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Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Animals


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Breakout presentation by Anne Springer, B.A. for the 7th Annual Conference of the Aging and Disability Resource Consortium of the Greater North Shore Inc.

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Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Animals

  1. 1. Anne Springer, B.A.Anne Springer, B.A. Dipl., CAPCT, CTDI, VADipl., CAPCT, CTDI, VA PART ONE: Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs & Emotional Support Dogs
  2. 2. What is a service dog?What is a service dog? Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. IMPORTANT: Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. This commemorative stamp, issued in 1979 honored the 50th anniversary year of the founding of the first guide dog program in the United States. Now, dogs perform many more tasks for the disabled, and are not just for the visually impaired. Just because someone doesn’t look disabled, does not mean they aren’t disabled.
  3. 3. Where are service dogs allowed?Where are service dogs allowed? Generally, Title II and Title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. This includes restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, stores, etc. It is the PERSON who has the access rights, not the dog. Hospitals may limit dogs from access to certain medically sensitive areas, and are not required to provide any care for a service dog. There are also reasonable expectations for service dogs, upheld by case law, such as a service dog may not disrupt a movie by constantly barking. Service animals are working animals, not pets. Service dogs do tasks that are directly related to the person’s disability, and are considered as if they were necessary “medical equipment.” A service dog and disabled handler may not be asked to leave the premises because of another patron’s allergies!
  4. 4. How do I know if a dog is a service dog?How do I know if a dog is a service dog? Proprietors may ask two questions: 1. Is this animal required because of a disability? 2. What task has this animal been trained to perform? •You may only ask these questions if the person’s disability is not obvious. •You may not ask about the nature or severity of the person’s disability. •You may not require any documentation, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest, etc. •You may not require the disabled handler to ask the dog to demonstrate the task.
  5. 5. A Note About Fake Certifying Organizations… Legitimately disabled service dog owners generally know the law, and understand that they don’t need “certification” or to carry any papers saying that their dog is a service dog. Some do carry a Department of Justice card that conveniently describes the law pertaining to service dogs. There are many fake organizations on the Internet that are “certifying” or “registering” dogs. Unfortunately, many pet owners have decided they want to fly with pets or live with pets badly enough that they are using these bogus services. There’s a partial list of suspicious organizations, and more information on this issue at IT IS A VIOLATION OF FEDERAL LAW TO PASS A PET OFF AS A SERVICE ANIMAL. You could be fined $1000 or more, be jailed, or even have your dog confiscated! It’s not worth it, and you are hurting REAL service dog handlers’ ability to maintain their right to public access without prejudice.
  6. 6. Examples of tasks service dogs performExamples of tasks service dogs perform For more information on tasks and public access rights:
  7. 7. What is a therapy dog?What is a therapy dog? There is no legal definition for therapy dogs. Therapy dogs are working dogs that have an important job of making people feel better, but they are not entitled to the same public access as service dogs. Therapy dogs are permitted in public accommodations only by permission of each establishment. They are not guaranteed public access. The dog that is accompanying me today is a therapy dog and is in the hotel today by permission. Some therapy dogs have enhanced training that allows them to participate in animal assisted activities and therapy that helps patients meet specific cognitive, physical, or social goals. For example, patients may toss a ball to a dog as part of physical therapy. Other therapy dogs do obedience demonstrations, and still others do visitation for comfort only. All are valuable skills.
  8. 8. Most therapy dogs are registered with an organization. The purpose of registering with a therapy dog organization is to be sure that each dog meets temperament and obedience standards for safety. Standards are set by each organization. Most organizations provide liability insurance to their members and a set of guidelines for visitation. Sioux, CGC, ITD is registered with Therapy Dogs Inc. and has been a therapy dog for more than 11 years. She is a 13 year old Australian Shepherd mix and was adopted from a shelter as a nine week old puppy. Three major therapy dog organizations in the U.S. are: Therapy Dogs Inc. Therapy Dogs International Pet Partners Additional organization in Massachusetts Dog B.O.N.E.S.
  9. 9. Therapy dogs are usually very well behaved in public, and should behave similarly to service dogs. They just don’t have the same rights. Therapy dogs are still considered pets, despite their considerable contribution to the well being of those they visit, and are not guaranteed access to public accommodations. Transportation for pets: Beware of scams:
  10. 10. Could My Dog be a Therapy Dog?Could My Dog be a Therapy Dog? Traits of a really good therapy dog: •LOVES people •Tolerates other dogs in close proximity – within two feet •Soft mouth (takes treats gently) •Good basic obedience •Walks nicely on leash without pulling •Comes when called •Knows “leave it” cue •Can be left with a stranger in an emergency In general, a dog that can pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test ( is a great prospect. Most therapy dog organizations ask that the dog be at least one year old before being tested.
  11. 11. Preparing Puppies for Service, Therapy, or ESAPreparing Puppies for Service, Therapy, or ESA Choosing the right pup • Breed - Does it Matter? • Responsible Breeders • What is a responsible breeder? Breeds for temperament Shows, does sports, does work – proves the dogs can. Lifetime guarantee Is not a volume or back yard breeder Does pertinent genetic testing • Rescued pups • Have an experienced evaluator pre-check before adoption Socialize, socialize, socialize! Train early and using positive methods – no choke, no prong, no shock collars. (Prevents tracheal damage & aggressive behaviors.) Adult dogs are fine, too! They need to already be social and friendly.
  12. 12. Finding a Trainer for a Therapy Dog ProspectFinding a Trainer for a Therapy Dog Prospect Jean Donaldson, noted trainer and behavior consultant, and winner of the Maxwell Award for “The Culture Clash” has some recommended questions to help safeguard owners and their dogs: 1.Ask for formal education and credentials. (“I’ve been training for twenty years” is NOT a credential – what if the trainer was doing it wrong all that time???) 2.Ask for continuing education involvement. 3.Ask for scientific evidence to support any claims about behavior. 4.Ask what actual physical events will be used to motivate your animal (keep asking if you receive obfuscating answers such as “energy,” “leadership,” “status” or “dominance”). For example, ask, “What exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it right? And what exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it wrong?” 5.Ask what side effects each procedure has. Fear is a particularly concerning side effect as it is difficult to undo. Anne’s blog on the subject:
  13. 13. Puppy ResourcesPuppy Resources Before You Get Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar Force Free Training ASPCA Statement on Responsible Breeding statements/position-statement-on-criteria-for-responsible-breeding AVSAB Position Statements Anne, with Dr. Ian Dunbar, who is a vehement supporter of early socialization and training for puppies and is generally credited as the "Father of Positive Training."
  14. 14. What is an emotional support dog?What is an emotional support dog? An emotional support animal is a therapeutic pet, usually prescribed by a therapist, psychiatrist, or doctor, to help a person with emotional difficulties or loneliness. (It is not trained to do specific tasks.) ESA’s cannot go into “no pet” places the way service dogs can, and are no longer covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act, however they are given a right to live in a rented residence under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the Air Carrier Access Act 49 U.S.C. 41705 and Dept of Transportation 14 C.F.R. Part 382., a qualified person with a disability may be accompanied in the cabin of an air craft by either a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal if they have the proper documentation from their doctor. *Exceptions to the Fair Housing Amendments Act include buildings with four or less units where the landlord lives in one of the units, private owners who do not own more than three single family houses, and landlords who accept Section 8 housing. Any federally subsidized housing that does not fall under Section 8 guidelines, such as public or subsidized housing, must make a reasonable effort to rent under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  15. 15. Sample emotional support animalSample emotional support animal reasonable accommodation letterreasonable accommodation letter September 26, 2013 John Smith, Building Manager 101 Main Street Anywhere, MA Dear Mr. Smith, I am a tenant at 101 Main Street in unit #363. I have a psychiatric disability that hinders my ability to live alone. Although the rules say that there is a 'no pets' policy, my doctor has prescribed an emotional support animal to ensure my emotional well being. I am therefore requesting a reasonable accommodation under the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 3601, et seq.). I have attached verification from my psychiatrist of my disability and the functional limitations I experience, as well as my doctor's prescription for an emotional support animal to help me compensate for my disability. As my doctor's letter states, because of my disability, I am unable to sleep, stop shaking, socialize, hold a job or care for myself because of my severe anxiety. I am asking that you modify your existing pet rules to permit me to have an emotional support animal as recommended by my doctor. The presence of a companion animal would help me greatly in living through the troubles that I face every day by providing needed companionship, emotional support and a reason for living. Please send your reply in writing about this request for accommodation within ten business days or by October 15th. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to receiving your reply. Sincerely, Jane Q. Public
  16. 16. Sample letters from professionalsSample letters from professionals For an ESA [date] Dear [Housing Authority/Landlord]: [Full Name of Tenant] is my patient, and has been under my care since [date]. I am intimately familiar with his/her history and with the functional limitations imposed by his/her disability. He/She meets the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Due to [name of disability], [first name] has certain limitations regarding [list limitations]. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his/her ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit you own and/or administer, I have prescribed [first name] obtain a pet or emotional support animal. The presence of this animal is necessary for the mental health of [first name] because its presence will alleviate her symptoms of [list symptoms] by [list benefits]. Sincerely, Name of Doctor For a Service Dog [date] Dear [Housing Authority/Landlord]: [Full Name of Tenant] is my patient, and has been under my care since [date]. I am intimately familiar with his/her history and with the functional limitations imposed by his/her disability. He/She meets the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Due to [name of disability], [first name] has certain limitations regarding [list limitations]. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his/her ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit you own and/or administer, I support [first name]'s decision to obtain a service animal. A service animal will help to mitigate his/her disability and improve independence and quality of life. Sincerely, Name of Doctor
  17. 17. Veterans and service dogsVeterans and service dogs All types of service dogs, including those for mental health such as PTSD service dogs, are permitted on VA property so long as they are certified by an ADI accredited program. ADI refers to Assistance Dogs International. Qualified programs are listed here: /programs-search/ A new regulatory law was published by the Veterans Administration in the Federal Register on September 5, 2012. It addresses the benefits that VA will provide to veterans in regard to service dogs. Summary from Service Dogs Central: "VA will provide to veterans with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments benefits to support the use of a service dog as part of the management of such impairments. The benefits include assistance with veterinary care, travel benefits associated with obtaining and training a dog, and the provision, maintenance, and replacement of hardware required for the dog to perform the tasks necessary to assist such veterans."
  18. 18. Guide to assistance dog laws: content/uploads/2012/01/ADI20062ndprint.pdf Guidance concerning service animals in aircraft: Who’s Who in the Assistance Dog Community? Books: General: The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson Training a Service Dog: Teamwork I and II by Stewart Nordensson and Lydia Kelley Training Your Own Psychiatric Service Dog – Katie Gonzalez DVD’s: Clicker Train Your Own Assistance Dog by Barbara Handelman The Expanding Role of Therapy Animals by Janet Velenovsky Lending a Helping Paw by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. Force Free Puppy Training:
  19. 19. ANNE SPRINGER, B.A.ANNE SPRINGER, B.A. Dipl., CAPCT, CTDI, VADipl., CAPCT, CTDI, VA PART TWO: Community-Based Care When Pets are Present
  20. 20. When we enter someone’s home, we need to remember that the home might also be home to a dog, cat, bird, reptile, or other creature. It helps for us to know a bit about how to remain safe, for those times when an owner says those famous last words… OH, DON’T WORRY, HE’S FRIENDLY. Am I Safe?Am I Safe?
  21. 21. Why dogs bite…Why dogs bite… (And they ALWAYS have a reason)(And they ALWAYS have a reason) • Sick or injured • Protecting puppies • Guarding food/possessions/resources • Guarding territory/barrier aggression (particularly with so called “invisible” shock fences) • Excitement/arousal (over threshold or “trigger stacking”) • Fixed Action Patterns (herding/predation) • Fear or Startled
  22. 22. In 2007, only 137 people were hospitalized inpatient for dog bites in Massachusetts. (27,458 were hospitalized for falls, 487 for insect bites or stings) Why sensationalism should stop: ". . . in the aftermath of a highly-publicized event people are often more fearful than they ought to be – the phenomenon of 'availability bias.' An available incident can lead to excessive fixation on worst-case scenarios – just as the absence of such an incident can lead to an unjustified sense of security." -Cass R. Sunstein, University of Chicago Are dogs really that likely to bite? Or, are slippers and balloons more dangerous?
  23. 23. OK, lets get the pit bull thing out of the way…OK, lets get the pit bull thing out of the way… In Massachusetts there have been no Pit Bull dog bite fatalities in at least 44 years, even though Massachusetts is the 15th most populous state in the Union. (About 6.5 million people) Over the past 48 years (1965 – present) there have been only 5 dog bite-related fatalities in Massachusetts. The victims weread 1adult and 4 children. Breed specific legislation has NOT worked to reduce dog bites or fatalities. What does seem to work is adherence to current leash laws AND supervision of dogs and children. There’s more to it, of course, but those things are critical. Unneutered males aged 9 months to two years are more likely to bite, as are chained dogs that are left alone outdoors. Dogs that bite are less likely to have had any formal training, and less likely to have had early puppy socialization. (Between age 8-16 weeks) My name is Hazel. I’m a Pit Bull who is trained without fear or pain. My mom helped start the educational Facebook group “Your Pit Bull and You” so other Pits can be responsibly owned and trained. Please help me spread the word that dogs of all breeds need supervision, socialization, and training.
  24. 24. Which is the Pit Bull, Anyway? In a recent study, even shelters couldn’t accurately identify Pit Bulls just from their appearance. Kimberly R. Olson¹, BS; Julie K. Levy¹, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; Bo Norby², CMV, MPVM, PhD ¹Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, University of Florida; ²Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Michigan State University 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
  25. 25. Is Breed an Issue at All? Roughly 30% of temperament is genetics, the rest is maternal behavior, socialization, training, environmental enrichment etc. Mixed breed dogs cannot be identified by appearance alone, and it’s not that easy to get the purebreds right sometimes either. Most visual identification is wrong! Just try looking for an Australian Shepherd in! If “breed” means unleashed, un-socialized, untrained, uncontained, unmanaged, or unneutered, then YES, breed is an issue! Otherwise, not so much. Most dogs that bite are unneutered males, that are untrained, under-socialized, and between 9 months to 2 years of age
  26. 26. WHO GETS BITTEN? Children (age 10 or less, mostly boys) Elderly or infirm people Joggers, passersby, intruders (Intruders are not “bad people,” they are just anyone the dog doesn’t know!) Could be the MOW driver, a nurse, a social worker, or the PERS installer. People in uniform People who are “novel” in appearance (carrying or dragging laptops, for example, or who pull out a blood pressure cuff and try to put it on the dog’s owner) This includes home care personnel. Those who think they “know” dogs, so they take liberties with the dog
  27. 27. Are Bites “Unprovoked”? Bites are never unprovoked in the dog’s mind. They have a reason, even if we don’t know what it is. Humans tend to ignore dogs’ requests for personal space or other consideration Humans don’t understand dog body language Humans tend to punish warning behaviors, so the dog has no option except to bite.
  28. 28. How to Stay Safe with DogsHow to Stay Safe with Dogs Learn about dog body language! If you are worried, ask the owner to restrain the dog in another area. Do not make direct eye contact. Don’t approach a leashed or tethered dog that you don’t know. If you are approached by a dog, don’t extend your hand! Let the dog come and sniff on his own. If you are afraid, do not scream, flail or run. Don’t reach over a dog you don’t know. If you are given permission to pat a dog you don’t know, pat under the chin not on top of the head.
  29. 29. What to do if you feel threatened.What to do if you feel threatened. “If I didn’t move, he’d have bitten me.” is a fallacy. A dog’s mouth is four times faster than the human hand! If he didn’t connect, chances are it was a warning. Be still, facing sideways to the dog, and make no eye contact with the dog. Never run – it can engage a dog’s predatory drive. (Few humans can outrun a dog anyway. ) For the same reason, do not scream. If the owner is present, and you are worried, regardless how friendly they say the dog is, ask that they remove the dog. If they do not, then terminate the visit. When exiting from a dog you are fearful of, back away slowly without looking at the dog and leave with no fuss. Never put yourself in the position of continuing a visit where you feel threatened, whether it is by a human or an animal.
  30. 30. Body LanguageBody Language Dog “happy face” Mouth open, squinty eyes, soft expression, ears relaxed
  31. 31. Little dogs bite, too!Little dogs bite, too! Commissure of the lips If retracted it’s probably fear, if pushed forward into a “c” shape, it’s aggression. Wagging tails aren’t reliable in telling if a dog is friendly. Read the whole dog! Big wags are better than small or staccato.
  32. 32. Comfy or not?Comfy or not?
  33. 33. What to do if a dog physically attacks you.What to do if a dog physically attacks you. If a dog seems headed for you in a threatening way, you can stand your ground and yell “Sit!” as he gets to you. Some dogs will do it! You can also toss food and see if it distracts him enough for you to back away. If a dog starts seriously biting you, though, you've got to defend yourself. It is important not to be taken down to the ground. Try as hard as you can to remain upright. Don’t turn and run – prey runs, and dogs chase. If you are taken down, curl into a ball, and cover your face, ears and neck. As hard as it is, do NOT scream. Prey screams. Try putting something between you and the dog, such as a notebook or other object that the dog can bite instead of you, and back out the door leaving the dog on the other side. If you have to do it to save yourself, hit or kick the dog in the throat, nose, or the back of the head. This may stun the dog and give you time to get away. Rabies information for the public: y/dph-cdc-rabies-info.html
  34. 34. What about mace?What about mace? "FROM Section 131 Licenses to carry firearms; Class A and B; conditions and restrictions (c) Either a Class A or Class B license shall be valid for the purpose of owning, possessing, purchasing and transferring non- large capacity rifles and shotguns, and for purchasing and possessing chemical mace, pepper spray or other similarly propelled liquid, gas or powder designed to temporarily incapacitate, consistent with the entitlements conferred by a firearm identification card issued under section 129B" Currently, you must have an FID card to carry MACE. It is against the law to spray a person or animal unless your safety or the safety of another person is in jeopardy. Other legal deterrents, such as Spray Shield, are available. Spray Shield is a citronella spray that dog owners often carry to guard against off leash dogs or coyotes.
  35. 35. Things to have with you if you visitThings to have with you if you visit homes with animals in with animals in residence. • Notebook, clipboard, laptop • Spray Shield (citronella spray), air horn • Food (dog biscuits, Cheerios) • Cell phone • Clean up supplies in your car (sanitizer, paper towels, baggies, etc.) • Check client file for presence pet, or notice of risk before going in!
  36. 36. What about other species?What about other species? Cats:Cats: Cats exhibiting these behaviors are being defensive. Crouching Head tucked in Tail curved around the body and tucked in or swishing Eyes wide open with pupils partially or fully dilated Ears flattened sideways or backward on the head Hackles up Open-mouthed hissing or spitting
  37. 37. Cats behaving offensively: A stiff, straight-legged upright stance Stiffened rear legs, with the rear end raised and the back sloped downward toward the head Tail is stiff and lowered or held straight down to the ground Direct stare Upright ears, with the backs rotated slightly forward Hackles up, including fur on the tail Constricted pupils Directly facing opponent, possibly moving toward him Might be growling, howling or yowling
  38. 38. Birds and ExoticsBirds and Exotics Generally speaking, it’s best not to interact with birds that you don’t know. According to world renowned parrot expert, Dr. Susan Friedman, few birds choose to reduce proximity to strangers. She says, “Teaching people to see them as wild animals will prompt visiting health care workers correct response repertoire, rather than the response repertoire that thinking of birds as a pet would elicit.” She goes on to say, “The best first response would be to ask the people to put the bird back in its cage during the meeting, so the bird has less to worry about. Then, if the owner offers to have the health care worker hold or pet the bird, they could say, "I am so happy to just look. Your bird has no reason to like me at this point. But it is wonderful to see how relaxed it is on your hand!“ Uncomfortable bird body language: Bird leaning away even slightly, feather slick with eyes darting as if preparing for an escape route Crouching down (all in preparation for flight or fight), most people quickly learn to step back and admire at a distance, which is a kindness to the bird.
  39. 39. Fish, Reptiles, Rabbits, Other Small Mammals The care needs and temperaments of exotic or uncommon pets are varied. There are a multitude of zoonotic illnesses that all pets can carry. So, it is recommended that if you handle pets, you take scrupulous care to sanitize between consumer contacts to protect your clientele and yourself. Also, recognize that you may be offending an owner if you appear not to like the animal. Still, you have a right to ask the owner to remove the animal to a safe distance from you, or contain it if you are uncomfortable. A smile and a compliment about the uniqueness or beauty of the animal goes a long way toward preserving the practitioner/consumer bond. Remember, when it comes to pets, beauty is in the eye of the beholder!!!