Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Guide Dogs
Service and emotional support dogs are specially trained animals that assist people with physical disabilities by performing life tasks they cannot do for themselves. US laws recognize that these animals are an important part of many individuals’ lives.
Service animals aren’t restricted in the same way that ordinary pets are. Any business discriminating against someone who has a service animal may get charged with a misdemeanor. A business can verify that the animal is a service animal and not a pet by asking what tasks the animal performs, but the business is not allowed to require documentation of any kind. Businesses must not charge a fee for a service animal to enter the establishment even if there is a fee for pets to access the area.
People requiring service animals can’t be denied housing or employment due to their service animal. A service animal’s owner is liable for any damages or injuries caused by the animal just as if it were a regular pet in any public or private place. Job seekers may still be denied employment if their disability prevents them from fulfilling their job duties.
Service Dogs Can Assist with Many Invisible Disabilities
Responsible In The Driver's Seat
Hunter took the driver's seat to get an important message out to all drivers: "START SEEING SERVICE DOGS!"
Parking lots and cross walks can be such dangerous places for Hunter and he has had some close calls because of drivers not being careful when they see him or not even seeing him all. Now that is disturbing to Hunter. One of his family members has to travel by wheelchair and Hunter takes her safety seriously. He does not understand why anyone would not slow down when they see a wheelchair in a crosswalk. He is there wearing his red vest to help alert drivers to slow down or stop. Stopping and waiting is the right thing to do.
- He wants you to see his vest.
- He wants you to see him.
- He wants his family to be safe.
- He wants you to take his message seriously.
You can see an illustrated parking lot tutorial below.
Also, find out what the law is for your own sake and other's.
A Springer Spaniel Dog Breed
I had a by chance meeting with Hunter and his spokesperson one day. We visited for quite some time and I was allowed to take some pictures of Hunter, and he was a working dog while we were talking. This led to some arranged meetings and stories for me to tell.
The black and white Springer Spaniel was listening to what was being said. His spokesperson, Bob, emphasized again and again that the word needs to get out for drivers to "Start Seeing Service Dogs". I said that I would do what I can to help get that important message out.
Then, Hunter jumped into his spokesperson's truck, but he did not take the passenger seat that he usually does. He crossed over to the driver's seat and quietly waited for me to notice that I had an important picture to take of him.
A Felony Offense
Hunter's spokesperson told me that it is a felony offense if a driver does not stop for a Service Dog wearing their vest. It could also be a matter of life and death or serious injury to Hunter and a family member. Hunter would not flee from a dangerous situation to save himself, he takes his job seriously. Please take his message seriously and pass it on.
A Matter of Life and Death
You see, when Hunter is in uniform, he is working to help and protect his beloved family. He is doing the job he is trained for.
If you see Hunter in public, he does not have time to socialize with you and you should never ever try to distract him from his duties. It may be a matter of being able to alert his family members to the danger that is on the line, it could be a matter of life and death.
Here you can see Hunter continuing to cross the parking lot as the ambulance is on the move and heading toward him and his people. The Service Dog's vest is plainly visibleHere you can see Hunter continuing to cross the parking lot as the ambulance is on the move and heading toward him and his people. The Service Dog's vest is plainly visible
Cell Phones Distract Drivers
Hunter hopes this message will help everyone know what to do when they see him or other Service Dogs crossing in a parking lot. On this day, there was another close call when a driver using a cell phone did not even seem to notice Hunter and the people he serves as they were about to do some shopping.
Hunter has served his lady, Linda for six years and now also serves his spokesperson, Bob. He wants to keep them safe and is asking for your help. That saying, “a picture paints a thousand words”, works here.
Hunter is thrilled to be able to present pictures of what drivers are expected to do when they see him working. His most important message to all drivers is: "Start Seeing Service Dogs"
Do Not Break The Law
You can tell why this message is the most important one that Hunter wants everyone to know. He loves the people that he assists and cares about you. Yes, this Spaniel likes everyone and does not want anyone to break the law, or put people with disabilities in harms way.
Another Important Message
Hunter has an important message he wants me to tell you about.
Don't Pet Rule
He understands how important this message is.
Some Things Are Worth Repeating
I decided to be a voice for Hunter and the people he serves because I feel it is important for this message to be heard by motorists. All too often this service dog has almost gotten hit by a vehicle while on duty.
Parking lots outside of shopping centers are a dangerous place for these guide dogs and their people. Why? Because people are not paying close enough attention to their surroundings while driving. Texting and talking on cell phones is the biggest distraction that Bob and Linda see while in the line of fire.
Hunter Helps with Hearing Loss
Hunter is very social and very polite, though much less formal at home. I was so pleased when he would come and sit by me and lean a little against my leg. It didn’t take long for him to train me into the fact that he preferred that I pet him on the back of his neck to the middle of his back. Once he even sat on my foot to be closer, my smile got bigger! When I sat on the floor, Hunter came along side and I found myself putting an arm around him. Awesome!
Hunter has full run of the house and is completely trusted by Bob and Linda. Bob has raised many Springer Spaniels over the years, he says Hunter stands out above others he has known. Hunter began looking after Linda on his own at the age of two and is now seven and has taken on the additional duty of serving Bob because of hearing loss.
What's the Difference Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals?
Don't Pet Me
It is my pleasure to introduce one and all to Hunter the service dog. He has invited me to be his voice for several important messages that he would like to share with you. First, he would like to direct your focus to the message that he wears printed on his vest when he is on duty in public, "Please Don't Pet Me, I'm Working".
I am a dog lover and I fell in love with Hunter on sight. I would have loved to pet and hug him on the spot like I might do with other dogs. But, I can read and I knew right away that touching Hunter was off limits and I resisted engaging him in any way other than taking pictures of him with permission. Believe me, that has taken a little bit of discipline for me because I have spent hours on different occasions with Hunter on and off duty. Also, with Bob, his spokesperson and "Handler", and his wife Linda, who needs a service animal. After each arranged meeting or social visit, that warm place in my heart for Hunter the service dog has enlarged.
Interestingly, Bob, told me that it is usually adults that will try to pet Hunter. He said, "children seem to know better". I am guessing that school age children have been taught dog etiquette somewhere along the way to not pet Service Dogs. Or, it may be that we usually teach our children not to pet strange dogs. That is a lesson we all need to review, especially as it applies to all Service Dogs that are trained to help people with disabilities, illnesses, or other medical conditions that may or may not be visible to us, but a dog's keen sense knows.
A Service Dog's Vest
As Bob and I were talking in a parking lot, Hunter stayed alert to everything around while laying or sitting on the ground, as well as standing at Bob's side. I could tell that this dog took his job seriously and didn't want to be distracted from active duty.
I saw a lady approach and could tell right off that she truly wanted to engage and love on this black and white Springer Spaniel on duty. Oh, but she did see the message on the service dog's red vest and resisted the urge using proper etiquette. I knew exactly how she felt, and I suspect the dog sensed it, too.
We all need to remember that Service Dogs that are out in the public eye to aide people, are not there to socialize with us. They are providing essential services for the people that they serve. They are at work.
You may be wondering how Hunter became a Service Dog. Well, you could say that he volunteered for service. When Hunter was only two years old, he took on the personal responsibility of looking after Linda, and of alerting her husband, Bob, if there were any concerns that needed attending to.
Bob brought their Springer Spaniel to a professional Service Dog trainer and Hunter went officially into training and service after passing an evaluation with flying colors. He is natural and is now 8 years old and has 6 years of service under his vest.
More Articles To Come
I am happy that I have been able to spend quality time getting to know Hunter the service dog on duty. I have been honored to get to know Hunter the family member in his home, along with Bob and Linda. The three of them together make a very loving family and their home a special place to visit.
I took this photo when I was able to join Bob, Linda and their service animal on a planned shopping trip to see the three of them in action together. What a joy it was!
Bob said, that he has had other Springer Spaniels, but that Hunter has stood out from all the rest. An exceptional dog does not come along every time, I know.
Hunter is ever at the ready at home to serve both Bob and Linda as the need for his special skills may arise. Many of the duties of a Service Dog actually do occur in the home. I notice Hunter keeping a watchful eye and checking in with both Bob and Linda. Alertness is a special trait that all service animals must possess.
When the vest comes off, Hunter is a different dog. He loves to be petted, and loves to play with toys, and entertain everyone who is around.
Hunter has some more important messages that he wants me to share by writing articles online. So! There will be more articles and photos to come in 2015 on HubPages. I could not be more delighted to be the voice of a service animal.
I think it must have been destiny for me to meet Hunter and his handler, Bob. I still distinctly remember how we met. I was at a Walmart and was heading for a door. I glanced to my left and saw this adorable black and white dog approaching me along with a man who seemed to have a contented smile on my face. I had my camera along and wanted to take a picture, but did not want to interact because of the message on the dogs vest. In my heart, I secretly made a wish to meet them.
I did not get my courage up and the moment seemed to be lost as I was greeted by an acquaintance. I thought, "Oh well", and visited for a few minutes before heading to the exit. What happened next seemed like a mini miracle.
As I stepped outside, the man with the dog was still there. I got brave and struck up a conversation with him that lasted at least a half hour or more. All that time, I noticed that Hunter only sniffed the air in my direction to check me out and made eye contact. That was it for interacting with me. He had his vest on and he seemed to be very proudly on duty. Bob allowed me to take some pictures and said I could use them online to tell their story and, more importantly, get some important messages out about how we all need to learn about appropriate etiquette when we see these dedicated workers on duty in public.
Service Dogs Need To Be Alert
Anything we do to distract a service dog while on duty, could prevent them from doing the tasks they are trained to do, to assist their people. It only takes one split-second for accidents to occur, and lives could possibly be in harm's way.
Why we should not pet service dogs on duty.
- They are watching.
- They are smelling.
- They are listening.
- They are sensing.
- They are thinking.
- They are ready for service.
A Socially Interactive Dog
I have mentioned that I have never engaged Hunter in any way when I have met him in public. It is important to note that Hunter does not engage me when he has his vest on. There just seems to be a formality about him and it is obvious that he takes his job very seriously. He knows I am there, but does not interact with me other than a quick sniff of the air and a glance in my direction.
On the other hand, Hunter is socially interactive at home. First, he alerts Bob and Linda that someone has arrived in the yard as he looks out a window and then heads to the door. He greets and interacts with guests in an appropriate and friendly manner. He is a very good host that makes visitors that he knows feel welcome.
In the video above the lady talks about reaching her hand out when someone tries to pet her service dog, they instead end up petting the back of her hand. Also, she has taught her dog the comment word "ignore". She will tell her dog to ignore, and keep repeating "good, ignore" and give her dog treats for obeying the command. Finally, people get the idea and stop petting.
Hunter is in training to assist Linda, who has disabilities and challenges related to having had a stroke several years ago. He is also in training to assist Bob, who has hearing loss. I think that is like doing double duty.
There are basically three different types of assistance dogs. You can read educational articles about them on Wikipedia from the links below.
- Guide dogs
- Hearing dogs
- Service dogs: "Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."
Start Seeing Service Dogs
This is another message the public needs to know, because they need to know the law.
Bob called: Linda stepped into eternity at 1:00 a.m. on September 19th, 2015. She was at home at her request, under the loving care of Bob and Hunter. The doctor at the hospital had asked her what she wanted to do on the previous Wednesday and she chose going home. The doctor did not think she would make it there, but arrangements were quickly made for a hospital bed, oxygen and care.
On Friday, Bob asked for a kiss and she puckered up, he asked for a second kiss and she puckered up again. When he asked for another one, she said, "Don't push it.", those were her last words. It was something that seemed to really bless Bob, probably a history on those words.
Please Do Not Pet Service Dogs On Duty
"Why use service dogs for invisible disabilities?" you ask.
Why not? A disability is a disability, and dogs are amazingly attuned to their humans' needs and moods. Is someone with epilepsy helped less than someone with hearing or vision loss? Not if that dog is trained to help them in the unique ways in which they need help.
Even the government is starting to promote the use of service animals for veterans returning with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) because the dog can provide a grounding or stabilizing force for the person with PTSD. Trained dogs can help compensate and care for the disabled person in ways that a routine doctor's visit or medication can't.
Besides, how many people who are blind actually LOOK blind without their white canes? How many people look deaf?
Service dogs, prescribed by a medical doctor, aren't just for certain disabilities, they can be trained to help with MANY disabilities in ways unique to each individual. Examples of invisible disabilities that may be helped by a service animal:
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic pain
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Brain damage/traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Environmentally triggered allergies
- and many more disabilities!