What’s up with that Doggie in the Restaurant?

Although all pets are wonderful, some animals enable their owners to have freedoms they wouldn’t have otherwise. These are “service animals” that are trained to help people with disabilities. They’re usually dogs, and they can aid their owners with a wide variety of things: from performing manual tasks like retrieving a coat or turning on a light, helping people who are deaf, and even detecting epileptic or diabetic episodes!

Unlike regular pets, most public places must permit service animals to accompany their owners unless their presence would create a safety hazard (according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which trumps local regulations). Also, owners of a service animal do not need to provide certification of that animal’s training.
Training for service animals is not regulated, so careful selection is important. Different trainers will work with their animals in different ways. There also might be different requirements for the owner of a service animal. For example, some require documentation of a disability or that no other pets reside in the household. If you see a service animal, remember that it’s probably at work. As lovable as it might be, resist the urge to speak directly to it or pet it.
Related to service animals is another classification called “therapy animals.” These pets may have been initially trained as service animals but were unable to meet the needs of the owner for some reason. Therapy animals may also be trained as extremely sociable. That allows them to work therapeutic magic at places like nursing homes and children hospitals.
Of course, all pet owners know that all animals are “therapy animals” in their own right.

Do you or someone you know own a service animal? In what ways does the service pet aid you that without their assistance you would be otherwise limited? Share how your service pet enables your freedom.

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