Things to Consider?
Some things to think about when considering a service dog…
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE DOG TO DO FOR YOU?
Are you looking for a dog that can be a nice, well mannered companion?
These dogs are considered pet dogs (or companion dogs) and do not have public access rights.
Are you looking for a dog that can provide emotional support to you through companionship and affection?
These dogs are called Emotional Support Dogs and are allowed in public housing but do not have public access rights as guaranteed by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). They are not necessarily task trained like service dogs but are generally required to be reasonably well behaved by pet standards. This means that the dog is fully toilet trained and has no bad habits that would disturb neighbors such as frequent or lengthy episodes of barking. The dog must not pose a danger to other tenants or to workmen.
Are you looking for a dog that is trained specific tasks that can mitigate your disability in public settings?
Service Dogs are legally defined (Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990) and are trained to meet the disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities. Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places. Service dogs are not considered ‘pets’.
These dogs are 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. The work or tasks performed by a service dog must be directly related to the handler’s disability. The crime deterrent effects of a dog’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.
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO APPLY FOR A SERVICE DOG?
If you are heavily involved with on-going therapies to help with your disability, you might consider waiting until your situation is more stable to start the application process. However, since there is often a wait list for fully trained service dogs, you should do your research now and find out how much time specific organizations will require before actually matching you with a fully trained dog.
Training with a dog takes a considerable amount of time. Dogs are very sensitive and pick up easily on our emotional state. In order to bond effectively with a service dog, you will be more successful if you start the process when you have fewer stress factors in your life.
Important factors to consider in determining if you are ready to train with a dog:
- Do you have enough financial stability to properly care for a dog (food, grooming, veterinary bills, etc)?
- Have you been out of the hospital for at least 8 months?
- Are you going through current major transition (i.e. divorce, having a child, moving, looking for employment, etc)? If so, this is not the time to add a service dog to your situation.
- Can you handle having invisible wounds made visible to the public?
- Do you have a strong desire to become independent?
- Are you physically active enough to handle, exercise, and care for a 65-75 lb Labrador retriever?
- Do you have a support system who can help with the care of the dog should you have a medical emergency or find yourself incapable to providing leadership to the dog?