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Service Animals

I know this isn’t our normal topic but this is something close to my heart, and the people at CertaPet are really wonderful folks.

Everyday tasks can be a challenge for a person with a disability. A service animal is a specially trained dog or miniature horse that supports individuals who are blind, deaf, restricted to a wheelchair, or suffer from seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Service animals can also support a person with Parkinson’s disease, remind people to take their medications and carry out other daily duties. The animals are trained to recognize medical conditions and perform tasks to help individuals to live independently. The training should be targeted towards the type of disability that the person is having and these animals are working animals and not pets. Thus, an animal that provides comfort and emotional support is not classified under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a service animal. Naturally, a service animal also acts as an emotional support animal, yet the difference from an emotional support animal is that a service animal has to undergo individual training.

Miniature horses as well as dogs can be trained to guide the blind, or to pull wheelchairs. A miniature service horse is perfect for individuals who are afraid of dogs, allergic to other animals, and who due to the nature of their disability need a strong service animal. Service dogs can alert deaf people to a wide range of everyday household sounds and danger signals such as smoke alarms. Since the person that the animal is working with is deaf, the dog alerts the deaf person by touching the person rather than barking. The dog uses his paw or his nose to gain attention and then lead the person to the source of the sound. The dog first alert and then lie down if there is a sound that suggests danger like a fire alarm.

Each dog breed has unique personality, behavior and characteristics, and service dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds. Certain breeds may be more suitable for a person with a particular disability. Seizure sensing dogs are trained to sense and predict epileptic seizures. The dog may alert other people to seizures when they occur. Seizure alerting behavior is a natural behavior in some dogs and the dog make connections between chemical changes in the person that he is supporting and the occurrence of seizures. Before the seizure actually occurs the service animal may begin to bark and try to capture the individual’s attention. The person can then prepare himself or herself before the seizure takes place.

Service animals may help to enhance a person’s confidence as well as support the individual to take a more active approach to life. A service animal is a trustworthy friend with unique skills who offer positive effects psychologically, socially, and physically.