There are numerous unclassified
Service Dog organizations that are springing
up as a result of new research widening the use
and purpose for Service Dogs in the USA.
The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines a service animal as, ” any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.” If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.¹
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. But there are service animals that assist persons with disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:
- Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
- Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
- Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance. A service animal is not a pet.²
Historically, service dogs have been mostly used as a ‘seeing-eye-dog’ for the blind. Today, the use for service dogs has broadened significantly due to modern science’s discoveries of the inherent abilities of our canine companions. These new revelations have the potential to make a significant contribution to the quality of life for both human and dog, decreasing dog population in shelters, and advancing the medical community at-large.
Service dogs span both the public and private sector. Ex. military bomb-detecting dogs, police dogs, TSA drug-sniffing dogs, hearing dogs, wheelchair dogs, cancer detection dogs, diabetes assistance dogs, autism dogs, PTSD dogs, therapy dogs, and the most familiar, ‘seeing-eye dog.’ Estimates on the amount of service dogs in the US are rough, but based on census polls for disabilities and assistance pet responses, it is estimated that there are 300,000 service dogs in the US but over 304,000,000 Americans with disabilities.³ 10% is an extreme under service to the overall population of individuals with disabilities that could be assisted by working dogs. The great divide between need and service is one that we hope narrows as education among readers like you, dog lovers and human lovers alike. Spreading the word is key, with well-informed information from reliable sources.
How does a pup become a service dog? Surprising to some, specific breed requirements are not a factor, it is only the ability requirements that come in to play. As a result, dogs in shelters are the perfect resource for training as Service Dogs. By training a rescued dog, we are not only providing a forever home for that dog, but we are saving the quality of life for a human in need as well. Assistance Dogs International (ADI), has published the standards that must be met in order for a dog to qualify for training and service. ADI indicates that a good service dog is not protective, is people-orientated, not overly active, confident but not dominant or submissive. Service dogs should not require complex grooming as this could be a problem for their owner. The dog must be of size to be able to lift things in assistance, but not too large so that they can fit under a table if need be.¹ª
Here at Plato Pet Treats, we celebrate these working dogs and recognize their abilities through our Plato Wags Back program. We are currently sponsoring a dog rescued from a shelter (newly named ‘Plato’ of course) to be trained as a service dog for a war-time veteran re-entering civilian life. We have partnered with Shelter to Soldier to bring these two important causes together – to make an impact in the pet industry, therapy industry, and of course through several veteran assistance programs. Our ‘Plato’ has been selected for a returning soldier, and is currently being trained in San Diego, CA through the Shelter to Soldier non-profit program. To learn more about the ‘Plato’ story, click here.