Service animals are practically indispensable assistants for humans with inabilities. They help their owners in various ways: from performing small household tasks to providing therapeutic benefits and monitoring medication intake. Therefore, if you have any dysfunction, you may want to consider getting a service animal. Besides, in addition to executing physical assignments, animals bring the needed moral strengthening and boost the mood, which also affects the improvement of your general welfare.
So, in this article, we will tell you how a human with special needs can get a recommendation from a doctor and become a service animal possessor.
Service animals are specially trained creatures that help men with disabilities with daily household chores and contribute to their normal functioning despite their inabilities. Service animals begin to be trained at the age of three months. Initially, training is focused on developing the animal’s obedience and socialization skills. After that, the animals are tutored according to the type of dysfunction they will be working with. Each animal is taught separately to the needs of its keeper so that it can bring the greatest benefit to a person.
It is also significant to understand the distinction between service dogs, ESAs and therapy animals. An emotional support animal is a companion animal. They are needed to raise the mood of their owners, bring moral bucking up, and consolation. ESAs help people with mental ailments by alleviating their symptoms or eliminating certain manifestations. For this, emotional support animals do not need special training and preparation.
Therapy animals support people who feel isolated from their family and friends. These creatures visit patients in hospitals and nursing homes, prisoners, and people who have survived disasters. They also work in libraries and schools. Therapy animals must have a sufficient level of grounding to interact with people, but they should not be with them around the clock.
Thus, service dogs are the broadest category of assistance animals. They can both fulfill physical tasks to meet the needs of their handlers and supply them with the demanded spiritual and psychological mainstay. All of this contributes to the faster adaptation and socialization of disabled humans.
Moreover, the animals often become protectors of their holders because disabled persons belong to vulnerable social groups. Consequently, dogs have been taught how to protect their owners from ill wishes and are designed to avoid a possible deterioration in their owners’ health.
Service dogs are divided into several categories depending on the needs of their holder. The most well-known are service dogs for physical and sensory issues, including guide dogs, hearing dogs, and dogs that help people with physical dysfunctions. Each service animal is tutored to carry out specific functions to assist its owner.
For example, guide dogs help people get to their destination safely and protect their owners from dangers they cannot see. Hearing dogs are taught to distinguish between different sounds and to alert their keepers who are hearing impaired or deaf.
Mobility assistance dogs provide humans with physical defects the ability to move freely. For example, they can be a physical prop for veterans who are relearning to walk after being wounded. They can also pull a wheelchair to reduce physical strain on a person. For this, animals need a special harness.
Service animals can also be helpful for those with diabetes and epilepsy. In the event of an epileptic seizure or deterioration of the owner’s condition, the dog will be able to find the required medication and raise a noise to call for help.
Another kind of service animal is a psychiatric service dog that aids humans with mental maladies and intellectual and learning disturbances. A PSD is not an emotional support animal as it is trained in special techniques to soothe and care for its holder.
There are no specific species and breed restrictions for emotional support animals so you can choose your companion only according to your own preferences. Instead, the Americans with Disabilities Act ruled that only specially trained dogs could be considered service animals. Because it is traditionally believed that dogs have greater learnability and are more people-oriented.
Nevertheless, the law provides neither restrictions nor recommendations regarding the breeds suitable for the role of a service dog. You can rely on your own preferences, but we recommend that you also consider the general characteristics of the breed. By nature, the animal should be intelligent, non-aggressive, and have a calm temperament.
Most service dog providers can offer Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Border Collies, or Bloodhounds as helpers. These large breeds of dogs are easy to train, have an active nature, interact well with people, and show protective qualities.
However, the list of service dogs is not limited to these breeds. You can also choose a smaller companion such as Poodles, Cavalier King Charles, or Terriers. Also, if you already have a dog, you can hire professional dog handlers to qualify your animal as a service one.
Even though a doctor who works with people with disabilities can recommend a service dog to a patient, a special document is usually not required for this. A certificate from a doctor confirming your disability is sufficient. If you have an impairment, you can contact service animal providers directly and apply for a four-legged helper.
However, we still recommend that you discuss the possibility of owning a service dog with your therapist. In some cases, the animal will not be useful or will not be able to perform its functions with maximum efficiency. Objectively evaluate your ability to care for the animal because service dogs, like pets, require time and attention that sometimes the owner cannot give them due to their health condition.
To prove a person’s right to own a service dog to help with their physical or mental impairment, we recommend having an ID card to confirm the animal’s status. This is especially true for people whose disturbance is not physical and may not be noticeable at first glance.
In addition, many service dog keepers buy special vests for their animals, thanks to which the animal is easier to recognize in a crowd. This accessory is optional, but it can save you from having to prove the legality of your animal’s presence in public every time.
What’s more, service dogs are distinguished by their behavior. Thanks to special education, the service animal always remains calm, stays close to its owner, and follows their commands. Remember that you are not required to provide proof of your service dog, except where required by law, such as for air travel or renting accommodation.
Many people confuse emotional support animals with psychiatric service dogs. These concepts may seem similar since these creatures’ main task is to provide moral strengthening and solace for their holders, which positively affects the treatment of psychical infirmities.
However, there are significant differences between them. First of all, an emotional support animal should not be able to accomplish any duties. At the same time, a psychiatric service dog has to fulfill other functions in addition to bringing commiseration and raising the mood of the owner. These animals undergo special tutoring to be able to cope with any condition of their possessor.
For example, PSDs are taught the methods of soothing and stabilizing a person’s psychological shape. During an anxiety or panic attack, the animal makes physical contact with the owner and uses its weight to calm it down. Moreover, if a panic attack happened in a public place, the dog guarantees additional protection for the man.
A psychiatric service dog can also perform other physical assignments. For instance, it can wake you up in the morning or during nightmares. It can also remind a person to take medications or bring them to their owner if they are unable to get to them on their own.
Learn more about Everything you need to know about Psychiatric Service Dogs
A psychiatric service dog is recommended for people who suffer from any kind of learning, intellectual, mental, or emotional disability which significantly affects the quality of human life. To qualify for a psychiatric service dog, a person must contact a licensed mental health professional who will assess the patient’s psycho-emotional state and provide documentary evidence of an existing non-physical affliction.
Mental disorders that give you reasons to own a psychiatric service dog include anxiety, chronic depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and others. Depending on the severity of your affliction and its physical manifestations, a specialist may recommend an emotional support animal or a PSD.
Psychiatric service dogs are peculiarly often recommended for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. A dog can succor them cope with panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, and fears and become a faithful friend and protector. The animal is also ready to fortify its handler in times when they feel abandoned or helpless, distract them from intrusive thoughts, and promote faster adaptation and socialization.
PSDs are also frequently used to aid people with autism, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and other intellectual conditions. The animal assists its holder to maintain a connection with reality and recognizing the emotions of other people. And due to the additional calming effect, people with these problems feel more relaxed and confident.
As with emotional support animals, you must have a medical certificate to prove your need for a psychiatric service dog. This certificate is called a PSD letter and can be issued by qualified mental health professionals, like psychologists or psychotherapists. You can also get this letter from a GP or a licensed clinical social worker, provided that they have the necessary qualifications and are familiar with your medical records.
Furthermore, since a PSD is not an emotional support animal but a service one, registration is mandatory for them. Without documents confirming the status of the assistance animal, it will not have the rights and privileges provided by law. Therefore, for service animals, it is requisite to give information about them in the register and obtain an ID card here: Psychiatric Service Dog registration with ID card.
A PSD letter is a document signed by a licensed mental health professional that proves your mental infirmity and the positive effect of an animal on its remedy. This document is especially needed in cases where the disability is not visible so that you can provide proof of your special condition.
You can get a PSD letter from a licensed medical professional, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or social worker. It is important that the specialist who issues the document specializes in mental health and understands the impact of animals on the mentality of a person. In addition, in order to issue a PSD letter, the specialist must clearly understand all the features of the patient’s mental disorder, so it may take some time to assess your problems properly.
In fact, a PSD letter is not much different from an emotional support animal letter. Both documents confirm that you have a mental disorder, the therapy of which requires additional help from an animal. They must also contain information about the specialist who issued the document, including their contact details and license number.
Also, the charter must have an expiration date, as expired documents cannot be the basis for granting rights to the animal. The only but key difference between these two papers is that the PSD letter contains information that the dog has undergone special training to obtain the status of a service animal.
You must be able to provide a PSD letter to have extended rights for your animal. For instance, your landlord may ask for a deed to allow a service animal to live with you. You also need to have this letter to be able to travel with your pet in the airplane cabin. However, remember that you are not required to provide documentation of your pet’s status to passers-by or strangers who try to discriminate against you.
The first thing you need to do to become the holder of a psychiatric service dog is to get in touch with a licensed mental health professional to establish your diagnosis and determine the optimal method of remedy. Only a qualified professional can find out how beneficial an animal would be for you and whether your disorder makes you eligible for a PSD.
If you have received a recommendation from a doctor, there are two ways to become a PSD holder. In the first case, you can get an emotional support animal to begin with. After that, you will need to tutor your dog further to retrain it as a psychiatric service one. Another way is to contact service animal providers or specialized training centers. In this way, you can get an already trained service animal. However, you will still need to attend additional schooling so that the animal can adapt to help you.
A PSD, like any service animal, has rights guaranteed to it by law according to its status. The main law that protects the outstanding position of service animals in society is the Americans with Disabilities Act. It establishes the basic freedoms of the assistance dog and guarantees public access to any institutions where the animal owner goes.
For example, while an emotional support animal can accompany its owner only in pet-friendly facilities, a psychiatric service dog is allowed to visit any place. Including catering establishments, supermarkets, and shops, as well as state institutions.
However, except for the ADA, there are other regulations that govern the legal capabilities of service animals in specific areas of human life. For instance, the Fair Housing Act establishes for all assistance animals the right to live with their owners in rented accommodation without interference from the landlord and without additional payment.
Even if the building has a no-pet policy, the proprietor is obliged to give housing to the service animal and its owner. This regulation is valid as long as the housing provider does not have an objective reason to prohibit the animal’s residence, for example, facts to prove the animal’s unacceptable behavior or that the animal poses a threat to other residents. In other cases, banning a companion animal from living is discrimination against its owner.
Moreover, service animals have special privileges for air travel established by the Air Carrier Access Act. A service dog has the right to accompany its holder into the aircraft cabin and stay with them during the flight. For this, the owner of the service animal must submit the DOT Air Travel Form and notify the airline in advance. For the safety of other passengers during the flight, the animal must be in a purpose-built carrier placed under the seat in front of its keeper.
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