Have you heard or seen a dog that wears a vest and you are not allowed to touch the animal because the dog is working?
They are called Service animals. Service animals are trained to help people with disabilities return to everyday activities, gain independence, and increase the ability to participate in exciting and challenging adventures. Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as any animal “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”
From monkeys to miniature horses, service animals of all types fulfill multiple roles, depending on the person with whom they are matched. However, dogs are the most common type – probably because of their domestication, status as pets, and familiarity.
Types of service. Guide dogs help people with a visual impairment navigate their environment safely. Hearing dogs alert their deaf or hearing-impaired humans to sounds such as doorbells, telephones, smoke alarms or crying children. Seizure alert dogs detect physiological changes and alert their human partners to an oncoming seizure. Psychological service dogs calm or ground their human partners during episodes of illness.
What about dogs for limb loss patients? Service dogs for people with limb loss or limb differences are trained to retrieve dropped items, turn light switches on and off, help with dressing, and more. They can also increase mobility independence by opening doors, pulling a wheelchair, or by acting as a balance or brace for transfers.
Dogs for emotional support.
There are many ways dogs can assist people with disabilities in a physical capacity, but the emotional benefits of service dogs are also tremendous. People with service dogs often remark upon the emotional impact the dog has had on their lives. Dogs, unlike traditional adaptive equipment, are extremely sociable animals who love people and work. Dogs provide companionship and unconditional love, and can reduce loneliness.
Service dogs are not for everyone! Before applying for a service dog, consider your lifestyle and whether you and your family will be able to house, fund and care for a service dog. The dog is often provided free or for a reasonable price to the recipient. However, that person is responsible for all costs associated with the dog’s care once the dog is home.
Just an FYI. If you see animals wearing vests, now you know that they are working and helping their humans. These dedicated and loyal animals need to focus on their humans instead of the cuddles and attention you want to give them. Just be aware and considerate that these animals are more than just pets, but they are doing a very important job.
Rest assured, they get lots of love and attention from their humans during rest time.