Join Date: Oct 2006
Psychiatric Service Dogs & Emotional Support Animals
Many years ago, the first dogs were trained for service use by the blind. Since then dogs have been trained to help the deaf and the otherwise physically disabled to become and stay independent. Currently, service dogs are also trained to help epileptic patients by detecting impending seizures and by knowing what to do when a seizure occurs.
But more recently, demand for Psychiatric Service Dogs grew, and they have been accepted as another category of Service Animal. However, another category of animal that is governed by federal laws of access and accommodation has been designated -- the Emotional Support Animal.
This first article is about the Psychiatric Service Dog.
What is a Psychiatric service dog?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
A Psychiatric Service Dog is a dog that helps its handler, who has a mental (psychiatric) disability. Examples of mental disabilities that may sometimes qualify a person for a Service Dog include, but are not limited to: Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism, Anxiety Disorder, and Schizophrenia.
Like all other types of service dogs, a Psychiatric Service Dog helps its handler mitigate his disability through trained work and tasks, including, but not limited to:
- picking up/retrieving objects or aiding with mobility when the handler is dizzy from medication or has psychosomatic (physical) symptoms (i.e. pain, leaden paralysis, severe lethargy, etc.)
- waking the handler if the handler sleeps through alarms or cannot get himself out of bed
- alerting to and/or responding to episodes (i.e. mood changes, panic attacks, oncoming anxiety, etc.)
- reminding the handler to take medication if the handler cannot remember on his own or with the use of an alarm
- alerting to and/or distracting the handler from repetitive and obsessive thoughts or behaviors (such as those brought on by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
A Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) may be of any size and of any breed suited for public work. Many are owner-trained (trained by the person who will become the dog's handler, with or without the help of a professional trainer), but, increasingly, service dog training programs are recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities. Some Psychiatric Service Dog handlers may choose to refer to their dogs as Alert or Medical Response Dogs, depending on what the dog does for them.
- as well as many other tasks directly related to the specific handler's disability.
In the USA, handlers of PSDs are entitled to the same rights and protections afforded to handlers of other types of service dogs, such as Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Mobility Dogs, under federal laws. Like all other types of Service Dogs (SDs), Psychiatric Service Dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the disabled person. They have also been trained to act discretely in public places, such as laying quietly under the table in a restaurant, keeping tightly to the handler's side and not sniffing anything on the shelves of grocery stores, and ignoring other people and animals.
When you come across an Service Dog, please do not pet, call/talk to it, or otherwise distract it, as doing so could put the handler's life in danger. Remember that these are working animals, not pets, and they are out with their handlers to help them, not to be a spectacle for the public. Also, it is rude to ask the disabled person what their disability is, as that is personal and confidential medical information. While it is understandable that you are curious about the Service Dog, try to remember that the handler just wants to live life and utilize public places like everybody else, so please do your best to ignore the Service Dog.
Do SDs get time to "just be dogs"?
Certainly! SDs get time to rest, relax, play, run around, and otherwise be free in homes, yards, dog parks, etc. They know the difference between when it is time to work and when it is time to play. When not working, they might act just like the average housepet would.
Is it cruel to make dogs work for us?
Absolutely not! Dogs have a natural inclination to work, so they prosper when they have a job. They would much rather be doing something than just laying around an empty house all day long. Service Dogs enjoy helping their handlers.
Can any dog be an SD?
No, it takes a special kind of dog to become a fully-trained and public access-acceptable SD. Service Dogs need to have the right kind of temperament, smarts, and, in some cases, features (i.e. you wouldn't use a ten pound dog for mobility or guide work, but you could use a ten pound dog for hearing alerts).
Many dogs that begin SD training do not finish. These are called "career-changed" dogs. - look for one.. They can become an excellent emotional support animal.
Who qualifies for an SD?
In the USA, that would be a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as, but not limited to, breathing, walking, thinking, seeing, hearing, etc.
Where are SDs legally allowed to go?
In the USA, well-behaved SDs can go into almost any public place, including, but not limited to, stores (including grocery stores), restaurants, hotels, schools, theatres, taxis, airports, airplanes, parks, bars, hospitals, zoos, etc. Where the general public is allowed to go, so is a disabled handler's SD.
These same laws do NOT apply to Emotional Support Animals. And ESA is not a Psychiatric Service Dog. It is not federally protected right of guaranteed access to all public places otherwise off-limits to Service Dogs.
There ARE exceptions to the near universal access for SDs. Churches, some bed & breakfasts, operating rooms, and a very few other places are exempt from this law and, therefore, can choose to bar an SD from entering.
What if somebody is allergic to or fearful of dogs?
In the USA, allergies and fears of dogs are generally not excuses to bar an SD from entering a public area. Most allergies do not fit the requirements of a disability (substantially limiting of one or more major life activities), but if someone's allergy does, both the SD handler with their SD and the allergic person must be accommodated (the SD cannot be barred because of the allergic person).
If you have allergies and come across an SD in public, you can help yourself by staying away from the dog, taking medication, using an air purifier, etc. Remember that SDs are well-groomed and very clean, usually carrying less dander on themselves than the average pet owner does on their clothes.
Can a business ever legally ask for removal of a particular SD?
If the dog is out of control, i.e. growling or barking at people or otherwise being a direct threat to others' safety or health, yes, the dog may be legally excluded. A business cannot exclude a dog just because they think the dog might be a threat, however.
How is it fair and equal access that a disabled person can bring their SD places and a non-disabled person cannot bring their pet places?
A disabled person needs their SD in order to use a public place, leave their home, and/or, in some cases, live. Just like walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and oxygen tanks, SDs are vital medical equipment for their handlers. They are not pets. If people were not allowed to bring their SDs places, they would not be able to use those places, which is discriminatory. Pet owners, on the other hand, do not have a need for their pet to be with them in public places, even though it is great to have pets.
See alsoCategory: Assistance dogs
Last edited by Chemar; 11-25-2006 at 08:26 AM.