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  1. by Chelsea Goldstein, Dysautonomia Information Network Your research on assistance animals may have you feeling confident that a service dog could help you live more independently and sustainably. If this is you, rock on and read on. If you are still unsure of whether a service animal is the right fit for you, consider reading It's Doggone Confusing: Understanding Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) before continuing this article to better understand if a service dog is your best option (but still, rock on). Remember that a service animal is trained to help an individual with a disability with specific tasks related to their disability. For example, a dog may be trained to sense pre-syncope and alert their handler so they can get to a safe place and recline. If you are ready for a service dog, it can be overwhelming to start the process. We have all heard how expensive and time consuming it can be to get/train a service animal, so it is important that you understand your options to determine which one is best for your needs, resources, and abilities. What to expect Understanding the process can minimize future frustrations. Training. Service animal training is primarily focused on two major qualifications that are required by the ADA: 1) the animal can assist the handler with specific tasks related to their disability, and 2) the animal can remain calm, focused, and well behaved in a variety of stimulating public settings (1). The ADA, however, does not specify how animals should receive such training, and there are not any federally required certifications or tests to qualify service animals. This lack of federal regulation is a double-edge sword: it protects the rights of individuals with disabilities, but it also makes it easier for others to abuse the designation of service animal, which can be dangerous if the animals are not properly trained. It is important that you take service animal training seriously to ensure you can safely and responsibly work with your dog when out and about. Time Commitment. Depending on the route you choose, the time commitment of getting and/or training a service animal varies. However, expect that it will take a significant amount of time and focus to ensure you and your dog have a productive and sustainable working partnership. Even if you get an already-trained service animal, the certifying organization often requires that you stay on premise for several weeks to months for intensive joint training (2). Expense. Service animals are also known to be expensive. Costs may vary, but an already-trained service animal could cost upwards of $25,000 (2). While this is an extraordinary expense, there are ways to reduce it. Many organizations will help procure financial support that drastically reduces, or even eliminates, the final cost. More cost-effective solutions include getting training for an animal you already own, or even training your animal yourself. Goals. As mentioned previously, there are not any federally-mandated certifications or tests for dogs to become service animals. However, the rights of the handler are only upheld if the dog is trained in specific tasks that support the handler's disability, and if the dog is well-behaved in public. A number of organizations determine readiness of a human and animal pair to work together in public by administering a Public Access Test (developed by the organization or a coalition of organizations). Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is one such coalition that has established minimum standards for training and testing. Many reputable organizations use their Public Access Test. Upon passing the test, these organizations often give the human and dog team some type of certification. Beware that training organizations vary widely, and a good place to start your search may be this list of ADI accredited organizations that can be found on their website. Getting a Service Dog: Option 1 Perhaps the most well-known way to acquire a service dog is to purchase a dog that has already been selected for service work and trained by a reputable organization. The Process. Many people consider buying a service dog from a reputable training organization. This is certainly a good option to ensure that your dog is professionally trained with stringent standards. It also provides you with a lot of guidance on how to work with your new animal. However, the process of getting a service dog is more complicated than simply picking one out (2). The actual steps may vary by organization, but the process generally involves interviews, assessments of your needs, and joint training with your new service animal. For example, one well established organization requires interested handlers to complete an initial and full application. Then they have a phone interview and fill out medical paperwork, followed by an in-person interview. Only then are they accepted as a handler. Even after this arduous screening process, they may be put on a wait list until a dog with the skill set and temperament to meet their specific needs is available (3). Finally, the handler will usually be required to stay on-site for several weeks to a month to complete joint training with their dog (2). These steps may seem overwhelming, but they are there to ensure that people getting service animals are fully supported in their needs, and that the training can be sustained and helpful to the handler for many years. Beware of any training organizations with minimal screening requirements. Pros. One of the major pros of this option is that the dogs are selected or responsibly bred specifically to be service animals. These strict selection and breeding criteria provide strong probability that the animals have the right temperament for service dog work, and are receptive to training. Even still, 50-70% of service dog candidates do not pass testing and certification. While this drop-out rate may be high, it also means that only the most well-qualified dogs are the ones being matched with handlers (1). Do not worry, there are often long waiting lists to adopt service dog drop-outs because they are still very well trained and good with people. Additionally, these dogs are generally chosen for service training as puppies, which means that they will not have any negative behaviors due to improper past training that need to be addressed. Cons. This is usually the most expensive option for getting a service dog. While it can cost around $25,000, there are often avenues for financial aid (1). Additionally, some potential handlers reported that they were deterred from this option because they were on wait lists for over two years and still weren't matched with dogs. Other people have said that they did not have enough time to fully bond with their dog before leaving the training facility, likening the first year of living with a school-trained service dog to a new marriage: there is a lot of adjustment before you can effectively work together (4). Getting a Service Dog: Option 2 Another option is to take your own dog to a professional service dog organization for training. The Process. Sometimes pets can make excellent service animals. This may be an appealing option if you already own a dog that shows promise as a service animal, and the thought of adding another dog to your household seems a bit overwhelming. First, you should honestly assess your pet's temperament to decide if they will be suitable for service dog work. Service dogs need to remain calm, even in unfamiliar settings, have a willingness to please you, should be able to learn and retain information, should be reliable, and are socialized to many different environments (1). Many companies that train service dogs will do a temperament assessment to ensure the animal is a good fit for their program (2). Again, there are no federal mandates for service dog training, but many reputable organizations will require about six months to complete training courses and prepare for a Public Access Test. Training is often administered in small groups of dog and handler teams, with support from the trainers to reinforce the skills at home. Some organizations also offer one-on-one training (1). The training program that works for you is highly dependent on your expectations, budget, and needs. Take some time to contact several reputable organizations in your area, if available, and discuss what type of programs they offer before making a final decision. Most reputable training programs will be considered completed when you and your dog pass a Public Access Test. Pros. These professional programs often emphasize training for the human-dog team, meaning they recognize that training for the human is just as important as canine instruction to ensure that the pair is successful after the program. They also may include periodic follow-up training to brush-up on skills and address any issues that may arise (1). Additionally, this option usually costs around $5,000 to $10,00 in the US (2). While this is still a large sum of money, it is significantly less than purchasing an already trained dog. Finally, the emotional bond and trust you have already developed with your pet will be invaluable in a successful training experience. Cons. The biggest risk in this option is that there is no guarantee your dog will pass the Public Access Test. If your dog does not pass the first time, the responsible thing to do would be to continue training your dog and take the test again, or choose another option to acquire a service animal. This can result in additional costs. This is why honestly assessing the qualities of your dog before you pay for training is essential. We all know that our own dogs are the most adorable, and most perfect, and most lovable. But if they get extremely excited anytime they see a ball or other dog, they may not be the best fit for service work. This doesn't mean they're any less lovable, they're just not a good fit for the job. Getting a Service Dog: Option 3 Finally, training your own service dog is an option for individuals who are willing to commit a lot of time and effort. The Process. Once again, the ADA does not require a specific type of training for service dogs. This means, you can do it yourself if you are up for the task (1). Similar to the option above, you need to make an honest and thorough assessment of your pet's temperament and qualities. What characteristics would make them a good service animal? What qualities or behaviors may detract from service work? Can your training address those non-serving behaviors? Take your time in the assessment phase. Some experts report that the greatest mistake handlers make is trying to force an unsuitable dog to become a service animal. This can often set the handler up for unnecessary frustration as they fail to train an animal to do tasks they're just not suited to do (5). Remember, that a great pet does not necessarily make a good service animal. For example, a playful and friendly pet may get too distracted from the service task at hand when in public. Similar to the other options, this process will take time. Experts recommend starting with basic house training, such as sit, stay, and lay down commands, and teaching your dog to eliminate in specific locations on demand. Then, you should work on socializing your animal in a variety of public settings while encouraging them to stay focused on you and the given task. Finally, you should introduce specific disability-related skills that you would like your dog to learn. Pros. One obvious benefit of this option is cost. While there is no upfront fee to train your own animal, there are often extraneous costs to consider such as training books and videos, treats, training supplies, and your time and energy. There are, however, a plethora of resources available online to guide training (2). The American Kennel Club (AKC) Good Citizen Program provides several resources for basic training, and your pet can even be evaluated on ten major tasks. Finally, training your dog yourself provides you with a lot of control and understanding about working with your animal out in public. You will, arguably, learn your dog's quirks and behaviors better than you would if they were trained by someone else. Cons. This avenue can be time consuming, energy draining, and frustrating. But also rewarding. So, in addition to assessing your pet's temperament, you should honestly assess if you feel prepared for the job. If you have limited experience working with animals you should be prepared to do a lot of learning, or consider another avenue. There will be less outside support in this option, so it is important you do your homework with reputable sources to ensure you aren't accidentally reinforcing poor behavior in your animal. Take Home Points Training or getting a service animal is a big step. Here are a few things to remember... Make sure your animal is properly trained. Even if you train your dog yourself, you should consider getting professional input at some point. When looking for organizations to train, or assist in training, a dog don't be afraid to ask the trainers several questions before committing your time and money to an organization (1). A properly trained service animal is an investment in your future. If done right, it can dramatically improve your quality of life (2). However, a poorly trained or improperly represented service animal poses danger to the public and damages the reputations of service dog handlers. This statement from the AKC outlines why the misuse of service dogs is so detrimental to people living with disabilities (1). These options are not mutually exclusive. Your responsibility as a potential service dog handler is to thoroughly review your training options and make an informed decision about the best avenue for you and your animal. You may decide that a combination of approaches is the best fit for your needs and budget. For example, several handlers have reported that they trained their dogs in basic tasks on their own, and they sought professional support for more advanced work. This can dramatically reduce the costs and time commitment of professional training, while also ensuring you have a strong working bond with your dog (4). You will need support throughout the process, especially if you train your own dog. Training a service animal can be emotional and physically taxing no matter what route you take. You may want some professional help if the idea of training your animal yourself is overwhelming. Even if you manage most of the training on your own, it is important to have an outlet for emotional support and feedback. The DINET forum is always a great space for connection, and this Facebook group is dedicated to discussion about service animals for people with POTS. You should also ensure that any housemates are onboard with supporting your training. They need to understand and reinforce the behaviors and tasks you are teaching your dog, and NOT encourage poor behavior. This can be confusing to the animal and jeopardize your training process. Make sure you are working with a reputable organization. The ADI accredits organizations around the world that meet their minimum standards and use their Public Access Test. This list of ADI accredited trainers may be a good place to start your search. Organizations that are members of IAADP have also met a set of minimum standards for service dog training. Whatever organization you choose, make sure that you ask a lot of questions and feel comfortable with the organization's process before you commit. Resources Article Citations Karetnick, J. (2019, September 24). Service dogs 101: Everything you need to know. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/service-dog-training-101/ Driscoll, E. (2019, June 4). The ins and outs of owning and training a service dog. Dysautonomia Information Network (DINET). https://www.dinet.org/info/newsletters/the-ins-and-outs-of-owning-and-training-a-service-dog-r222/ Apply for an assistance dog. (2020). Canine Companions for Independence. https://www.cci.org/assets/files/apply-for-an-assistance-dog.pdf Furlong, R. (2006, December 1). Training your own service dog. New Mobility. https://www.newmobility.com/2006/12/training-your-own-service-dog/ Froling, J. (1998). Finding a suitable candidate for assistance dog work. https://www.iaadp.org/type.html Additional Resources Assistance Dog International. https://assistancedogsinternational.org/ American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/ Canine Good Citizen Program. https://www.akc.org/products-services/training-programs/canine-good-citizen/ Service Dogs for POTS Facebook Group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/110152023042832/ The Dog Alliance. https://www.thedogalliance.org/training-your-own-service-dog Dog Owner. https://www.dogowner.co.uk/ Lean on Me - The Remarkable Story of a young woman with POTS and the Dog that Keeps her Safe. https://www.dinet.org/member-stories/lean-on-me-–-the-remarkable-story-of-a-young-woman-with-pots-and-the-dog-that-keeps-her-safe-r208/ NOTE: this article is available in pdf format below. Printed copies for support or community groups are available by request to webmaster@dinet.org Please include the purpose, name of the group and number of copies requested. PDF link: https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:aef8e51b-0f04-4af6-bfeb-f4d32d45f968
  2. by Chelsea Goldstein, Dysautonomia Information Network Emotional service animals (ESAs) have been a hot topic of discussion lately. Most likely, you have heard about people who have registered pets as ESAs in order to waive pet fees at apartment complexes, or to fly with their furry friends for free. However, these animals can be invaluable to people with mental health conditions, who may get therapeutic benefit from their companionship. Knowing the difference between people who are abusing the classification and people who are benefiting is always tricky, but knowing the proper channels to get an ESA can ensure that you are protecting this important designation of animal for people who need it. Read our article, It's Doggone Confusing: Understanding Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), to learn more about what ESAs are and how they may help you. If you find that an ESA may be a good fit for you, this article will tell you how to make that happen! Finding a Good Match You should understand your needs, and what qualities of an ESA may be a good match for you. Your Needs The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states that, "Emotional support animals by their very nature, and without training, may relieve depression and anxiety, and/or help reduce stress-induced pain in persons with certain medical conditions affected by stress." Several research studies also indicate that positive interactions with an animal, such as petting, can reduce stress, alleviate loneliness, enhance social engagement, reduce pain, and improve depression (1). If you are considering an ESA, you should ask yourself these questions: How exactly will an ESA support me? Will they comfort me on high pain days? Will their companionship lower my anxiety, especially when doing difficult tasks such as traveling? Will they alleviate my loneliness due to isolation caused by my dysautonomia? Your answers to these questions will help you pinpoint your exact needs. This will also 1) help you figure out what qualities you need in an ESA, and 2) provide you with a legitimate explanation for your animal's ESA designation if it is ever challenged. Another factor to consider is your ability to care for an animal. You want to make sure that you, or someone in your household, can provide for the animal's well-being, even on tough days (1). The Animal’s Qualities There are no legal requirements for the type, breed, or qualities of an ESA (1), so it is important that you assess your own needs to ensure that your ESA is a good fit for you. For example, you may want an animal has a calming presence if you live with anxiety (2), such as a lower energy dog, or one that is not too vocal. No matter what, it is important that you and your ESA have a strong connection and emotional bond (2). HUD states, however, that housing complexes can deny ESAs if the animal is destructive or poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others (1). A direct threat must be based on the individual animal's behavior or history. In other words, housing complexes cannot deny an ESA on it's breed, or threatening behavior of other, similar animals. While it may be tempting to get that cute puppy you saw on PetFinder as your new ESA, having any animal is a lifelong commitment. It is important that you take the time to understand your needs, fully and honestly, as well as take time to get to know any potential ESAs to ensure they can truly provide the appropriate support and companionship that will help you thrive with your specific conditions. How to Get an Emotional Support Animal So you've decided that an ESA will help you live a healthier, more sustainable life. Good work! The next step is figuring out where to get one and how to get your animal the ESA designation. Where to Get an ESA You can get an ESA any place you would get a pet. In fact, many people designate pets they already own as ESAs after experiencing tremendous benefit from the emotional support and companionship of their pet. This is absolutely a legitimate avenue of getting an ESA - you have already established the necessary bond with your pet, you know the animal's temperament, and you have experience caring for the pet. Just make sure that you seek to designate your animal as an ESA because they are actually providing you with necessary therapeutic benefits. Otherwise, you can look into getting a new animal, and we recommend adoption. Your local animal shelter or rescue center could be a good place to start (2). Be sure to take your time getting to know any potential furry companions and ask a lot of questions, so you feel prepared for this major transition. Also consider what type of animal would be a good fit for you. Do you think you will have the strongest bond with a dog? Or, is a dog too much work given your health conditions? Try to answer these questions thoroughly, but keep an open mind. For example, you may consider yourself a "dog person," but find that you have an initial bond with a cat when you visit the shelter. Getting an animal is a personal decision, and it is important you take your time with the process, as well as trust your instincts. The Process of Getting an ESA To designate an ESA, an individual should get a letter from their mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed counselor, social worker, etc.) indicating that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates specific symptoms of the individual's conditions (3). The letter should include the name of the individual, that the individual has a mental health condition (though the specific condition does not need to be disclosed), and the recommendation that an ESA will benefit the person (1). It is also helpful to list the specific symptoms that the animal helps alleviate. This letter template is a great place to start. Unlike service animals, ESA owners may be asked to show this letter to landlords or airlines, especially if fees are being waived or animals are not typically allowed on premise (3). This is why it is important to honestly discuss your needs with your mental health professional, as well as how the animal assists with your symptoms. Beware that there are several online companies that sell ESA letters, or add you to ESA registries. While some of these companies do actually provide you with a mental health professional, many of them are scams. Note that there are also no required registries for ESAs. Since it is difficult to know which companies are legitimate, it is best to obtain a letter from your own trusted mental health professional. Resources Article Citations Chandler, C. (2015, April 20). Confirming the benefits of emotional support animals. Counseling Today. https://ct.counseling.org/2015/04/confirming-the-benefits-of-emotional-support-animals/ How to get an emotional support animal. (2020, February). ESA Doctors. https://esadoctors.com/how-to-get-emotional-support-animal/#benefit-esa-support Wisch, R. (2019). FAQs on emotional support animals. Animal Legal & Historical Center. https://www.animallaw.info/article/faqs-emotional-support-animals Additional Resources ESA Sample Letter. http://www.bazelon.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/ESA-Sample-Letter.pdf National Organization on Disability. http://www.nod.org Fair Housing Act. https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_overview Air Carrier Access Act. https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/passengers-disabilities NOTE: this article is available in pdf format below. Printed copies for support or community groups are available by request to webmaster@dinet.org Please include the purpose, name of the group and number of copies requested. PDF link: https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:1a5b491d-78c1-4265-8e65-7ec0d1b91c61
  3. by Chelsea Goldstein, Dysautonomia Information Network Pet ownership is known to have positive impacts on depression, anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate, to name just a few benefits. The advantages of having a furry (or scaly, or feathery) family member are no secret - 68% of US households have at least one (1). The values of pet ownership have been such a hot topic lately, that they have led to some confusion around the differences between pets, emotional support animals (ESAs), and service animals. The misuse and abuse of terms like ESA and service animal have created particular challenges for people living with chronic illnesses and disabilities who may benefit from either of these types of support animals. The rest of this article will clarify the differences between ESAs and service animals to provide a better understanding of how each may or may not be an appropriate addition to your home. What are Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals? It's important to know the difference. Service Animals Service animals are individually trained to perform tasks that help an individual with disability live more independently (2). As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), these animals can support individuals with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability (1). To be considered a service animal, it is important that the work the animal is trained to do directly supports the individual handler. According to the ADA, only dogs and, in rare cases, miniature horses can be legally defined as service animals. Some state and local laws may have more inclusive definitions of service animals, which will be discussed in more detail below (3). Nonetheless, dogs remain the most common service animal in the US. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are the most popular breeds because they are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and patience - all qualities needed for this important work (1)! Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) do NOT fall under the ADA classification of service animals. Rather, they are defined as providing companionship, comfort, and/or emotional support to individuals with psychiatric or mental health conditions (3). An ESA should be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional who will provide the owner with an ESA letter (5). This letter will be important if the owner is bringing their pet places, such as in housing complexes and on airplanes, that may otherwise restrict animals. While there are several online registration systems for ESAs, it is important to note that there is not an official or accredited registration process that is required (6). Dogs and cats are the most common types of ESAs, but any domesticated animal can be classified as one as long as the handler goes through the proper channels. ESAs do not require any specific training, but are expected to be well behaved in public places (5). What Tasks Do Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals Do? Guide dogs have an important job of assisting a person who lives with vision impairment, and they may be one of the most recognized types of service dogs. However, service dogs are trained in a variety of specific tasks to help individuals with different needs. Types of Service Dogs Guide Dogs help people with severe vision impairment or blindness travel and navigate their environments (2). Hearing or Signal Dogs are trained to alert individuals with severe hearing impairment or deafness when there is a sound, such as a knock on the door (2). Psychiatric Service Dogs work to detect and lessen the effects of psychiatric episodes. For example, they may turn on the lights for a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, interrupt their handler if they are self-mutilating, or keep a disoriented person out of danger (2). Sensory Dogs are primarily trained to assist people with autism. They can do a variety of tasks for their handlers, including calming them if the person is experiencing sensory overload (2). Seizure Response Dogs may stand guard over people who have seizures, or warn them to sit down if they can sense a seizure coming (2). Mobility Dogs can assist with tasks such as retrieving items from the floor, pulling wheelchairs, or pushing elevator buttons (1). As mentioned above, all service dogs are trained in specific tasks for their handler. The categories of service dogs discussed here are not mutually exclusive or exhaustive. For example, a dog could be trained to help an individual with mobility difficulty pick things up off the floor, and also trained to sense when that person is about to have a seizure. It is also important to note that psychiatric service dogs are different than ESAs because they are trained in instrumental tasks, even though they likely provide companionship and emotional support to their handlers, like ESAs. This is not to devalue ESAs - their support and companionship for individuals with mental health conditions can be life changing. Individuals with dysautonomia can benefit from both service dogs and ESAs. For example, someone with POTS-induced syncope could benefit from a dog trained to provide a warning signal when they sense pre-syncope symptoms. This could help the person find a safe place to sit or lay flat and prevent dangerous situations, especially when out of the home (1)! An ESA could help someone who has health-related depression and/or anxiety. Companionship of an ESA could be especially beneficial for a person who feels isolated due to the limitations dysautonomia has placed on their life. The most important consideration for getting a support animal is to have a strong and realistic understanding of one's specific needs. Where are These Animals Allowed? Knowing the laws about where you can bring your animal can help you prepare for any pushback. Service Animals According to the ADA, service animals are allowed in housing, workplaces, on transportation, in educational institutions, and in any other spaces that allow the public, customers, or program participants (1,2). This includes businesses or programs that have a "no pet" policy because service animals are not considered pets (2). These organizations cannot charge any pet fees for service animals, and breed restrictions do not apply to them. They may, however, charge fees for damage caused by the animals (2). If you have a service animal, others cannot ask you for proof of the animal's certification, or about your disability. They can only ask: Is the animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? (1,2) The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) states that individuals can fly with their service animals without additional fees. The airlines can ask the following questions for "verbal assurance" of the need for a service animal: What tasks or functions does the animal perform for you? Would you describe how the animal performs these tasks for you? (2, 7). Emotional Support Animals Emotional support animals are not protected by the ADA and, therefore, are not granted the same access to public spaces as service animals (5). However, the ADA is a federal regulation, and each state may have different laws regarding where ESAs are allowed (1). If you have, or are considering getting, an ESA, it may be wise to learn about your state's regulations here. ESAs do, however, have some protections under the ACAA and Fair Housing Act. The ACAA allows individuals to fly with their ESAs without additional charges. Airlines may ask the owner for an ESA letter stating that the individual has a mental health condition, that the animal is needed for travel, and information regarding the issuing professional's date and type of mental health licensure (2). ESAs are also considered "assistance animals" under the Fair Housing Act. This means that housing entities must make reasonable accommodations to allow ESAs in housing units that may otherwise prohibit pets. They also cannot charge pet fees for ESAs, and breed restrictions should be waived (8). Regulations, Responsibilities, and Etiquette Unfortunately, we have all heard of (and maybe even witnessed) instances when people take advantage of service animal and ESA classifications to get their pets places they wouldn't normally be allowed. It is important to know the regulations and responsibilities of these animals in order to protect the rights and needs of people who truly need them. Regulations The term service animal is based on federal regulations set forth by the ADA. These regulations are upheld nationally, and some common questions about them are answered here. It is also important to note that several states have individual laws about the inclusion and exclusion criteria of service animals and ESAs. While the ADA supersedes state law, these regulations can provide more clarity on where ESAs are allowed in each state. They can be found here, or on your state's Attorney General website. Responsibilities As a handler, it is your responsibility to ensure that your service animal or ESA is behaved in public, and trained to support you in specific tasks in the case of service animals. While there is not a single training or accreditation required by the ADA for service animals (9), it is dangerous and irresponsible to have a poorly or improperly trained service animal. In an era when service dog vests are readily available online, individuals living with disability, especially invisible disability, are judged and put in danger when people don't believe their service dog is legitimate (1). Read our additional articles on acquiring and training service animals to learn more about responsible options. Etiquette For Handlers: The ADA states handlers need to have control of their service animals. This is often done by keeping the animal on a leash or harness when outside the home, but there may be instances when such a device restricts the animal's ability to assist their handler. In these cases, the animal should be trained to respond well to voice commands (2). While businesses are not allowed to deny a service animal access to their spaces, they can ask a handler and service animal to leave if the animal's behavior is disrupting their business or posing a threat to other patrons. For example, a dog that is barking repeatedly in a movie theater could be asked to leave, as well as a dog that is growling and snapping at other shoppers in a grocery store (2). This is why it is important to ensure that service animals are well trained to be in a variety of public spaces. For passersby: Passersby should always remember that service animals are not pets, and stopping to pet, or otherwise distract, a service animal while out in public can be dangerous. These animals need to be focused on their handlers at all times to ensure they do not miss the subtle cues they need to perform their trained tasks (1). Please remember this next time you pass a service animal, and do not hesitate to tell passersby that they may not pet your service animal while it is working. Resources Article Citations Driscoll, E. (2019, June 4). The ins and outs of owning and training a service dog. Dysautonomia Information Network (DINET). https://www.dinet.org/info/newsletters/the-ins-and-outs-of-owning-and-training-a-service-dog-r222/ Brennan, J. (2014). Service animals and emotional support animals: Where are they allowed and under what conditions? The ADA National Network. https://adata.org/guide/service-animals-and-emotional-support-animals ADA requirements: Service animals. (2020, February 24). U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm Wisch, R. (2019). FAQs on emotional support animals. Michigan State University Animal Legal & Historical Center. https://www.animallaw.info/article/faqs-emotional-support-animals Gibeault, S. (2019, October 3). Everything you need to know about emotional support animals. American Kennel Club. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/news/everything-about-emotional-support-animals/ Harper, H. (2019, August 28). Do you need an emotional support animal? Here's what to know. Health.com https://www.health.com/pets/emotional-support-animals Gjelten, E. (2020). Flying with service dogs and emotional support animals. NOLO.com https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/flying-with-service-dogs-and-emotional-support-animals.html Assistance animals. (n.d.) Housing and Urban Development. https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/assistance_animals Frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA. (2015, July). U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html Additional Resources National Organization on Disability. http://www.nod.org Job Accommodation Network. https://askjan.org/ Americans with Disabilities Act. https://www.ada.gov/ Dog Owner. https://www.dogowner.co.uk/ The Dog Alliance. https://www.thedogalliance.org/ NOTE: this article is available in pdf format below. Printed copies for support or community groups are available by request to webmaster@dinet.org Please include the purpose, name of the group and number of copies requested. PDF Link: https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:7b7e9ba0-1e8f-4e30-bba0-1ce1e0febc88
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