Pets vs Service Dogs


Service Dog & Pet Dog
An Important Difference!

International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) was created to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability related limitations.

This year, IADW was August 4-10, 2013.  During that time, there was a considerable jump in news and questions about assistance dogs.

But, Dr. B is sorry to report, there were just as many inaccurate statements as correct ones.  So, we thought it timely to go over the rules and regulations regarding assistance dogs (which include several categories, including service dogs).

First — we humans somehow manage to make the simplest things incredibly complex.  The rules regarding assistance dogs is a perfect case in point. The ADA purposely made the rules regarding service animals extremely SIMPLE.  Yet these few rules have been elaborated upon, reiterated, rewritten and re-posted — incorrectly — by the thousands.  I am continually amazed at the things I find (particularly on the web) that appear “authentic” and are completely wrong.  So, let’s review:  What is the law regarding service animals?

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Ta da!  That’s it!  For the official publication, go to: of Justice

OK – I have to fess up that there are some additional aspects, such as regulations under the  Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Act, but both of these Acts are not complicated reading.  In fact, each helps to explain the rights of a person who has an assistance dog. Likewise, additional reading of the ADA regulations gives additional information to define specific aspects of the regulation, such as an explanation for what constitutes a disability, etc.  (A separate provision includes miniature horses as designated service animals.)

My “Pet” Peeve

Since I’m going on about rules and regulations, here’s a personal reaction to what I’ve seen as the most oft-repeated inaccuracy.  Let me say it loud and clear:  A pet who gives love and comfort is NOT a service dog.  Doesn’t every dog give us love and comfort?  Isn’t that why the human-dog bond may be the strongest between any two species and has endured all these centuries?

Okay — I’m off to do my errands today and taking my service dog to help me. But, before I go, I’m giving each of the two Labradors who also share our home some play time and attention, to let them know how much I appreciate the love and comfort they give to me.  But they’re NOT service dogs. The two Labs are our family’s pets and no less loved than the other furry one who had specialized training and wears a harness.


Related articles:

Guide Horse

Guide Horse

University Researcher & IADW Founder Partner to Increase Employment for People with Disabilities


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5 Responses to Pets vs Service Dogs

  1. Kathleen Kaska August 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Good point, Dr. B. How could you not love a dog who is devoted to helping you perform tasks you are incapable of performing yourself? Love the photo of the miniature guide horse.

  2. Norman W Wilson, PhD August 28, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Good article, Doc. I get really tired of seeing people in stores with their animals that are so very obviously not service animals. The one that really caught everyone’s attention was a woman had a miniature dog stuffed in her bosom. Maybe she had an over abundance of milk, you think?

  3. Patti Cole September 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Patricia, thank you so much for clarification of what determines a Service Dog. I wish we could blow up your article and post in a DAILY paper to educate people. I get so disgusted when I hear someone declare loudly that their little “yapper” is a Service dog knowing they have no “special needs.” The people just want to “boast” an empty compliment to themselves to be “special.” I believe in “each to his own” but I also believe these people dilute and continue to pass on erroneous information to the public for their own selfish benefit.
    Thank you again Doc and please repost this article again periodically.


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