When my family is out and about either on a day-cation, vacation or road trip, rarely a day goes by when we don’t see a service dog working within a public setting. This increase of service animals is due in part to many more disabilities, more awareness and consciousness, and also thankfully, service animal laws now allow individuals with disabilities to get out into public venues that were once inaccessible.
Since I founded Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, an organization that trains and places service dogs with disabled children, it is extremely important to me and our organization, to spread public awareness and to utilize teachable moments when we are in public with either a service dog or service dog in training and folks ask questions or show interest in our dogs.
Service dogs are set apart from pets for a reason and have successfully gained the public’s acceptance and respect partly due to the highly specialized training most service dogs complete, partly due to high behavioral standards, and also due to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
In the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to do work and/or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items.”
Sadly a small percentage of service animals are not adequately trained or do not behave in a manner expected of service animals. Thankfully this is the exception.
High behavioral and training standards should apply to all service dogs in order to ensure the safety and comfort of the general public as well and the individuals they serve. Most service dog organizations have very high standards and most also require re-certification of their animals at yearly intervals after placement.
There are organizations who have set the benchmark for the standards expected of service dogs. One benchmark is the Canine Good Citizen Test and another organization who has set minimum standards for working dogs is Assistance Dogs International or ADI.
Some of these standards include cleanliness and hygiene such as proper grooming and correct elimination habits. Others include animal behavior such as animal conduct, manners, and public appropriateness.
While a reputable service dog organization should meet or exceed the minimum standards for a service dog, it is very important that individuals who choose to train or have their own dog trained, do so in such a way as to maintain these high levels of behavior and training. Any animal that can meet the existing standards should be allowed and welcomed to work in public when serving the needs of a person with a disability for whom it was trained.
Let’s do our part as explorers, travelers, and parents to maintain standards, educate, and to welcome the wonderful service dogs who serve.
Think PAWSITIVE! www.pawsitivesolutions.org
Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of Roadtripsforcouples.com, an online travel magazine. Carmels been on local talk radio for 17 years and now co-hosts THE GOOD LIFE with Mike the Wine Guy on KMYC 1410AM. Her family travel column can be read in California Kids Magazine at: Valcomnews.com You can follow her on Twitter: @CarmelLeeMooney or Facebook. Carmel is also the Executive Director of Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, a non-profit that trains and places Autism Service Dogs.