In this section we try to provide answers to frequently asked questions. Please feel free to submit your question via the form below.
WHAT IS A SERVICE DOG?
A service dog is a dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability; including visual, hearing, or sensory impairments, mental health disorders, and conditions effecting physical mobility.
WHAT MAKES IT A SERVICE DOG?
To be considered a service dog the dog in question must be trained with specific skills or tasks directly related to the handler's disability.
WHAT IS A DISABILITY?
A disability may be physical, psychological, cognitive, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth or may occur during a person's lifetime.
DOES A SERVICE DOG NEED TO BE CERTIFIED?
No. At this time of this writing (2012) it is not required by law in Canada or the United States to have service dogs validated or certified for public access by any professional organization. Depending upon the handler's geography, disability support, insurance provider, and a number of other factors there are however instances when holding a valid ID card issued by a professional organization does offer some benefit. Examples of when professional certification may be of benefit include; 1) in Ontario the provincial disability program (ODSP) offers a monthly service dog allowance to eligible recipients, however they require that service dogs are certified through a professional organization, 2) in Alberta (under the province's Service Dog Act) the government will issue service dog handlers with a standardized provincial ID card identifying them as a legitimate service dog user, however the service dog in question must be certified through an ADI accredited program.
ARE SECURITY AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT CONSIDERED "SKILLS"?
According to Psychiatric Service Dog Society (website 2010) The crime deterrent effect of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do NOT constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition... Reference 28 CFR 36.104; (CFR = Code of Federal Regulations).
WHAT IS A THERAPY DOG?
A therapy dog is trained to provide therapeutic benefits, comfort, or affection to people other than the handler such as those in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and during stressful situations (such as at disaster sites).
HOW DOES A THERAPY DOG HELP?
There are two commonly recognized fields of work for therapy dog usage; Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), and Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT). In both of these fields the dogs are trained to work alongside a skilled handler to provide clearly identified benefits to another person or group of people.
WHAT IS AAA?
Dogs used for Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) are commonly seen visiting places where people may receive therapeutic benefit simply from the human-animal interactions. Studies indicate that there many benefits associated with such human-animal interactions, including (but not limited too); lower blood pressure, reduced pulse & respiration rates, reduced agitation & anxiety, increased appetite, and improved morale and emotional well-being. AAA can include group demonstrations as well as individual hands on interactions with the dog. AAA do not require the direct supervision of a health care provider.
WHAT IS AAT?
Dogs used for Animal Assisted Therapies (AAT) work with an individual while under the direct leadership of a health care professional. In this line of work the dog is trained to perform specific tasks or to behave in a particular manner. The intent of the human-animal interactions in this scenario are to achieve very specific goals as determined by the patient's health care provider. The results of each session are logged in the patient's file for future reference or progression tracking. There is a broad range of health care professionals who may incorporate AAT into their practices however commonly seen examples include; physiotherapists, physiologists, Registered Nurses, literacy councilors and speech language pathologists. The practical application of animals in AAT is extremely diverse. Dogs in AAT may be used to help the patient with goals such as; improved fine motor skills, dexterity, or mobility, communication skills, literacy, behaviour modification and social tolerances. AAT is intended to benefit a person other than the handler and involves individual hands on interactions with the dog. AAT require the direct supervision of a health care provider.
DO THERAPY DOGS HAVE PUBLIC ACCESS RIGHTS?
No. Frequently mistaken for service dogs (which are trained to assist their disabled handler) therapy dogs are not used to assist their disabled handler, as such they do not receive the benefit of public access rights. Although therapy dogs can and do attend public venues not accessible to other pets they are admitted at the discretion of the facility's management team and are restricted to their professional purpose for the duration of their visit.