A service animal is a dog that is intensively trained to do work or perform tasks that benefit an individual with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals. Beginning March 15, 2011, changes in ADA regulations have limited service animal designation to dogs. Some miniature horses also qualify.
Stories about service dogs:
- "Special Boy, Special Dog" – Noah Wine has two diseases that can make his blood sugar level drop quickly without him realizing it. So his family got him a service dog – a yellow Lab named Dexter who trained to sense when someone’s blood sugar level is falling before it gets low enough to cause serious health problems. Read more about Noah and Dexter on the Everence website.
- "The Blessing of Life with a Service Dog ": Article by Christine Guth and Naomi Yoder-Harris. Read more about Naomi and her dog Daisy.
Roles of service dogs
These are some of the roles that service dogs can be trained for:
- Guide dogs for persons with vision impairment
- Hearing dogs for persons who are hearing impaired
- Mobility dogs to pull wheelchairs, open doors, pickup dropped items, etc.
- Dogs trained to assist with medical conditions, for example, seizure alert, balance problems, traumatic brain injury
- Psychiatric service dogs
Service Animal Etiquette
- Always speak to the person first.
- Always ask the person for permission before petting a service animal. The animal might be distracted from its work and endanger the person who depends on it.
- Do not offer food or treats to a service dog.
- Don't bark/whistle at the service dog. It may divert the service dog from its work.
- Find out if the person minds answering questions. Some people feel uncomfortable discussing their disability or their service dog.
- If you are afraid of dogs/animals, remove yourself and go to another area.
What about service dogs in church?
Daisy (right) regularly accompanies her owner to church, assisting her as needed, especially with balance. See "The Blessing of Life with a Service Dog
" for a story and more pictures of Daisy and her owner, Naomi Yoder-Harris. Rei (below) also attends church regularly, with her owner, Kacie Weldy. Here Rei is taking a break when her eyes and ears are not needed.