Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Important Role of Service Dogs

The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.  Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. You may initially think of people with a vision or hearing impairment, but it can also include,  seizure alert, psychiatric disorders support, retrieving objects, closing doors, turning light switches off and on, and barking to indicate that help is needed.  Another type of service dog are those used by the military, local police, fire departments, and federal and state law enforcement agencies for functions such as bomb sniffing, drug enforcement, search and rescue, and fire investigation.

Many programs will use Golden Retrievers and Labradors for services dogs. They have many of the characteristics that make for a good service dog, but many other breeds have unique characteristics that can be helpful to the needs of their owner or handler. The dog will undergo very extensive training in the desired area of expertise before being placed with an owner. Although the bond between the owner and dog will be very strong, it is important to realize that these dogs are doing a job.  Our hope is that when they are not working, they also are a "pet". We are so lucky o have these wonderful dogs give such a beautiful gift to people who desperately need and rely on them for their day to day activities.  For many disabled people, their service dog may be their closest partner and friend.