Archive for October, 2019

What You Likely Don’t Know About Service Animals, but Should

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance

  • A service dog is “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability”
  • Any breed of dog can be a service animal, as can miniature horses
  • Service dogs do not require professional training and there are no required ADA certifications for service animals
  • People with disabilities are allowed to bring their service animals to all public facilities and private businesses, without providing any type of “proof” of their disability or dog’s “service animal” status
  • A service animal may also be denied access if its presence interferes with “legitimate safety requirements,” such as a hospital unit that must maintain a sterile environment
  • Service dogs should not be approached, talked to or touched, unless permission is asked for and granted by the dog’s handler

Service dogs provide invaluable support to their owners, alerting them to potentially life-threatening medical problems or offering psychiatric or visual support. While most people will never experience the close bond that exists between service dogs and their owners, most everyone will cross paths with a service dog at some point in their lives.

Despite their prevalence — you’re likely to spot one sooner or later, since service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners virtually everywhere — many misconceptions persist about these generous animals. This is partly because service dogs look like any other dog, which leads some to believe they should be treated like any other dog — which isn’t the case if the dog is “working.”

Also problematic, the U.S. has no centralized process that allows people with disabilities to register service dogs,1 which means, even though service dogs are afforded special rights, there’s a lot of grey area when it comes to how those rights are protected, for both the dogs and their owners.

Clearing up common misconceptions is an important part of ensuring that service dogs and their owners get the respect and protections they deserve.

Service Dogs Are Not the Same as Emotional Support Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (ADA) defines a service animal as, “Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.”2

Miniature horses have been added as an exception, however, provided they are housebroken, under the handler’s control, can be accommodated by the facility and will not compromise safety regulations.

On the other hand, emotional support animals (ESAs), according to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), can be any species of animal, who must fulfill a disability-related need and whose use is supported by a physician, psychiatrist or mental health professional. ESAs do not have to be trained to perform a particular task and do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Service Dogs Are Not Only for the Visually Impaired

Guide dogs for the visually impaired are just one type of service dog. Service dogs can be trained to help people with physical or mental difficulties, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If a veteran is experiencing anxiety or stress due to PTSD, for instance, a service dog can be trained to notice the signs and step in to provide calm and comfort.

They may wake a veteran up from nightmares and are also taught specific commands, including “block,” in which the dog stands in front of the veteran to provide for more personal space, and “cover,” in which the dog goes behind the veteran to “watch their back.”3 Other examples of tasks that service animals may perform include:4

Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds Providing non-violent protection or rescue work
Pulling a wheelchair Assisting an individual during a seizure Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities Helping people with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors

Not All Service Dogs Are Professionally Trained

Service dogs do not require professional training and there are no required ADA certifications for service animals. While most service dogs come from reputable trainers or organizations that specialize in training service dogs, according to the ADA, “People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.”5

That being said, many service dogs undergo about two years of training before they’re ready and will continue to learn and adapt to their owner’s changing needs over time.6 There are also misconceptions about what type of dog can be a service dog; according to the ADA, any dog breed can be a service animal.

In choosing a service dog, personality is often more important than breed; dogs who are fearful or aggressive are not well suited to be service dogs.

Can Service Dogs Ever Be Denied Access?

People with disabilities are allowed to bring their service animals to all public facilities and private businesses. The owners of a business may ask two questions to determine if the animal is a service animal — and only if the need for the service animal isn’t obvious (such as a dog guiding someone who is blind. Those questions are:7

  • Is this animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?

Beyond this, no further questioning or “proof” is needed. As noted by the ADA, “A public entity or private business may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability or require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.”8

Generally, service animals are allowed to go where their owners go, but there are a few exceptions in which a business can ask for a service animal to be removed, including if the animal is out of control or not housebroken. A service animal may also be denied access if its presence interferes with “legitimate safety requirements,” such as a hospital unit that must maintain a sterile environment.9

Should You Pet a Service Dog?

One important point to remember is that certain rules of etiquette apply when it comes to interacting with service dogs and their handlers. Generally speaking, don’t interact with them at all; let the dog and the owner go about their business uninterrupted.

Service dogs should not be approached, talked to or touched unless permission is asked for and granted by the dog’s handler, but take no offense if the handler asks you not to interact with the dog — doing so could distract him from his important role, which is to look out for the health and safety of his owner.

Why Fake Service Dogs Do More Harm Than You Might Think

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

From www.fearfreehappyhomes.com and Award-winning journalist Jen Reeder 

A service dog named Elmer has made a wonderful difference for a 7-year-old boy named Gavin Swearingen. As a toddler, Gavin fell off a swing and suffered a traumatic brain injury that led to complex medical issues, from strokes and epilepsy to cerebral palsy marked by weakness on his right side.

Elmer, a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix raised and trained by the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence, teamed up with Gavin in November of 2018. The attentive dog assists Gavin in numerous ways: acting as a buffer in public places since Gavin has no peripheral vision on his right side, engaging Gavin with physical therapy tasks (that seem more like a game with a dog) such as throwing a ball or holding his leash, and supporting him through his tenth cranial surgery.

Having a service dog has given Gavin “an independence and a strength,” according to his mom, Amanda Swearingen.

“We’re just grateful,” she says.

The Trouble With Fake Service Dogs

While Swearingen has witnessed the positive effect a trained service dog can have for people with disabilities, she has also learned firsthand that fake service dogs have a negative effect.

For starters, after fraudulent service dogs misbehave in businesses, staff, owners, and other patrons can grow leery of legitimate ones. One woman got “really angry” at the Swearingens for having a dog in a restaurant soon after they brought Elmer home; in another instance, a man asked, “Is your son disabled enough to need a dog?”

Safety is another huge issue. Recently when Amanda, Gavin, and Elmer were trying to enter a hospital, they crossed paths with a woman walking a small dog – clearly not a true service dog – who started barking and snapping at them.

“We couldn’t go in,” she recalls. “And for me it’s scary because I had a child attached to a dog and he’s not a robot. He’s still a dog. He has been through years and years of training, but he’s still a dog.”

Dogs Outside the Law

Service dog fraud has become so widespread that one in five Canine Companions graduates feel their quality of life and independence has been moderately or severely impacted by fraudulent service dogs, according to a 2018 survey by the organization.

“We are committed to the safety and access rate of our graduate teams, which is impacted by the presence of out-of-control dogs, whether they are wearing a vest and purporting to be a service dog, or a pet dog that is in a public place where they are not permitted under the law,” says Wallis Brozman, outreach program specialist for Canine Companions.

It’s a professional as well as a personal issue for Brozman, who is a three-time graduate of Canine Companions.

“I actually had to retire my second service dog after two and a half years because he was attacked so many times that he was completely uncomfortable going into public places and didn’t want to work because he was constantly looking for other dogs to make sure he was safe,” she says. “At that point, if your dog doesn’t feel safe, that’s a safety issue for you as a person with a disability.”

Canine Companions for Independence®Canine Companions dogs undergo around two years of socialization and training, and the nonprofit invests about $50,000 in each service dog (and provides them free of charge to people with disabilities). A service dog’s early retirement is a significant loss to both the handler and the organization.

Even without an attack, a phony service dog can distract a legitimate, task-trained service dog from his or her job. Fake service dogs can also create a bias against actual service dogs if they have an accident or incident in a grocery store or other business that allows only service dogs, says Brozman.

“I think a lot of people see fraudulent service dogs as not really hurting anyone,” she says. “The reality is that people are actually getting hurt. We have someone like me, who has had to start over and lost a service dog because of this very issue.”

Brozman says it’s important to note that while people might want their pets to go everywhere with them, their pets might prefer to be left at home. When a dog reacts negatively to other dogs or strangers, it’s often a sign of fear or stress.

“I think a lot of dogs love their life of leisure where they’re at home,” she says. “That’s something to keep in mind with any animal in your life: ‘Am I doing what’s best for my animal?’”

For more information or to take a stand against service dog fraud, visit: CCI.org/StopFraud

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Cover photo courtesy Liz Kaye Photography; inset photo courtesy Canine Companions for Independence®

Award-winning journalist Jen Reeder is former president of the Dog Writers Association of America.

I’ll Wait for You

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Pet Partners at Petco in La Habra

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Several AHF Pet Partners teams were at Petco in La Habra on Saturday, October 12th, CA to talk to people about Pet Therapy!

Team from Left to Right are:  Katy Trumbo and Delilah, Daleen Comer and Cloud the Dove, Ingrid Eck Pullen and Cody and Jane Horsefield and Kiss.

 

Owning a dog tied to lowering your risk of dying early by 24%, says science

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Updated 2:40 PM ET, Tue October 8, 2019
“Our analysis found having a dog is actually protective against dying of any cause,” said Mount Sinai endocrinologist Dr. Caroline Kramer, lead author of a new systematic review of nearly 70 years of global research published Tuesday in “Circulation,” a journal of the American Heart Association.
The review of the health benefits of man’s best friend analyzed research involving nearly 4 million people in the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“Dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in all cause mortality,” said Kramer, an assistant professor in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Toronto.
The meta-analysis found an even bigger benefit for people who had already had a heart attack or stroke.
“For those people, having a dog was even more beneficial. They had a 31% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease,” Kramer said.

Dogs and surviving illness

separate study of more than 336,000 Swedish men and women, also published Tuesday in “Circulation,” likewise found people who owned dogs had better health outcomes after suffering a major cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke.
Heart attacks and stroke are the leading causes of death globally, according to the World Health Organization.
The benefit was highest for dog owners who lived alone.
“The most interesting part of this study was that people who lived alone actually seem to get the greatest benefit in both the heart attack group and the stroke group,” said dog owner Dr. Martha Gulati, who is the editor-in-chief of CardioSmart.org, the American College of Cardiology’s patient education platform.
“People who lived with a dog actually had less mortality than people living alone who didn’t have a dog,” said Gulati, who was not involved in either study.
Heart attack survivors living alone who owned dogs had a 33% lower risk of death compared to people who did not own a dog. Stroke survivors living alone had a 27% reduced risk of death.
“We know that loneliness and social isolation are strong risk factors for premature death and our hypothesis was that the company of a pet can alleviate that,” said study author Tove Fall, an associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden.
“Single owners have to do all the dog walks and we know that physical activity is important in rehabilitation after a myocardial infarction or stroke,” Fall added.

Observational but significant

Both published studies were observational, meaning that researchers cannot prove that dog ownership was the direct cause of the increased life expectancy or the better health outcomes after heart attack and stroke; only a randomized clinical trial could answer those questions.
“Is it the dog or is it the behaviors?” Gulati asked. “Is it because you’re exercising or is it because there is a difference in the type of person who would choose to have a dog versus somebody who would not? Are they healthier or wealthier? We don’t know those things.”
The American Heart Association points to studies that found pet owners who walk their dogs got up to 30 minutes more exercise a day than non-walkers.
“There are studies suggesting that individuals who have dogs have a better cholesterol profile and lower blood pressure,” said Kramer, who is a dog owner.
“One study, my favorite, found just the effect of petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure as much as a medication,” Kramer said.
Other studies suggest dogs provide companionship and affection that can reduce anxiety and depression. That’s especially important after a major illness, such as a heart attack or stroke.
“We know that if you have depression after a heart attack, you’re more likely to have a poor outcome,” Gulati said, which is one reason so many hospitals have begun using therapy dogs for cardiac patients.
In fact, a number of cardiologists believe in the benefits of dog ownership so much they will actually prescribe a dog for their patients, if they believe the person can appropriately care for a pet.
“I know a lot of my patients often say to me after they have a heart attack or stroke, can I even take care of a dog? They worry because they don’t want to leave the dog alone if something happens to them,” Gulati said.
“But if possible, I always encourage them to get a dog,” she said, “perhaps an older dog who needs to be rescued and not a puppy that will be harder to manage.”

What’s the takeaway?

“While these non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this,” said Dr. Glenn Levine, chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association’s scientific statement on pet ownership.
However, the AHA also says that pet ownership is a caring commitment that comes with certain financial costs and responsibilities, so “the primary purpose of adopting, rescuing, or purchasing a pet” should not be to reduce cardiovascular risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show dogs decrease stress and promote relaxation and impact nearly all stages of our lives.
“They influence social, emotional and cognitive development in children, promote an active lifestyle, and have even been able to detect oncoming epileptic seizures or the presence of certain cancers,” the CDC said.
Does that mean that even younger people benefit from having a dog?
“The overall understanding of cardiovascular health is that the earlier that we implement healthier behaviors, the better,” Kramer said. “So like walking, not smoking. And I think that maybe dog ownership is part of that.”

Old Dogs Don’t Die; They Can’t

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

From:  K9 Companion Dog Training
September 3, 2018 at 8:06 PM

Old dogs don’t die; they can’t.

They’ve merely run up ahead; they’re waiting for us just out of sight. Close your eyes late at night and you may smell his musky odor, or perhaps hear his snuffle from the next room. Pay attention and you may feel his nose on your hand or the back of your calf. When your final day comes, you can go on to meet him; he’s never left you and never will, and when you close your eyes for the last time, you’ll open them again to be met with his Bright eyes and wagging tail.

Old dogs don’t die, at least, not those dogs who take the biggest chunks of our hearts with them when they leave us. Those dogs are inextricably part of our souls, and they go with us wherever we are. Though we may not see them, we know they’re there because our heart is still beating; we still breathe, and those of us who have been truly touched by a good dog know our lives really started the day we met them.
Magnificent dogs don’t die. They shepherd our dreams and only allow the good ones through the gates of our consciousness. They watch over us much as they did in life, and that moment when we step just barely outside of death or disaster, it’s because they moved our feet or they stopped short in front of us as they did in life.

You see, a good dog is something only given to a few people. They are a gift from the universe and, though they’re with us only a short time, they never really leave us. They are loyalty and love perfected, and once we are graced with that sort of love we can never lose it. We merely lose sight of it for a time, and that is our fault; for how can love like that ever go away?

It can’t. It can’t, and it never will. For these brave souls trade their hearts for ours, and they beat together beyond sickness, beyond death. They are ours, and we are theirs, for every sunrise and every sunset, until the sun blazes its last and we once again join the stars.

By Leigh Hester,
K9 Companion Dog Training
Port Jervis, NY

Bogus ‘Service Animal Certifications’ Increasingly Being Sold Online

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Mercola Healthy PetsBy Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance

  • Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have made it possible for people with disabilities to live independently, but now, there are websites advertising bogus certification for support animals
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says support animals don’t have the same federal protections as service animals, and business owners may ask someone with a disability only two questions regarding their service animal
  • Some people purchase vests or certification to identify their animals as needed support without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label — in some cases simply to bring their favorite animal with them into public places
  • It’s often obvious when an animal is a bona fide service dog, such as when they’re guiding someone who is unable to see, is in a wheelchair or has trouble with stability or balance, but other times, disabilities aren’t evident
  • According to the ADA, there are regulations in place regarding service dogs, such as what to do if someone is afraid of or allergic to service animals, whether restaurants or theaters are exempt, and whether extra fees are allowed

Service dogs or animals who provide mental, emotional or physical support have transformed the lives of scores of people, as they make it possible for people with disabilities to live independently. Since new laws have sanctioned the public appearance of service animals, the lives of their humans are far easier and less stressful, as Katherine Moore, who is legally blind, can attest.

“When you have a service animal it’s like you are one. When I put my hand on his harness it’s like an extension of my arm … That’s like putting a value on your freedom. How do you do that? How do you say what your freedom is worth? It’s worth everything.”1

Training for service animals is wide-ranging and extensive, which is why Moore says she’s able to live a full life, including working and commuting, just as she did before she lost her ability to see. One of the few organizations in Tennessee that specializes in service dog training, Smoky Mountain Service Dogs (SMSD),2 focuses on training dogs that will be used by wounded veterans. Mike Kitchens, chairman of SMSD, explains:

“Every dog that we have we will take to Harley Davidson and have them start up the motorcycles. We will take them to the baggage area at the airport. Revolving doors. They have to be so environmentally stable because the intent is for that dog to be able to accompany that veteran wherever he goes.”3

Other animals may provide emotional comfort, but they don’t necessarily fall under the same federal protections as service animals. In fact, Dr. Zenithson Ng from the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s College of Veterinary Medicine contends that emotional support animals are pets. They may alleviate symptoms of conditions their humans have, and even be designated by mental health professionals, but still, they’re not considered service animals. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

“While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.”4

Bogus Service Dog Certifications: ‘There’s No Such Thing’

Where there’s a service, privilege or right, especially when it comes to animals, it seems there’s always people willing to bend the rules. It usually involves money, and selling so-called “service dog certification” to designate animals with qualifications they don’t actually have are no exception. Needless to say, the types of service and support animals are vast and can be confusing. Here’s a chart that summarizes all of the categories.

“It’s major issue for us because we see it all. We really do,” Kitchens says. “You can Google ‘service dog access’ and you will come up with multiple organizations that for $69.95 we will send you a service dog certification. Well, there is no such thing.”5 There’s also no national registry for animals who are designated helpers for humans, Ng says.

For a fee, there are dozens of websites that offer vests for dogs to wear that “certify” them as certified service, emotional support or therapy animals. There’s another reason why some people are willing to purchase vests without their animal having actual qualifications behind their label. WATE.com notes that for some, it’s also a way to bring their favorite animal with them into public places.

Ng, who’s a member of the steering committee on human-animal interaction with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), says the problem is a hot topic among personnel responsible for governing the situation due to what he terms as an “onslaught” of problems the AVMA has run into recently. He also notes:

“We are so lucky in this society to have this term of emotional support animal and … we really should designate that for the people who need them and the animals that are well behaved in public settings. So when people are taking advantage of the system that’s really hard, it’s disappointing.”6

Advertisement

Get Over 40% Off on Select Items Daily


Service Animals: Training to Perform Their True Function

The ADA acknowledges that it’s often fairly obvious when an animal is merely accompanying someone in a public place as a pet, or if it’s a bona fide service animal; you’ll know the latter is the case if a dog is guiding someone who is either blind or unable to see clearly, or helping someone who has trouble with stability or balance or is in a wheelchair. However, sometimes disabilities are not always visible to bystanders. The ADA, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, states:

“When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”7

Further, service animals are limited to dogs under Title II and III of the ADA, as of March 15, 2011.8 Local laws prohibiting specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.

The ADA states that a “service animal” refers to any dog individually trained to do what is necessary to help someone with a disability, whether it’s physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or mental. It makes clear, however, that emotional support animals, comfort animals and therapy dogs are not in the same category: They’re not service animals. Similarly, the work service animals perform must be related directly to their human’s disability. In addition:

“It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal.”9

ADA Facts Regarding Service Animals

An animal may or may not be wearing a special collar or harness. Some, but not all, are certified, licensed and/or have identification papers stating as such; however, they may not be carrying those papers with them. Most service dogs perform jobs most are familiar with, such as Seeing Eye dogs, seizure response dogs and those who alert people with hearing impairments.10

It’s important to note, though, that some local and state governments have special rules for people entering businesses or public places with support animals aside from service dogs, such as emotional support animals, so it’s best to check with these agencies to find out if such ordinances exist. From a page on the ADA’s website, facts regarding service dogs in businesses include:11

A service animal must be permitted to accompany an individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go and must not be segregated from other customers.

Even if an establishment has “no pets” signs posted, service animals, again, are not pets. Further, the ADA requires proprietors of “restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities” to change the wording in such postings to accommodate service animals needed by people with disabilities.

ADA rules supersede local and state laws stating that only guide dogs are admitted to enter a business to assist individuals with disabilities — so refusing to allow other types of service animals violates the ADA. That said, service animals must be under control, and they must be housebroken.

Businesses are not allowed to charge customers with service animals any maintenance, deposits or cleaning fees, even if such charges are in place for pets. However, if a service dog does damage in, say, a hotel, proprietors can charge the customer with the disability, but only if the hotel’s policy is to charge non-disabled guests for similar damage.

Taxi companies may object to a service dog accompanying a disabled person getting into their cabs, but refusing to pick someone up for this reason is also a violation, even if the taxi company is privately owned, and they can’t raise the fare.

Service Animals: Sometimes Other Rules Apply

There are dozens of situations regarding service animals in public places, and probably just as many exceptions. For instance, the care and conduct of service animals is the responsibility of the disabled person they’re with — the animal’s owner. Business owners aren’t required to provide food, care or a special location for the animal.

Arguably one of the greatest concerns people have about service animals relates to fear of the animal becoming a threat to themselves or their customers. But fear of animals, dogs included, or allergies to animals are not good enough reasons to refuse service. The business or government entity is expected to find solutions if employees, other customers or travelers are afraid of or allergic to dogs, such as allowing more or even a separated space.12

As for air travel, the rules are different. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) says airlines must allow both service and emotional support animals to travel in the cabin with the people they’re helping. True, the rules for the latter are getting more strict in light of a number of unfortunate animal incidents on flights.

For that reason, WATE News notes, people who want to travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may be required to supply specific documentation, including proof of their disability and why their animal is necessary, well before their trip.

People with disabilities who want more information regarding special circumstances, including air travel, may also want to check the provisions made under the Fair Housing Act, which can be found on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development site,13 as it includes specifications for service and emotional support animals.