. However, to ascertain compliance with the ADA’s regulations, they are allowed to ask two precise questions:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Myth: Service Dogs Can Go Anywhere
Truth: Service Dogs, when trained appropriately, are granted access to accompany their handlers to all public areas, akin to assistive devices like wheelchairs. The ADA mandates that businesses accommodate Service Dogs and their handlers without exception. They cannot segregate them to a different area, impose additional fees, or deny service.
There are, however, specific situations where Service Dog access may be legally limited. Private homes and certain religious entities are not required to adhere to the same access rules as public accommodations and may set policies regarding the presence of Service Dogs.
Myth: It’s Easy to Spot a Fake Service Dog
Truth: Identifying a fake Service Dog can be challenging since there is no standardized identification system, and some disabilities are not apparent.
Myth: All Service Dogs Are Large Breeds
Truth: While many Service Dogs are larger breeds, like Labradors and Golden Retrievers, any size or breed can be trained as a Service Dog, depending on the specific needs of the handler.
How You Can Help
Understanding the rules and myths about service dogs enables disabled handlers and businesses to act in accordance with the ADA. Following proper procedures ensures that Service Dogs can assist their handlers without disruption or discrimination.
How to Obtain a Service Dog
Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) breeds Service Dogs and trains them as puppies. By the time they’re nine months, they know several commands. They then undergo extensive training for 18 to 24 months before being matched with someone.
Each person's final training is individualized once a potential match has been identified. When a client arrives for team training, the dog has had up to 1,500 hours of training and socialization. If you or a loved one could benefit from a Service Dog, contact Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities to learn more or apply for a Service Dog.
Help Us Transform the Lives of People Living With Disabilities
Service Dogs can significantly impact the lives of people with disabilities. From physical assistance to emotional support, they can provide the help needed to live independently and confidently. Having a Service Dog by your side means you can enjoy a better quality of life.
Everyone can take part in helping people with disabilities with Service Dogs. Support us with a donation, bequest, planned giving, contributions to our wish list, or create a fundraiser. Your support can change someone’s life.