Who doesn’t love dogs? They’re loyal, they’re adorable and they make for the best companions. In fact, studies have shown that owning a dog comes with a list of increased health benefits which include being more fit, having lower stress, and a general increase in happiness. Now combine all these qualities and add a bit of training to the mix and dogs can also serve as service dogs for people who have certain disabilities.
What is a Service Dog?
In general, a service or assistance dog is a working dog that is trained especially to help someone with specific needs or with a disability. However, service dogs aren’t your usual pets. Legally they are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” They aren’t your average pets and they undergo proper training to be able to assist their owners with a task that is directly related to their disability.
The Law is also very clear about what disability can refer to. As per the ADA, it is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. It might seem a bit strange that everything is extremely specific but there’s a good reason for that. Under the law, a service dog cannot be denied the right to enter a business, which even includes food places, as well as state or local facilities and similar places. And while the dogs are expected to be under control and either leashed or harnessed in these areas, if the leash or harness hinders the dog’s duty, they can be allowed to enter without it.
Moreover, the owner of the service dog can’t even be questioned about their disability. The only two questions they can be asked in relation to the service dog are:
- Whether the dog is a service dog needed to assist with a disability
- What specific tasks is the dog trained to carry out in service for their handler?
The handlers of the dogs cannot be denied those rights that are granted to people who don’t have service animals and nor can they be charged extra because of their dog. The only situation where a disabled person with a service dog can be asked to leave is if the dog is out of their control.
It must be noted that support dogs and therapy dogs don’t fall under the definition of service dogs as provided by the law.
So because of all these considerations that have been provided for service dogs, the law is extremely specific about what a service dog is and who falls under the purview of the disabled.
Types of Service Dogs:
Service dogs include:
- Guide dogs for the blind
- Hearing dogs for the hearing impaired or for the deaf
- Seizure response dogs for people who suffer from seizures
- Mobility assistance dogs for those with limited mobility include those who are wheelchair-bound
- Mental health service dogs are trained to assist a person suffering from PTSD, those who are on the autism spectrum, those with major depression, or those who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks.
Service dogs need to have a specific list of qualities in order to become service dogs. These include:
- Friendly nature
- Calm nature
- Strong desire to work
- Have a tendency to develop strong bonds
There are certain breeds that encapsulate all these qualities thus making excellent service dogs. These breeds include:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
For those people who enjoy stand-up comedy, you’re probably familiar with Drew Lynch. He was a contestant on the tenth season of America’s Got Talent and came in second place. What made Drew so memorable was the fact that he performs despite the fact he has a stutter which was a result of a sports-related injury. He set out to prove to people that your weakness can be your strength and often makes self-deprecating jokes about his stutter. Today he boasts over 2 million subscribers on YouTube. And a regular guest on his show is his service dog, Stella!
Drew developed his stutter when he was 20 and was hit in the throat with a softball. He developed a concussion but fell asleep despite the concussion which led to him developing a neurogenic stutter. What most people don’t realize and often take for granted is that stuttering takes a great emotional toll on those who suffer from it as they take longer to be able to communicate and those on the receiving end aren’t necessarily patient with them. As a result, they face social anxiety and ridicule.
The Stuttering Foundation believes that service dogs are a great support to people with this disability. They help improve their handler’s confidence by patiently allowing them to communicate. Moreover, talking to their service dogs also helps increase fluency in speech.
Stella is a Hungarian Viszla who helps Lynch when he begins feeling anxious or panicked because of his stutter. As a service dog, she can gauge when he begins feeling uncomfortable and assists him in exiting the situations that are taking a toll on him.
His Dog Vlogs are a perfect depiction of his close bond with Stella. The videos are funny showing Stella to be moody and often feature sarcastic comments over her head. But they are also educational. Lynch has used his platform to educate his fans about service dogs and shows an insight into what life is like with a service dog.
Drew Lynch isn’t the only celebrity with a service dog. Some other famous names that had service dogs include Carrie Fisher and George Bush. Service dogs have proven to be extremely helpful to their handlers and have sufficiently improved the quality of their life despite their disabilities. They offer unconditional support and love and understand their handlers better than anyone else.