Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions about service dogs. This is largely due to a lack of education about what they are and who they serve.
Another reason for these misconceptions? People falsely passing off their pets as service animals. These instances often lead the public to distrust any working animal, whether real or fake.
No matter what, these misconceptions are harmful. They may prevent people with disabilities from using their service dogs as they should be able to.
In this article, we go over some important things you should know about service dogs! This info will hopefully clear up some misconceptions you may have heard.
Definition of a Service Animal
First, let’s define what exactly a service animal is.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says a service animal is any dog that is trained to specifically help an owner with their disability. Technically, the ADA also considers miniature horses, pigs, and other critters as service animals (as long as they are trained to help an owner with their disability).
But, as you’ve probably guessed, dogs are the most common kind of working animal and will be the focus of this article.
Here are 5 things you should know about service dogs.
They Perform Different Jobs
When you think of service dogs, you probably picture a Golden Retriever guiding its blind owner. However, the reality is that working dogs can help owners that have just about any disability.
These animals can be trained to perform tasks such as:
- Alerting an epileptic owner of oncoming seizures
- Monitoring their diabetic owner’s blood sugar levels
- Acting as a deaf owner’s “ears”
- Helping their owner with mobility issues get around
They Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Golden Retrievers are common guide dogs because they are friendly, smart, and eager to please. German Shepherds are big enough to help owners move around. And, their strong sense of smell allows them to monitor blood sugar levels.
As you can see, certain breeds are better suited for this line of work.
But, according to the ADA, any breed is eligible to be a service dog as long as they are trained to perform tasks related to their owner’s disability.
Service Vests Aren’t Required
Contrary to popular belief, service dogs do not need vests or any other form of identification. The ADA actually forbids businesses from asking for proof of training/certification. They may only ask owners two questions:
- Is the animal required because of a disability?
- What work has the animal been trained to perform?
Even though vests aren’t required, many owners choose to obtain them through Official Service Dog Registration. The identification makes it easier for the public to recognize and accept working animals.
They Have Rights
According to the ADA, businesses and government organizations must permit working dogs where members of the public are normally permitted. This includes restaurants, hotels, and other entities where animals aren’t usually allowed.
Businesses cannot charge fees because a working animal is accompanying its owner. They must treat them like any other customer.
They Aren’t Pets
We’ll conclude by clearing up one final misconception: service dogs are not pets. They go through countless hours of rigorous training. Owners go through a tedious and expensive process to get them.
And, most importantly, these dogs are working animals. They are there to help their owner better navigate their disability.
So, if you ever see a service dog in public, it’s best to ignore it. Don’t ask to pet it. Don’t try to get its attention, feed it, or distract it in any way. This will make sure the service dog can focus and do its job!