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April 17, 2017, 07:41:44 AM

The Importance of Service Animals

By Katie Schultz

July 21, 2015 - 9:13 AM

Animals play a big role in the well being of many people. According to Service Dog Central, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 task trained service animals are currently registered in the United States.

Emotional support animals (ESA) are pets which have been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to reduce the symptoms of that person's psychological/emotional disability. Any domesticated pets, and at any age, can qualify to be an ESA. An ESA does not require any training, but must be manageable in public and must not be a nuisance. ESA's are protected under federal law and can, with proper paperwork, fly on airplanes. In some cases they can live in a no-pet house as well to aid their owner. They are allowed in public places, but if asked by businesses, the owner must provide a letter from the licensed mental health provider that prescribed the ESA stating that they are allowed to have them.

Service animals are dogs that are trained to perform certain tasks for people with different disabilities. For example, seeing eye dogs- are specifically trained to help complete tasks and navigate those who are blind while other dogs are specifically trained to pull wheelchairs. Dogs who are service providers are allowed anywhere other customers are allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Therapy animals differ from service animals because they do not have protection under federal law like service animals do and are not trained. They are used to comfort and provide affection for people in times of need and suffering- like hospital patients, people with disabilities, disaster areas, hospice care, and nursing homes. Most therapy animals are dogs, but other animals like cats and rabbits are used as well. The animals do not belong to the people they are providing comfort to, but by caregivers or organizations.

In public, it is important that people do not approach service dogs because that may hinder their ability to provide for their owner. The same can be said towards dogs in training.

Without animals that provide these kind of services, many people's lives would be disrupted. Some would not be able to do daily tasks such as answering the phone or safely move around. Service animals have proven to be man's best friends.
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