January 2018 Magazines 89117 - Page 33

Petpourri Working, Therapy and Emotional Support: What’s the Doggone Difference? By Ashlee Verba A FEW MONTHS AGO, I WAS WALKING TO MY GATE AT THE RENO AIRPORT and noticed a group of four people with dogs of various breeds–a poodle, a Golden Retriever, a Scottie, a French Bulldog–all wearing vests bearing the words ‘THERAPY DOG’. Their owners had added a heart-shaped patch that said ‘PET ME’, so I stopped in my tracks, knelt down and did just that. And, I admit, it really took the stress out of rushing through the airport. When I landed at McCarran, a gentleman at baggage claim had a beautiful German Shepherd at his side; the dog’s harness was metal and his vest read ‘SERVICE DOG’. Being the sucker that I am for canines (especially German Shepherds), I asked his handler if I could pet him. “No, I’m sorry,” the man said. “He’s working. But thank you for asking.” I smiled and took the loss, albeit disappointed, but it became instantly clear that this animal was serving a much bigger purpose than to relieve the stress of strangers waiting for their luggage. But it did beg the question, just how different are the two? The truth is, they’re incredibly different, and recognizing and respecting the difference really does matter. So we’re clearing up any working canine confusion by dishing out the need-to-know info on animals that help humans and how to conduct yourself around each. Working or Service Dogs – “Superhero to One” According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Things like guid- ing someone who’s blind, alerting someone who’s deaf, warning and protecting someone with epilepsy, calming anxiety in someone with severe PTSD, or other duties that are considered nec- essary for an individual to function on a day-to-day basis. Service animals protected under the ADA are allowed access anywhere the general public can go–even restaurants–and an individ- ual may not be asked to leave the premises because of their animal (unless it becomes out of control.) The law also clarifies that, “Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emo- tional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.” January/February 2018 Oddly enough, the ADA does not require service animals to wear a designated vest, patch, or harness identifying them as such. As a general rule, if the animal isn’t already trained to associ- ate their vest or harness as an indicator to work, most disabled handlers want people to know that their animal is serving a very specific and important purpose and will have their dog don some sort of insignia. 33