Saturday, April 30, 2005

"Regarding Certification for Service Dogs"

Because not all service dogs are going to be doing the same things, there is no set standard of service dog training. People disabled by the same disability can vary so much from one another that his/her service dog must be trained specifically for that person based on symptoms or major life activities affected by the disability. It is not necessary to have a prescription, however I highly reccommend it. To see if you qualify to use a service dog, there are things you must have the correct answer to: "Are you disabled as defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)? This means that your disability affects one or more major life activities... getting dressed, going to work, running errands, personal safety, or simply going into the community. Can a service dog be trained to do work or perform tasks that will help mitigate your disability? If you are new to this, you may need extra guidance from someone a little more seasoned with service dog experience.
Service dogs can be individually trained for many things: they can detect epileptic seizures, blood sugar fluxuations in someone with diabetes, can steady individuals who are unsteady on their feet or have a difficult time balancing themselves without assistance, there are seeing eye dogs (who have specific training), dogs that assist with children with autism (grounding and safety tasks), hearing dogs, dogs that are trained to work not with the disabled but as public servants assistance: canine police dogs, bomb or mine sniffing dogs. Then there are dogs like Rowena who are being trained as a psychiatric service dog. I am sure there are many other types of service dogs out there as well. There are trainers who train dogs for some specific jobs, but there are not enough trainers around and not all types of jobs require such special training to do their job. There are usually long waiting lists, is very expensive and there are criteria to qualify for some such dogs. This makes it difficult for a person to find A trainer... let alone one that will train the dog for his/her specific needs. That is why it is okay for the person with the disability to train his/her own dog. Who would know the needs of a person seeking a service dog better than the person with the disability? Especially in the case of Rowena where my needs are so varied from any other individuals with a disabilities I know that is paired up with a psychiatric service dog.
Rowena's requirements are not too hard to train for. First and foremost, she must know basic obedience and must know what I call, "public etiquette". For example, not jumping up on people, not pulling ahead of me, sitting and lying next to me or out of the way of foot trafic when I am in meetings, not begging when there is food, and she needs to decrease her dramatic reaction to all of her little phobias (ie- briefcases, big bags, garbage cans and bags, carts...). I was told that this is a phase she will outgrow. Vocalizing is something that I discourage her from in public as well, unless it is only loud enough for me to hear (like a throat bark). What makes training most difficult right now (as she is almost 8 months old) are: her ability to focus and not get distracted during training activities, some of her phobia reactions, and when she learns bad habits from watching other dogs who are behaving badly (such as in her present obedience class).
I feel more comfortable having Rowena with me in public places when I keep a copy of my Doctor's prescription with me at all times even though the ADA says that I do not have to show proof that she is my service dog at all (all I have to do is tell them that she is my service dog). I will show people the prescription card only when it is totally necessary (not very often), and carry a copy of her vaccines. I also like to carry an identification card that describes and identifies Ro as my service dog. I don't need to show it, but just its mere presence may prevent any access problems (as with Ro wearing her vest). I know that there are individuals out there that abuse the fact that ADA says they do not have to show proof. Those individuals make it difficult for those of us who try our best to play by the rules, and truly do need the assistance of a service dog.
The last biggest requirement for Rowena is that she must be able to keep up with me. Therefore, it is my job to take care of her the very best I can so that maybe she can be with me for many more years. Rowena is a very special dog, and we have a partnership that makes us inseparable, and we love each other very much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You said, "For me to have Rowena with me in public places, I must keep a copy of my Doctor's prescription with me at all times even though the ADA says that I do not have to show proof that she is my service dog at all (all I have to do is tell them that she is my service dog)."

You are NOT required by the ADA to have your prescription (or to even HAVE a prescription in the first place, although it is a good idea so that you have a paper trail in case you go to court someday) on you in order to bring your SD in public. The reason you do not have to show it, as you said (that is correct), is because you may not have it on you. That is why the ADA does not require such things as proof.

You also said, "I will show people the prescription card, a copy of her vaccines, and a that describes and identifies Ro as my service dog if someone asks for verification for reasons other than just being nosey."

You don't need to show anybody that she has been vaccinated (although your dog DOES have to be tagged in accordance to your local law, i.e. rabies tag, just like any other dog). You shouldn't show your prescription, either, as that is confidential information they cannot ask for and it may teach them to ask the next SD team for it, which the team prob'ly won't have and may get denied bec. the business person thinks it is required. I don't know what your last item is, since you left out a word, but I am guessing it is a card of some sort? You also do not have to show that.

It is good to have your dog vested, labeled as an SD, so that you won't get questioned often. It is NOT required, however.

The only things you need to prove are the answers to the following questions, by simply answering the questions when asked them:

(1) Are you disabled? A simple yes or no is the answer.

(2) Is this your service dog? A simple yes or no is the answer.

(3) What tasks does your dog perform for you? You can be as vague as "medical alert" (as an example) for any type of alert your dog does so that you do not give away what your disability is.

Also, you mentioned your dog is still in training, so it is NOT an SD and is NOT under the ADA. It is an SDIT - Service Dog In Training. If your state laws give access to SDITs and both you and your dog fit the law (i.e. if your state says certified trainers only and you are not one, you do not have automatic access by law), that is great and you should have your dog wear a vest indicating it is an SDIT (NOT an SD). If your state laws don't give you access, you can ask particular stores for access, to which they are allowed to say no and you must accept that.