Here on BrainWire, you’ve heard us rave about the many ways that pets shower our lives with joy and comfort. From wagging their tails when they see us to cuddling us when we’re feeling down, dogs have a unique ability to lift spirits and make each day brighter! As we celebrate National Dog Day this year, we want to spotlight a special category of animals that takes compassion and support to another level: service dogs!
These remarkable companions are not just adorable, furry friends. They’re highly trained superheroes, lending a helping paw to individuals living with a wide range of disabilities, including those recovering from stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or living with dementia. Read on to learn more about the transformative support that service dogs can bring to people on a brain rehabilitation journey.
Service animals are highly trained dogs who perform specific tasks to support someone living with a disability with daily living activities! The person whom a service dog is trained to help is often called its handler.
To qualify as a service animal, these furry companions must meet specific criteria:
Contrary to popular belief, there are no specific breed or size requirements for service dogs. Breeds such as labrador retrievers, poodles, and golden retrievers are commonly selected for service dog training due to their size and temperament. However, dogs big and small alike, of all breeds, can be trained to become wonderful service animals!
As the U.S. Justice Department clearly states: “Businesses and non-profits that are open to the public as well as state/local governments must allow service animals to go most places where the public can go. This is true even if they have a “no pets” policy.”
In other words, your service dog can accompany you practically anywhere in public! This includes hospitals, restaurants, shops, schools, and hotels. Service dogs also have special protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) when it comes to housing and travel!
You do not have to pay any additional fees that might apply to pets, and you do not have to stay in a pets-only section of any establishment. Think of your service dog as an extension of you!
In most cases, yep! In fact, according to the Justice Department, when it is not clear whether a dog is a service animal, staff members are allowed to ask you two things—and two things only!
This means that you are not legally required to disclose any personal medical information, produce a letter from a healthcare profession, or have your service dog perform a task in front of anyone! And, despite widespread misconceptions, service dogs are not required to wear any special harness or have an I.D. card (though they may).
If you’re traveling on an airline, there are some forms you might need to fill out in advance, which can be found on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website here.
Just as a friendly reminder: emotional support animals (ESAs) are different from psychiatric service dogs! ESAs provide invaluable emotional support to their owners but have not been specifically trained to do so, whereas service animals perform specific tasks to relieve that anguish!
The above list of tasks is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the types of tasks that service animals might perform for someone recovering from a stroke, brain injury, or living with another neurological condition.
As dog lovers around the world know, dogs are an immensely joyful addition to life. Many people feel that the love their dog gives them is unconditional and irreplaceable. On National Dog Day, we celebrate this special human-canine bond all the more!
We also want to give an extra big shoutout to all the service dogs who go the extra mile for their handlers. Service dogs’s steadfast dedication, loyalty, and hard work over many years is a tremendous gift that deserves the highest applause, today and every other day.
Whether you have a service dog, loving pet, or emotional support animal, we’d love to hear more about how your dog has changed your life for the better! In honor of this year’s National Dog Day, share a story about your dog in the comments below!