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Lending a Paw: How Service Animals Help People Thrive

October 10, 2018

Most animal lovers know a story or two about an amazing pet who risked their life to help save their human owner or other family member. Even the most “average” pet seems to have super powers when it comes to cheering us up and making us feel better.

Service animals take this idea to the next level as they work alongside their handlers to maintain their independence and to provide safety and companionship. Keep reading to learn more about these inspiring animals and their jobs.

Service Animals Defined

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is one who’s trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Service dogs are afforded certain legal protections and are generally allowed to accompany their handlers anywhere they need to go.

The types of assistance provided by service dogs include:

  • Vision support – Guiding blind or visually impaired individuals around obstacles and helping them navigate city streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks.
  • Hearing support – Alerting a hearing impaired handler to important noises, such as a doorbell, smoke alarm, telephone, or oven timer.
  • Mobility assistance – Performing tasks that enhance their handler’s independence, including turning lights on/off, retrieving objects, and pushing elevator buttons.
  • Psychiatric service – Helping someone who suffers from PTSD or another psychiatric disorder by warning them of an impending episode, reminding them to take medication, performing room checks, and being a generally comforting presence.
  • Emergency response – Detecting the onset of certain medical emergencies, such as a seizure or a dangerous drop in blood sugar.

Training to become a service dog is intensive and generally takes up to 2 years. Currently, only dogs can be classified as a service animal under the ADA.

Therapy/Emotional Support Animals

Therapy and emotional support animals do not meet the stringent training requirements of the ADA, and they do not enjoy the same legal protections as service dogs. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t provide valuable assistance to their handlers.

  • Emotional support animals – This can be any species of animal that provides comfort and support, as recommended by a physician or mental health professional.
  • Therapy animals – Typically these are dogs (but could also be another animal) that’s been appropriately trained and socialized to provide support and companionship in a clinical setting (nursing home, hospital, etc.).
  • Equine-assisted therapy – Used by medical professionals for decades, this type of therapy involves therapeutic interactions with horses for individuals with physical, cognitive, or emotional issues.

Unbreakable Bond

Here at Advantage Veterinary Center, we’re constantly amazed at all the remarkable ways in which animals interact with humans. Animals enhance our lives in so many ways, and we couldn’t be more honored to help care for them.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns about your own wonderful pet!