Autism Parenting Magazine Issue 74 (Member's Dashboard) - Page 44

AUTISM SOLUTIONS Ethical Considerations Need to Be Made for Service Dogs By Rebecca RICHARDSON Some children with autism and their families are known to benefit from the presence of an assistance dog. Little research has been done on ethical issues that can arise around the dogs’ welfare or methods to limit the stress on both the dog and the family. The goal of this piece is to identify and examine the ethical considerations of dogs used in service to children with autism. R esearch shows the use of autism assistance dogs improves behavior and symptoms in some children with autism and can reduce overall family stress. In a study done to as- sess the physiological impact of assistance dogs on children with autism, researchers measured the cortisol awakening response (CAR) before and during the time an assistance dog was introduced into a family with a child with autism as well as after the dog was removed. Before the in- troduction of the assistance dog, there was a 58 per- cent increase in morning cortisol after awakening. Once an assistance dog was placed in the family, the increase of morning cortisol dropped to 10 percent. When the dog was removed from the family, the morning cortisol jumped to 48 percent (Viau et al., 2010). There is no doubt that autism assistance dogs relieve stress in children with autism and provide support for families. Unfortunately, there is little or no literature or research that addresses quality of life for the dog. The first issue to be explored is how laws could apply to the protection of autism assistance dogs and how those laws would be enforced. Laws prohibit abuse, but legal follow-through is difficult. And, legally, what abuse entails in regards to service work has not been established. The ethical issues to be explored include protections owed to autism service dogs. It is important to un- derstand the stressors that dogs experience during 44 | Autism Parenting Magazine | Issue 74