Service animals are animals that have received training in order to undertake tasks that help people with disabilities. These may include dogs, miniature horses and monkeys. Sometimes service animals are also referred to as guide animals, hearing animals, assistance animals, support animals or helper animals.
The idea of service animals are believed to have started with guide (or seeing-eye) dogs for the blind, maybe going as far back as the 1500’s, although the first guide dog training school in the U.S. began in 1929. By the 1970’s, dogs began to be trained to help with other disabilities and that has continued.
While dogs are used as service animals more than any other species, other animals have also been trained to perform tasks to assist people with disabilities live more independently. Other animals besides dogs which have been trained as service animals include: miniature horses, which can be trained to guide persons who are blind or visually impaired, to pull wheelchairs or to provide support for persons with Parkinson’s disease; and helper monkeys such as Capuchin monkeys, which can be trained to help persons with spinal cord injuries or other mobility-impairments by performing tasks such as grasping items, opening bottles, operating switches and knobs, microwaving food and turning the pages of a book, among others.
The U.S. Department of Justice issued revised regulations for implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) effective last year which has narrowed the definition of service animals. Under the new regulations, dogs are now the only animals which are recognized as service animals under the ADA and they must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability in order to be recognized as service animals. Examples given of such tasks include dogs guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, protecting a person who is having a seizure, among others.
However dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. In a recent case in Texas, a high school student with autism, Colleen Molohon, whose Australian cattle dog Chili had accompanied her to school since 9th grade has now been prohibited by her school from bringing Chili to school with her for her Senior year of high school. Her school district is claiming that her dog Chili is a comfort animal and not a service animal under the new ADA regulations and they are not required to allow the dog in school.
“Service Dogs Are Beyond Fetching”
“ADA Update Allegedly Used To Deny Service Dog”
Service Animal, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_animal
Service Animals: Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions, Transportation Security Administration
National Service Dog Resource Center – Pet Partners http://www.deltasociety.org/page.aspx?pid=302
Guide Horse Foundation – Miniature horses for the blind http://www.guidehorse.org/
Service Animals: Other Services & Resources: National Resource Directory https://www.nrd.gov/other_services_and_resources/service_animals
Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals. U.S. Department of Justice http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm