Service dogs are a lifeline for the people who need them. These dogs have expert training to complete tasks that help with a disability. They allow for an additional layer of independence for people who need it.
Service Dogs are Not ESAs
ESAs or Emotional Support Animals provide comfort to their owners, but they are not trained to perform specific tasks to help with a disability. Both service dogs and ESAs can lessen anxiety, but service dogs will do so by completing specific tasks, such as applying pressure, while ESAs lessen anxiety simply with their presence. Service dogs have more protections than ESAs. While a store owner may refuse to allow an ESA in their building, they cannot refuse entry to a service dog. People who lie about having a service dog or people who argue that their ESA must be given the same protections as service dogs, harm the disabled community by creating suspicion around service dogs and leading people to believe that service dogs may not be well trained.
Service Dogs are Protected by Law
No one can refuse service to a person with a disability because they have a service dog with them unless the dog is aggressive or destroys property. Landlords must also allow service dogs to live in otherwise pet-free housing. Businesses may ask whether a dog is a service dog, but they cannot ask about the nature of their owner’s disability. The only two questions any business owner or employee may legally ask are “is the dog required because of a disability?” and “what tasks has the dog been trained to perform?”
There are Many Kinds of Service Dogs
Service dogs come in many breeds and can help with a variety of disabilities. There are service dogs to help people with vision and hearing impairments. Dogs can be trained to recognize the signs of medical emergencies and get their owners to a safe space or retrieve medication. There are even mobility assistance service dogs that help people in wheelchairs and psychiatric service dogs that help people manage debilitating mental illness.
Where to Get a Service Dog
For those who qualify for service dogs, professional service dog training organizations train dogs to meet the specific needs of their handler. They have high standards and more than a third of dogs in those programs do not graduate. Service dogs do not have to be professionally trained. Service dogs trained by their owners qualify as service dogs.