It’s All About the Dogs: September is “National Service Dog Month” and “Responsible Dog Ownership Month”

It’s no secret we love our dogs. Most of us can’t imagine living without them since they provide unconditional love and companionship. They also serve and protect us.

And for the disabled, trained service dogs are invaluable.  To show appreciation and bring awareness to the amazing work service animals play in the lives of millions of people, September is designated National Service Dog Month.

According to the website, Dogtime.com, National Service Dog Month–originally called National Guide Dog Month, was established in 2008 by actor and animal rights activist Dick Van Patten. What started out as a single fundraising event, soon blossomed into an annual showcase spotlighting the significant work that service dogs do, including: assisting those with debilitating medical conditions such as autism and blindness, seizure disorders and hearing impairments as well as comforting military men and women suffering from conditions like PTSD.

Several organizations such as Canines for Disabled Kids and Dogs for the Deaf reach out to shelters to find rescue animals that can be trained to become service companions for those in need.

For those with disabilities and who have a dog they’d like to use as a service animal, the Department of Justice has compiled a list of frequently asked questions about service animals and the general rules to follow to ensure the service animal complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. Some of those FAQs include:

What Is A Service Animal?–Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Does The ADA Require Service Animals To Be Professionally Trained?– No. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Are Service-Animals-In-Training Considered Service Animals Under The ADA?No. Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training.

What Does “Do Work Or Perform Tasks” Mean?–The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind her to take her medication. Or, a person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.

Are Emotional Support, Therapy, Comfort, Or Companion Animals Considered Service Animals Under The ADA?– No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

Does The ADA Require That Service Animals Be Certified As Service Animals?– No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry. There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Some Cities Require Dogs To Be Vaccinated.  Does This Apply To Service Animals? Yes.  Individuals who have service animals are not exempt from local animal control or public health requirements.

To read the complete list of frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA, click here.

September has also been designated as “Responsible Dog Ownership Month” by the American Kennel Club (AKC).  AKC wants pet owners to know that being a responsible pet owner not only means ensuring your furry friend has enough food to eat and a comfortable place to sleep, but that they are checked regularly by a veterinarian.

To verify the license of a veterinarian, visit the Department of Consumer Affairs’ License Verification page (https://www.dca.ca.gov/consumers/wll.shtml) or the Veterinary Medical Board’s website at vmb@dca.ca.gov.

Here Are Some Additional Responsible Pet Ownership Tips From The AKC:

  • Make sure your dog has proper identification, such as a microchip with current contact information in case it gets lost or stolen.
  • Keep your dog leashed when in public places and always pick up after them.
  • Take your dog for walks. A healthy dog is a happy dog.
  • Keep your dogs in good health. Give them good food and don’t let them become overweight.

 

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