For those who live with disabilities, a service animal can be more than just a companion. A service animal is a specially trained assistant that can help a person accomplish a specific task that would otherwise be difficult or impossible because of their disability. While the tasks for which service animals are trained vary widely from person to person based on condition, the rights of those who rely on service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Acts. A service dog registry can provide additional credentials for those who use service animals to accomplish daily tasks, but the rights of service dog users are protected nonetheless by the law of the land.
Whether you have your animal listed on the service dog registry or not, there are some clear-cut qualifications that a person with disabilities must meet for their animals to be considered true service animals, thus qualifying them for access and protection of their rights. Read on to learn more about which types of disabilities may qualify you for a service animal.
Physical Disability Definition
A disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as any physiological condition or disfigurement of a cosmetic or physiological nature that includes neurological, musculoskeletal, sensory, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic, lymphatic, skin, or endocrine systems and organs.
Physical Disabilities and Service Dogs
There are many specific conditions that lead to disabilities that could qualify people for service dog usage. Those physical conditions include, but aren't limited to, blindness or deafness, epilepsy, paralysis from any cause, allergies, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, loss of limb, and seizures.
Mental Disability Definition
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines mental disability as any mental or psychological disorder that causes mental distress such as traumatic brain injury, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and some learning disabilities.
Mental Disabilities and Service Dogs
While mental disabilities may not be as easy to observe by members of the public, those who suffer from those conditions can sometimes be aided by highly trained service dogs. Those mental disabilities that qualify for service dog assistance include, but aren't limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression, mood disorders, neurocognitive disorders, psychotic disorders, autism, and addiction disorders.
How Service Dogs Help
Service dogs can be trained to perform many tasks that are tailored to assist with the disabilities of their handlers. For example, service dogs can help those with physical disabilities such as sensory conditions by leading their handlers around in crowded places and alerting them to dangers. Some dogs assist their handlers with mobility by providing stability during walking or pulling wheelchairs. Other service animals are trained to provide medication reminders or sense when there's a dangerous situation on the horizon, such as diabetic experiences plummeting blood sugar. Some dogs are even trained to dial 911 in an emergency or hail other family members to request help for a fallen owner. For those with mental disabilities, service dogs can help handlers recognize the oncoming signs of depression, for example, and distract them from triggering events. Other service dogs are trained to place their weight on their handlers as a form of deep pressure therapy that can stop an anxiety attack in its tracks. For those who suffer from PTSD, specially trained service dogs can insulate them in large crowds and help maintain space that would otherwise lead PTSD survivors to feel emotionally suffocated.
For those who live with disabilities, whether mental or physical, service dogs can provide needed assistance that can help restore function and feelings of normalcy. People who live with the conditions mentioned above can benefit from the assistance of a service dog. To learn more about what disabilities may qualify you for a service dog, contact the National Service Animal Registry at (866) 737-3930.