Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs – What’s the Difference?
If you are in Florida, you may have heard of emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal works like a companion animal for people and patients, for offering therapeutic benefits.
Usually such animals are either cats or dogs, although a patient can choose other pets. The whole purpose of an ESA is to offer relief and support for disability, psychological symptoms or emotional stress. Check some of the basic facts you need to know before getting an ESA certificate.
To get an emotional support animal in Florida , you have to check with your physician to consider the option of proving verifiable disability, as stated by law. Your doctor or medical professional will give a note or a certificate, which will mention the concerned disability and the need for emotional support animal that will offer therapeutic care and healing.
However, the animal isn’t treated a service animal and therefore, there is no need for any formal training. In fact, all domesticated animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles, cats and dogs, can become an ESA.
emotional support dog certification in Florida
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.
How to Act Around a Service Dog: Etiquette for Everyone
There is controversy surrounding the roles of animals in the lives of people with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Many of us have seen the posts online about registering your animal as an emotional support animal with a small fee, and being able to keep your animal in a no pets allowed setting. This has led people to question the legitimacy of all service animals and their roles. A feeling of distrust among people who do not understand the difference between these animals, and the rights that accompany them, has been emerging as more people utilize these services.Service Dogs are the most protected and trained of the 3 types of dogs. While many people refer to all 3 types as "service animals", the official names for this type is Service Dog. These dogs are legally considered medical equipment and have a price tag to match, ranging from $10,000- $50,000. They are intensively trained for 1.5-2.5 years, having to pass a variety of tests to be serviceable including, but not limited to, opening cupboards, retrieving dropped objects, staying calm in public, etc.The last type we are discussing are Emotional Support Animals. This one is the most vague and open-ended. An Emotional Support Animal does not have to have any special training and most of the time is registered by its owner because it brings comfort. Also, an Emotional Support Animal does not have to be a dog. These animals are not protected under the ADA and cannot accompany their owners in establishments where there are no animals allowed. Owners with a registered support animals can keep them in housing that otherwise does not allow pets according to the Fair Housing Act.
Adventures in Service Cat Training.
"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!
Please Do Not Pet Service Dogs On Duty
Sadly, some people are asking whether "service animal" laws are being abused by those who want to scam the system.
There have been news stories, articles, opinion pieces and other editorials where people rant and complain about people they believe to be abusing the system. You hear some complain that they had to sit near a dog at a restaurant that they don't believe is a "real" service dog, or others complain that their neighbors have a pet in a "no pet" building because they claimed the animal is an emotional support animal.
Some of the commentary has an indignant tone, and some people are downright angry.
How does this affect those who legitimately own and use a service animal to better their lives? In many ways.
For one, it can it more difficult to navigate bureaucracy of the world when your claim of a disability and your service or emotional support animal's status is questioned. If a landlord or business owner has heard negative stories claiming that some people are abusing the system, it can cause them to look suspiciously at all claimants.
But that percentage of abuse, which in the area of service animal laws is hopefully small, is arguably a very small price to pay when compared to the higher goal of promoting access and equality for all.
In the end, you cannot control any system to make it 100% abuse proof. So tolerating the few people who scam service animal laws is the price we gladly pay to ensure that the disabled in the great state of California have equal access under law.
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