Animal Health Foundation Blog

Archive for the ‘Service Animals’ Category

To spot a true service dog, check its behavior – not its vest

Friday, May 18th, 2018

    • From the YakimaHerald.com
    • Jim Camden – Spokesman-Review

Apr 6, 2018

service dog
Sheryl Womble embraces Nia, her German Shepherd service dog, after exercising near their home on Wednesday. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – For the past 20 years, service dogs have helped Sheryl Womble with day-to-day tasks like opening doors and picking things up off the floor, and even taking off her coat and gloves.

So when a dog wearing a “service animal” vest growled and lunged at her dog during a crowded community gathering several years ago, she knew the menacing dog was not a trained service animal. Womble, a quadriplegic, did the only thing she could.

She maneuvered her wheelchair to block the attacking dog. She got bit.

To be a real service dog takes extensive training, at least a year and sometimes longer depending on what the dog will be doing to help its owner.

A new Washington law that allows businesses to question whether the animal accompanying a customer is a true service animal may provide some clarity and keep some people from trying to pass off their untrained pet, Womble and others said.

“It might help a little,” said Debbie Wing of LynnDee’s Grooming and Dog Training Center. “It might scare some people off” from trying to pass off their pet as a service animal just because they want to bring it into a store or restaurant, or take it with them on a bus or plane.

The law, which was signed late last month by Gov. Jay Inslee and takes effect Jan. 1, makes it a civil infraction with a penalty of as much as $500 to falsely claim an animal is a service animal in a “place of public accommodation.”

But the ADA does not set up a certification program for service animals, Wing said, so it’s easy for a person to make that claim and hard for a business to challenge it. Under the new law, a business employee or law enforcement officer can ask the owner two questions if they suspect a dog that is causing a disturbance isn’t a true service animal: Is the animal required because of a disability? What tasks is the animal trained to perform?

Deputy Mark Gregory, a spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, said the new law could provide some clarity for officers responding to complaints that come in from time to time. Whether it will result in more calls, or fewer, is hard to predict, but the department will sit down with legal advisers and human rights advocates to form a policy before briefing deputies on procedures, he said.

“This always has been a case of you don’t want to turn around and infringe on someone’s rights who is disabled and needs that assistance,” Gregory said. “As with any other law, we’re going to have to use common sense.”

Usually, law enforcement is called when a dog or another animal is creating a nuisance or disturbance in a store or a restaurant and the owner refuses to leave, claiming it’s a service animal.

But the size or breed of a dog is not an indicator, she added. A 6-foot man who is diabetic could have a Chihuahua for a service animal, trained to detect by smell when he needs to take his insulin.

Also not an indicator: a vest on the dog or a badge the owner is wearing that says service animal. Those are available online, for a price, by filling out a form. “It’s a racket,” Wing said.

Buying a trained dog can cost thousands of dollars and require years on a waiting list, she said.

Training a service animal also takes time and money. Womble said owners start with basic obedience, and work toward specific tasks they need the dog to perform. They keep a log of training and tasks accomplished, and the instructors used. They refresh their training every year or so.

“You never stop working your dog,” she said.

Most people quit, because they either don’t have the time or money, or both. And really all they want is to take their pet with them somewhere, she said.

The law does not cover therapy dogs, which have separate training to go into schools, hospitals or other facilities to help people. Nor does it cover comfort or emotional support animals, terms that some people use for a wide variety of pets they might claim they need to calm their nerves.

Gregory wonders if that might be something the Legislature will have to consider in the future, because some returning veterans and others with post-traumatic stress disorder do have a legitimate need for a therapy animal to help them cope with severe anxiety they might experience in aspects of daily life.

PTSD isn’t covered under the ADA, so they aren’t included in the state law, he said.

An officer who believes an owner is falsely claiming their disruptive dog is a service animal will be able to write a ticket for a civil infraction. The owner can contest the ticket and possible fine of $500 in court by presenting proof that the dog is a service animal.

Judges familiar with the ADA should know not to accept a simple certificate from some website, Womble said. They should ask to see the owner’s log with the times, dates and places where the training took place, and the instructors who provided it.

If the law cuts down on incidents with untrained dogs, there may be an added benefit to real service animals and their owners, who sometimes get critical looks or comments from people, Wing said.

Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, the sponsor of the legislation, said the goal of the law is to balance the rights of disabled people to have the assistance they need with the rights of the rest of the public to be safe from misbehaving and possibly aggressive dogs. It’s designed to give businesses and police some options when there’s a problem.

“As long as (a dog) is not misbehaving and being disruptive, you’re not going to have a problem,” Steele said. “No one’s going to come after your dog if it’s by your side, behaving itself.”

Service, Emotional Support and Therapy Animals

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

  From the AVMA

Animals can play a very important role assisting people with disabilities and as part of therapeutic activities. Most people are aware of the role of service animals, such as guide dogs, but other types of assistance animals may be less familiar.

A more recently developed legal category of assistance animals is the emotional support animal (ESA). These are animals that provide companionship and emotional support for people diagnosed with a psychological disorder. They are documented by a letter from a human health professional, which legally guarantees that they may live with their handler and accompany them on aircraft, exempt from the fees that would be charged for a companion animal.

Some people misrepresent their animals as assistance animals in order to bring them to places where pets are not allowed, to avoid fees, or out of a misunderstanding of the animal’s role. It is important for veterinarians to assist their clients in correctly identifying their animals, and to provide care and advice consistent with the animal’s role.

The AVMA recognizes and supports the federal definition of service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act; the federal regulations for emotional support animals under  the Fair Housing Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and provides guidelines related to animal-assisted interventions. At its July 2017 meeting, the AVMA House of Delegates approved a new policy on the Veterinarian’s Role in Supporting Appropriate Selection and Use of Service, Assistance and Therapy Animals​​ proposed by the Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interactions.

To learn more about assistance animals please refer to the newly released AVMA report: Assistance Animals: Rights of Access and the Problem of Fraud. While fraud can be a vexing issue, it is important for veterinarians to actively support the appropriate use of assistance animals and anti-fraud initiatives   so that undue burden is not placed on people using these animals in their intended roles.

If you are an AVMA member and would like to provide information or suggestions to the Steering Committee on Human-Animal Interactions relating to assistance animals or animals used for therapeutic purposes, please email the committee at humananimalbond@avma.org.

The Legal Context For Assistance Animal Use – Definitions

Classification​ ​Definition ​As Defined By
​Assistance Animal ​“Any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability,” as defined by the ADA.4 “Individuals with a disability may be entitled to keep an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing facilities that otherwise impose restrictions or prohibitions on animals. In order to qualify for such an accommodation, the assistance animal must be necessary to afford the individual an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling or to participate in the housing service or program. Further, there must be a relationship, or nexus, between the individual’s disability and the assistance the animal provides. If these requirements are met, a housing facility, program or service must permit the assistance animal as an accommodation, unless it can demonstrate that allowing the assistance animal would impose an undue financial or administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing program or services.” ​U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (FHEO-2013-01)
​Service Animal ​“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. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, 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, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” Miniature horses have been added as a specific provision to the ADA. The miniature horse must be housebroken, under the handler’s control, can be accommodated for by the facility, and will not compromise safety regulations. ​Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 (Section 35.136)
​Any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a qualified person with a disability; or any animal shown by documentation to be necessary for the emotional well-being of a passenger… Psychiatric service animals are recognized as service animals, but are considered to be emotional support animals and, therefore, subject to the applicable regulatory requirements, i.e. documentation. ​Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and CFR Part 382
​Emotional Support Animal ​An emotional support animal (ESA) may be an animal of any species, the use of which is supported by a qualified physician, psychiatrist or other mental health professional based upon a disability-related need. An ESA does not have to be trained to perform any particular task. ESAs do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but they may be permitted as reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act. The Air Carrier Access Act provides specific allowances for ESAs traveling on airlines, though documentation may need to be provided. ​Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. Part 3604) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and C.F.R. Part 382.117
​Therapy Animal ​A therapy animal is a type of animal-assisted intervention in which there is a “goal directed intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. Animal-assisted therapy is provided in a variety of settings, and may be group or individual in nature.” ​Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and CFR Part 382; AVMA Animal-Assisted Interventions: Definitions

 

​Find additional information, including reference citations, in Assistance Animals: Rights of Access and the Problem of Fraud(PDF).

SERVICE DOGS AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS

Monday, September 25th, 2017

By Dr. Jean Dodds at Hemopet in Garden Grove, CA

Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Depending on where you live, many businesses are now increasingly pet-friendly such as clothing stores, hotels, pet supply stores, photography studios, etc. For people who use and need service dogs for medical purposes or assistance, this can be a blessing and sometimes a problem. Compounding the problem is the definition of what is considered to be a service animal.

According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) website, “A service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” [The new ADA regulations also contain a specific provision which covers miniature horses.]

Under the ADA, service dogs allow people with medical conditions or disabilities to function and participate in society such as going to movie theatres, the grocery store, work, restaurants, etc. A service dog may pull a wheelchair. Another example is that a service dog can help a person with epilepsy by detecting and then keeping the person safe during a seizure. Of course, many of us frequently see guide dogs for people with visual impairments.

Businesses and other entities do have rights that protect them if a particular service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others or is not under the control of the handler.

Additionally, businesses can ask two specific questions about service animals – that do not violate or interfere with the civil rights of people with disabilities – and are then protected from litigation. The ADA website states:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog’s training, require that the dog demonstrate his/her task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

Some states have regulations to protect people with disabilities that do not infringe on their civil rights. Colorado passed a law last year that imposes fines on people who misrepresent ordinary dogs as those specifically trained for the purpose of assisting someone with disabilities. California takes the law further. Service dogs must be registered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which provides standardized identification tags. Anyone in California who falsely claims an animal to be a service animal can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for six months or a fine up to $1000 or both.

Fair Housing Act

Depending on the title within the ADA law, ADA is overseen by the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) – which is managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – defines assistance animals, “An assistance animal is nota pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.” The FHA states, “Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal.”

So, FHA is more all-encompassing to ensure fair housing for everyone. It covers people with disabilities who need a service dog to perform tasks and people who need animals (any type) for emotional support. It overrides “no pets policies” by landlords.

FHA provisions are also built in in case the animal may be considered a danger to others or property. Property owners – if the disability is not apparent – can ask for documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability. The law does protect civil rights because landlords cannot ask for medical records or the nature of the disability.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Before we move on, we wanted to touch upon Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD), as approximately 15 states have statutory definitions of either disability or service dogs that are intentionally worded to exclude PSDs. If a person with a disability and a fully trained PSD qualifies under the ADA, they would still have regular protections under the ADA, but no additional ones provided by the state. These dogs are performing a specific task, such as:

  • Providing safety checks for, or calming, individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Sensing an anxiety attack and taking a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact.
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take medications.
  • Preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors, such as self-mutilation.

It is certainly sad that psychiatric disorders are considered “murky” or go unrecognized in this day and age.

Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) was enacted to protect the civil rights and health of people with disabilities who use service animals, people with Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), and people with PSDs to be able to bring the animal into the cabin. This law falls under the aegis of the Department of Transportation.

For service animals, airlines can do the following:

  • Request the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal.
  • Look for physical indicators such as the presence of a harness or tags.
  • Observe the behavior of the animal.

For ESA and PSD, airlines can request specific documentation and/or 48-hours advance notice that cannot be older than one year. It must state a mental or emotional disability that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and a need for an ESA or PSD for air travel or at a destination. It must be written by a licensed mental health professional who provides care to the person, dated, with type of professional, and jurisdiction or state in which the license was issued.

Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders. Additionally, they can refuse an animal if it is not properly behaved. However, an animal cannot be refused if it just makes the crew or other passengers uncomfortable.

Conclusion

Some people sadly take advantage of the ADA, FHA and ACAA.

Regarding ADA, three loopholes appear to exist in the federal law:

  1. The ADA does not require that service animals be certified or licensed. Certification could be considered a barrier to entry and therefore discriminatory.
  2. A service dog does not have to be professionally trained, but can be personally trained. A professional training requirement may be considered a barrier to entry.
  3. Some state and local laws define service animal more broadly than the ADA.
  4. We have to remember that “trained for a specific task” is not the same as well-behaved – and this is where the ADA standards can fall apart.

As noted above, businesses have certain rights. However, businesses are reluctant to deny access to misbehaving service animals or ask if the animal is a service dog because they may pose their questions poorly. Then, they could be prosecuted for violating civil rights. People with disabilities who use well-behaved and trained service dogs are becoming rightfully angry and upset when people are taking advantage of the law.

In addition to the life-saving, emotional and functioning assistance service dogs provide, we need to remember the cost and number of years it took to get the dog to be specially trained. For instance, the full cost to breed, raise and train a service dog to help a child within the autism spectrum can be over $20,000. A guide dog for a person with a visual impairment is around $50,000.

Today, people with well-behaved and trained service dogs are pointing to people with ESAs or PSDs for making life more difficult for them outside of the home and on public transport and planes. In fact, the Advocates’ Service Animal Proposal wants to limit the rights of people with ESAs on planes. But, it is not a problem created by responsible people with legitimate ESAs or PSDs. It is only people who take advantage of the laws, as they are harming the civil rights and protections others desperately need.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

 

References

“Advocates’ Service Animal Proposal.” (n.d.): n. pag. United States Department of Transportation, 21 July 2016. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/P4.SA%20Advocates%20Proposal%20072116.pdf.

“Air Travel with Service Animals.” (n.d.): 189-92. United States Department of Transportation. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/AirTravel_with_ServiceAnimals-TriFold.pdf.

“Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA.” United States Department of Justice, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html.

“Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs.” (n.d.): n. pag. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 18 June 2017. https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=servanimals_ntcfheo2013-01.pdf.

“Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals.” ADA National Network, 27 June 2017. Web. 18 June 2017. https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet.

“States Specifically excluding PSDs from State Definition of Service Dog.” Service Dog Central, n.d. Web. 18 June 2017. https://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/464. 

10 Signs That a “Service Dog” is Actually a Fake

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

from Iheartdogs.com

You’re out shopping when you turn the corner to find a cute dog browsing the merchandise. Your first instinct tells you it’s someone’s service dog, but then something doesn’t seem right. People posing their pets as fake service dogs has become a widespread problem. Real service dogs can be any breed, their owners don’t always have visible disabilities, and they’re not required to carry any kind of identifying paperwork or distinguishing badge. This makes spotting the fakes exceptionally difficult, but if the dog is showing any of these behaviors, it’s most likely an impostor.

#1 – They’re Being Carried or Pushed in a Cart

 

Service dogs are trained in countless different kinds of jobs, but no matter what their specialty is, they always need to be alert and ready to work. If the dog is being toted around in a purse or getting a free ride in a shopping cart, they’re unable to perform their duty. There are exceptions, however, if a small dog is being held close to person’s chest. Some small dogs are trained to monitor certain bodily functions and need to be kept close to their owners.

#2 – They’re Not on a Leash

It seems ironic, but you’ll never see a highly trained service dog out in public and not on a leash. They’re more than capable of staying by their owner, but leashes are used to protect the dog. Always using a leash is a basic part of being a responsible dog owner.

#3 – They’re Pulling on the Leash

Because they’re always leashed while they’re working, service dogs have impeccable leash manners. They never pull and always stick close to their owner’s side. Dogs used for mobility and support assistance may lean into their harnesses as part of their job, but they don’t yank their person in different directions as they feel like it.

#4 – They’re Barking or Whining

Some dogs are trained to bark or whine as an alert to warn their owner of an impending medical emergency, like a stroke or panic attack. But besides these infrequent sounds, a service dog would never bark at another dog or whine out of impatience.

# 5 – They’re Sniffing Everything

All dogs rely on smell more than any other sense, and taking your pet on a walk usually involves a whole lot of sniffing. When a dog has a job to do, those scents are a distraction. Service dogs are trained to stay focused, and they won’t be careening down aisles sniffing everything on the lower shelves.

#6 – They Have Indoor “Accidents”

A dog that isn’t fully house trained should never be taken into an indoor public area. For male dogs especially, indoor accidents are not always accidental, and instead, it’s the dog’s way of marking a new territory. Whether they did it on purpose or not, urinating or defecating indoors is an unacceptable behavior for service dogs.

#7 – They Steal Food

Stealing food—whether it’s off a table, out of someone’s hand, or something they found on the ground—is a hard habit for pets to break, but resisting temptations is one of the first lessons a service dog learns.

#8 – They Look Nervous

Socialization is a major part of service dog training, and if the dog in question is the real deal, they’ll seem calm and confident no matter what’s going on around them. They won’t be spooked by loud noises or big crowds, and they won’t cower or tuck their tails between their legs.

#9 – They Seek Attention

Service dogs know they have a job to do, and they only have eyes for the person on the other end of their leash. They don’t put their noses into other people’s space seeking head pats or belly rubs.

# 10 – They’re Aggressive

Some service dogs are trained in protection, but that doesn’t mean they lash out at other people or animals without being explicitly told to. A dog that is growling, lunging, or showing other signs of unprovoked aggression is not a real service dog.

Fake service dogs put unfair scrutiny on the people who actually need their animals for medical or emotional purposes, and they’re an insult to the dogs that go through months of intense training to be good at their jobs. The service dog reputation is at stake, and it’s because some pet owners think “no pet” policies shouldn’t apply to them. If you decide to approach someone about their dog, remember to do so politely and realize they have no legal obligation to answer a long list of questions.

We Finally Know How Dogs Sniff Out Diabetes

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

From Gizmodo

George Dvorsky

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

For years, assistance dogs have been used to detect low blood sugar levels in their diabetic owners and warn of an impending hypoglycemia attack. Scientists have finally figured out how dogs are able to accomplish this feat—an insight that could lead to new medical sensors.

Dogs don’t so much see the world as they do smell it. Our canine companions can detect the tiniest odor concentrations—around one part per trillion. For us, that would be like detecting a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic sized swimming pools. This allows them to work as medical detection dogs, where they sniff out various forms of cancer and diabetes.

In the case of diabetes, specially trained dogs can tell when their owner’s blood sugar level is low—a sign of a possible hypoglycemia attack. For people with type 1 diabetes, low blood sugar can cause problems like shakiness, disorientation, and fatigue. Failure to receive a sugar boost can lead to a seizure and even unconsciousness. For some, these episodes occur suddenly and with little warning. When a diabetes detection dog senses that their owner is in trouble, they notify them by performing a predetermined task, such as barking, laying down, or putting their paw on their shoulder.

But how do these dogs know? What is it, exactly, that they’re sensing or smelling? This question has mystified scientists for years, but a new study by researchers from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science and the University of Cambridge has finally provided the answer.

It’s isoprene. That’s what these dogs are smelling—a common natural chemical found in human breath.

The scientists recruited eight women with type 1 diabetes, and under controlled conditions, lowered their blood sugar levels. Using mass spectrometry, they looked for specific chemical signatures to detect the presence of certain molecules. Looking at the data, the researchers found that isoprene rose significantly during hypoglycemia (the medical term for critically low blood sugar levels). In some cases, the presence of isoprene nearly doubled.

Humans are oblivious to isoprene, but the researchers figure that dogs are particularly sensitive to the chemical, and can easily tell when their owner’s breath contains too much of it. As to why the body produces more isoprene during hypoglycemia, the researchers think it’s a byproduct of cholesterol production. Still, they’re not entirely sure why this chemical rises when blood sugar gets low.

Using this knowledge, the researchers would like to develop a medical sensor that does the same thing as diabetes sniffing dogs. What’s more, a handy breath device could replace the current finger prick test, which is inconvenient, painful, and relatively expensive.

It’s important that we don’t overstate some of the purported abilities of medical detection dogs. They seem to be pretty good at detecting certain cancers (e.g. urological cancers and breast cancer) and diabetes, but many of these accounts are anecdotal, and much of the research tied to these canine abilities is still in early stages. Claims that dogs can sniff out lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and even Parkinson’s Disease are still under investigation and are far from proven.

Still, it’s an exciting line of medical research that, like this recent study, could lead to new scientific insights and powerful new medical technologies.

Service dog recovering after surgery; veteran anxiously awaiting her return

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

CTService dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and one pint-sized Chihuahua mix is deeply missed by her owner as she convalesces at Integrative Pet Care in Homer Glen, Ill., after back surgery. The dog, named Belle, developed a spinal disc extrusion that left her hind legs paralyzed on Thanksgiving, but she is slowly regaining the use of her legs after surgery. Her owner, Vietnam veteran Gary Jordan, says he misses Belle and hopes to have her home soon because she comforts him and helps him relate better to people. Chicago Tribune (tiered subscription model)

By Taylor W. Anderson, Chicago Tribune reporterJanuary 15, 2014

Vietnam veteran Gary Jordan is missing one of his most important troops: she’s a 3-year-old Chihuahua mix named Belle who’s trained to help him deal with his severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 69-year-old is coping while Belle — a service dog trained through a Chicago non-profit that since 2010 has paired dogs with vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related brain injuries — rehabilitates from a spine injury that paralyzed her on Thanksgiving Day.

“How am I doing without her? Not well,” Jordan said. “Because she’s my service dog, and we’ve been with each other since February.”

Jordan has been driving several times a week from his apartment in Markham to Integrative Pet Care in Homer Glen to see Belle, who is learning to use her back legs again at the clinic after surgery. Typically, the two spend every moment of every day together.

Jordan and Belle are a team put together by War Dogs Making It Home, a charity that rescues dogs from animal shelters and matches them with veterans who need help.

“We save two lives at a time: one dog and one veteran,” said Eva Braverman, the agency’s president.

The dogs are trained to sense when its owner is stressed and comfort them.

Braverman said Jordan called her on Thanksgiving when she was cooking dinner for her family to tell her Belle wasn’t well. One of the dog’s spinal discs was extruding, and she became paralyzed. “I literally put $4,000 on two different credit cards to pay for the surgery,” she said.

Jordan is one of about 25 teams in the War Dogs program, where veterans bring their companions for training twice weekly for the first year and once a week the second. Veterans in the program have served in almost every major foreign combat since Vietnam, Braverman said. She said about half of the owners are Vietnam veterans.

The dogs learn the behavior of their veterans, moving into action when vets show signs of anger or stress. “I have to tell her, ‘Belle, I’m all right,'” Jordan said. “If it doesn’t look like it to her, she’ll just stay there (in my arms). She don’t leave.”

Dr. Amber Ihrke works at Integrative Pet Care in Homer Glen, where Belle has been resting after her surgery. The site, which opened in 2013, is the third in the group, which also has locations in Chicago and Hanover Park.

“In three weeks, she’s gone from essentially paralyzed to walking around the room,” Ihrke said as Belle tried to stand on her hind legs in an IPC room in Homer Glen.

Jordan chokes back tears while getting ready to see Belle again. Doctors say they want Belle to get back to Jordan’s home so the two can help each other, but she still has a ways to go before being able to jump into Jordan’s arms.

“She helps me stay calm where I can actually deal with people better,” Jordan said. “It just helps me be more grounded.”

Integrative Pet Care is hosting an open house Feb. 8 to showcase the new partnership with War Dogs.

twanderson@tribune.com | Twitter: @TaylorWAnderson

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

Service dog brings aid and friendship to girl with debilitating bone disease

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Service Dog for AniceeTen-year-old Anicee Lamoreaux has already had 100 broken bones due to osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, but that’s not stifling her excitement over her new service dog, Pearl. Pearl hasn’t completed her training yet, but once she does, she’ll be the newest Lamoreaux family member, responsible for helping Anicee perform daily tasks. But more importantly, Pearl will be the friend Anicee needs. Anicee’s parents, both of whom also have osteogenesis imperfecta, are raising money to help cover the $10,000 cost for Pearl and her training. Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)

They’ve only known each other a few short weeks, but Anicee and Pearl are already partners in crime.

Pearl, a 14-week-old labradoodle, has a fluffy puppy-dog face anyone would love. But she is loved most of all by her 10-year-old owner, Anicee Lamoreaux, who is raising money to keep Pearl as her personal service dog.

Anicee, a fifth-grader at Birch Elementary, has osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. The condition means Anicee can break a bone simply by coughing or sneezing too hard.

Anicee uses a specialized wheelchair to get around, and Pearl will be a valuable partner who can help her open doors, help with errands and bring her medication or other essential items.

Most of all, Pearl also will be Anicee’s constant companion.

“I’ll have a buddy to spend time with,” she said, feeding treats to her pet in her living room Thursday. “I don’t have that many friends, so I’ll have a friend who will be with me every day, hour, minute.”

Anicee was adopted from Belize in 2010 by her parents, Chris Lamoreaux and Lisa Ferrerio. Both parents also have osteogenesis imperfecta and said they wanted to adopt a child who had a similar condition.

“We knew how much we could offer her,” Ferrerio said. “We know exactly what it’s like to go through surgery or be talked about in school.”

Anicee’s parents also wanted her to have extra help, but the cost of service animals can be overwhelming, especially on top of other medical bills.

The family and their friends are organizing several fundraisers to help cover the estimated $10,000 annual cost to provide Pearl’s specialized training.

As a service dog, she must undergo many hours of training that will familiarize her with Anicee’s specialized care.

That’s worth it for Ferrerio, who remembers the companionship and warmth of her own service dog, Kosmo. Ferrerio had Kosmo when she was a teenager.

When Ferrerio’s longtime friend, dog trainer Ana Melara, came across Pearl, she knew the puppy would be a good fit for the family because of her low-key, gentle temperament. Melara is in charge of much of Pearl’s service dog training.

“She’s just such a sweet dog,” she said.

When Anicee met her dog for the first time, she said she couldn’t contain her excitement.

“I was jumping up and down. I could have broken the wall,” she said with a smile. “I wish I could take her for the whole day.”

Pearl isn’t a permanent resident at Anicee’s house yet, though. Melara is in charge of training the puppy in all the basics, and it could take up to two years before Anicee and her dog become permanent companions. Right now, Anicee and Pearl hang out about twice a week.

 

Help Anicee and PearlBirch Elementary School student Anicee Lamoreaux is raising money to train her service dog, Pearl.

An art silent auction, featuring art by Anicee, will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 26 at Pearl’s training center, Training with Grace, 9100 W. Sixth Ave. in Lakewood. For more information, go to facebook.comand search “Anicee and Pearl” for updates and other fundraising opportunities.

To learn more about Anicee’s fundraisers or to donate money to help train Pearl, visithttps://aniceefunds.com.

Ferrerio said the training will help make sure Pearl is the right dog for her daughter, who has experienced about 100 broken bones in her short 10 years. Anicee also has undergone three major surgeries to help strengthen her spine and legs, and she hopes to have Pearl nearby when she undergoes another surgery on her arms sometime next year.

“Pearl will be so important in Anicee’s life,” Ferrerio said. “We’ll need her to be Anicee’s arms and legs, and we need to know that Pearl won’t bolt when she sees something like a squirrel or duck — that would break Anicee’s arm.”

So far, Anicee and Pearl are already fast friends. Anicee can’t wait to introduce her dog to her fifth-grade class and take her dog on the playground.

Her dad said he’s happy Anicee is getting the opportunity. In Belize, she didn’t have the same medical opportunities or the chance to have a service dog.

“Here, she has the medical accessibility she needs,” he said.

Anicee’s grandmother, Diane Holstein, said Pearl will bridge the gap between her granddaughter and her peers. Right now, kids don’t always know how to interact with Anicee, but Pearl’s presence will give them a way to talk and ask questions, she said.

“People will see Anicee at King Soopers, the library, out in the community, and Pearl will help people get to know her,” she said

Diabetes alert dog brings comfort, relief to boy and his family

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Diabetic Alert DogsKermit, a 2-year-old service dog trained to detect fluctuations in human blood sugar levels, helps 9-year-old Kiernan Sullivan monitor his type 1 diabetes, giving Kiernan’s parents some extra relief. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to problems such as neuropathy, limb loss and even blindness, so specially trained dogs, along with tools such as glucose monitors that help keep blood sugar levels within the normal range, can improve the quality of diabetes patients’ lives, said physician Andrew Ahmann. The Oregonian (Portland)

When 9-year-old Kiernan Sullivan started school this month, he attends each class in the company of his new best friend – a 2-year-old service dog named Kermit.

“It’s fun but hard,” Kiernan says of his new charge. “You have to feed him, take him out to bathroom and take him out for walks.”

Kiernan has Type 1 diabetes, which usually affects children and young adults and accounts for about 5 percent of all diabetes cases. It occurs when the body does not produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert starches, sugars and other food into energy.

Kiernan, who was diagnosed when he was six, experienced a grand mal seizure in November. The experience was scary, but his parents thought they could manage Kiernan’s disease with careful meal planning and regular insulin shots.

Then one Saturday morning in March, Kiernan’s mom, Michelle Sullivan, awoke to a horrifying scene.

Her husband, Stuart, had left early that morning to go grocery shopping so the family could do something together. He kissed her goodbye and closed the bedroom door so she could sleep in a bit.

She awoke to her husband’s terrified screams as he came home to find their son lying unconscious on the kitchen floor. Kiernan had wandered into the kitchen to find some sugary food to bolster his blood sugar but found only sugar-free licorice. Bright red licorice was still smeared on his face when his parents found him.

The Sullivans realized they needed help. Thanks to the help of a staff member at Kiernan’s school, City View Charter School in Hillsboro, they found out about Dogs Assisting Diabetics.

About Dogs Assisting Diabetics

The Forest Grove-based nonprofit was founded by dog trainer Kristin Tarnowski and Darlene LaRose Cain, a former national chair for the American Diabetes Association.

Since the organization launched in 2009, Tarnowski has trained more than 35 dogs to be service-alert dogs.

The dogs initially came from breeders, but Tarnowski recently started her own breeding program with registered Labrador retrievers so she can start training them as puppies.

(Kermit came from the Guide Dogs for the Blind breeding program but failed his final test).

The training process can take at least six months to one year.

To train the dogs, Tarnowski places a swab of sweat collected from a diabetic person whose glucose levels are high or low and puts it in a sealed vial.

When the dog approaches the vial and reacts to it, she rewards them with treats and affection.

“We’re getting the dog to think of it as a game and have fun of it,” Tarnowski says. “The dog gets excited and wants to keep looking for it.”

The dogs can smell a metabolic change that takes place when someone’s blood sugar changes, although researchers still aren’t sure exactly what the dogs detect.

The dogs cost $15,000 and are in high demand. Each year, Dogs Assisting Diabetics receives about 200 requests from people all over the world.

Priority goes to people who have a high medical need for the dog, such as those whose blood-sugar levels are high enough to require dialysis.

How it works

When Kiernan’s blood sugar levels veer away from normal levels – below 80 or above 180 milligrams per deciliter – Kermit alerts him in one of three ways.

The dog will paw at the boy’s leg or chew on an orange strip on his leash called a “brain cell.”

Kermit continues to alert until Kiernan acknowledges him with a treat. Then he can check his blood-sugar levels and treat them accordingly.

Because Kiernan’s blood sugar levels fluctuate so frequently, the family decided against a Continuous Glucose Monitor that alerts during changes in glucose levels, Michelle Sullivan says.

The monitor’s frequent sensors can become a nuisance for someone like Kiernan, who can drop from a normal blood sugar level down to 50 mg/dL after walking just a few blocks.

Properly trained service dogs can offer great value to people with diabetes, says Dr. Andrew Ahmann, director of the Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center at Oregon Health & Science University.

“I have no doubt that they can alert individuals who have low blood sugar at a time when the person themselves does not recognize the problem,” he says.

Since Kermit alerts Kiernan as soon as his blood sugar changes, he’ll know to check the levels sooner. He has less risk of reaching the dangerous highs or lows that can send him into a seizure.

Over time, that careful monitoring can help bring three-month blood sugar averages, called A1Cs, closer to normal range.

“That’s adding time to their life,” Tarnowski says. “High blood sugars contribute to blindness, limb loss or neuropathy.”

According to one study, one in 20 children will die in their sleep from low blood sugar levels.

Yet Ahmann cautions that little research is available that proves the dogs’ effectiveness in preventing severe hypoglycemia or in improving overall glucose control.

The dogs should never replace the use of blood sugar testing meters that provide accurate readings, he says.

“I don’t think the use of diabetic assistance dogs is a replacement for continue glucose monitoring or intermittent glucose monitoring,” Ahmann says, “but the dogs do provide another layer of security that is very important to kids and their families.”

For Kiernan’s mom, that furry security blanket is priceless.

“I know that Kermit isn’t 100 percent, but he’s at least given me an extra level, just an extra step of assurance,” she says. “I hope that Kiernan doesn’t have another seizure, but Kermit is just an extra layer of protection.”

If you want to help: The Sullivan family is struggling to pay for Kermit, who costs $15,000. So far, the family has paid $5,000 and is on a payment plan for the remaining amount.

The family has established a fundraising page on Youcaring.com called “Help Kiernan Bring Kermit home” that allows people to donate to his cause.

You can also donate to Dogs Assisting Diabetics at dogsassistingdiabetics.com.

Service dog helps young man with no limbs succeed

Friday, June 28th, 2013

assistance-dog=helps-man_20130627122543_320_240Brandon Scott was born without most of his four limbs due to a rare disease, but with the help of his service dog, Rona, he recently graduated from college and is planning a career in sports media or public relations. Rona was trained by Canine Companions for Independence and has been by Scott’s side since he applied for a dog as a sixth-grader. WISH-TV (Indianapolis) (6/27)

Updated: Thursday, 27 Jun 2013, 1:42 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 27 Jun 2013, 12:28 PM EDT

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Indianapolis resident Brandon Scott has a rare disease, but motivation and a K-9 friend helped him beat the odds.

Brandon was born missing most of his four limbs, Rona the dog acts as his hands. She carries things and picks things up for him.

He applied through Canine Companions for Independence in the sixth grade, so he could get used to working with helper.

When he left for Ball State, his parents were relieved that he had such a reliable partner by his side.

Rona gave him the ability to feel independent and made the transition to college much easier.

Now that Brandon has graduated, he says he wants to be on a sports talk radio show or work with public relations for an Indycar team.

He is even training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Click here to learn more about Canine Companions for Independence.

 

Good news for Iraq war vet’s service dog: Biopsy shows tumor is benign

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

SANTA CRUZ — An Iraq War veteran has received a slew of good fortune during the past few days — learning late Monday morning that the tumor removed from her four-legged, steadfast companion last week is benign.

Devon, a 7-year-old golden retriever, underwent surgery early Friday morning to have the mass removed from his left front paw. It was shipped to a lab for further testing, and if the results showed a malignancy, chemotherapy or radiation treatments likely would have been needed.

Dr. David Shuman, who operates the Santa Cruz Westside Animal Hospital, donated his services to remove the growth, and when the lab learned of Santa Cruz resident Tori Stitt’s story, “they donated their services and put ‘STAT’ all over it,” he said Monday.

Meanwhile, when the community learned the invaluable services Devon provides to help Stitt cope with post-traumatic stress disorder — including licking her awake to interrupt persistent nightmares — they eagerly opened their wallets, donating about $8,000.

Shuman and Stitt both expressed their appreciation for the outpouring of support.

“It’s amazing to see how the community will come together to support someone like me,” Stitt said. “The cards, the checks — it’s like, wow.”

Devon entered Stitt’s life in 2009, not long after the former Navy lieutenant returned from a yearlong deployment to northern Iraq. During her time there, she trained staff members how to defuse improvised explosive devices and witnessed many of her trainees injured and killed while working in the field.

Plagued by recurring nightmares, and increasingly isolating herself from society, she sought help from the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, a nonprofit that provides service dogs to disabled veterans.

Ever since, Stitt has become more outgoing and involved in the community, befriending such staunch supporters as Santa Cruz resident Rachel Boyd, who cares for Devon while his owner works. He was back in Shuman’s care Monday, getting his sutures removed and paw rebandaged.

“As soon as the skin heals and we make sure everything’s covered over, it’s a done deal,” Shuman said.

Meanwhile, the funds donated over the weekend have been set aside in a client account.

“He should be a very well cared for dog for the rest of his life,” Shuman said.

By Kimberly White

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   02/04/2013 01:51:09 PM PST