Dogs make extraordinary service animals.
- They guide the blind, alert the deaf, and perform tasks for the wheelchair-bound.
- They predict seizures, cheer the elderly, and encourage children with dyslexia to practice reading aloud.
- Dogs are used to sniff out explosives, cancer, illicit drugs, and agricultural contraband.
- They find lost persons and criminals.
Battle Buddy Service Dogs
Dogs also help returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) heal from the traumas they endured and carry with them every day. The dogs are trained to help veterans cope with symptoms of PTSD, including hyper vigilance, anxiety, flashbacks, depression, panic attacks, and social isolation.
The soldiers’ service dogs allow them get things off their chest they can’t tell anyone else and pass no judgment. The dogs provide the companionship and trustworthiness of the human “battle buddy” these soldiers depended on in combat.
The dogs are always available to calm anxiety, and let their battle-toughened owners remember to feel and express their softer sides. Dogs are hyper vigilant by nature and provide more accurate information about whether a circumstance is safe or truly dangerous, helping the veteran gain confidence as he or she re-integrates into society.
Train a Dog, Save a Warrior
A program called Train a Dog Save a Warrior (TADSAW) matches returning veterans with dogs, most from kill shelters. Ironically, the soldiers are also saving the dogs’ lives. The program has had remarkable success. The dogs wear a special vest identifying them as a registered service animal, which provides them access to most places with their owner.
The Difference between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
Service Animals are not considered pets. They are are specially trained to perform three or more tasks to mitigate the disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities. A federal law (Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990), protects the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in public places.
Therapy Animals (often referred to as “emotional support animals” or “companion animals” or “comfort animals”) are not legally defined by federal law, like service animals are. (However, some states have laws defining therapy animals.) They are usually the personal pets of their handlers, and often did not complete service animal training due to health, disposition, trainability, or other factors. Federal laws have no provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation that have “no pets” policies.