Service dogs are an integral part of daily life for thousands of Americans living with disabilities. They allow people to lead fuller, more independent lives. They are there to protect people from danger, guide, remind, and much more. (Image Credit: Camylla Battani/Unsplash)
Unfortunately, many people hold misconceptions these animals. Some of those misconceptions can be dangerous to the disabled community, their privacy, and their rights.
It is important to educate yourself and adjust your mindset if you are able-bodied. Read on to learn about some of the most common misconceptions.
- There is an official “certification” process for service dogs
There is no official ID or certificate that dogs must hold. The training they receive is what sets them apart from other animals.
Many people choose to register their dogs online. For example, there is the Service Dog Registration of America site, where owners can go to register for free.
Registering them does not make them official, but it does give owners access to legal updates about service animals and the opportunity to order vests and identification gear.
- The training process is short
Many people think that the training process is extremely short for service dogs, only a few months or so. But on average, it takes up to 2 years to complete training. Even after that, dogs must continue to sharpen their skills and they are never done improving.
- People with service dogs always want to stop and talk
Everyone has busy moments. We want to accomplish our errands and get our tasks done for the day. The same is true for people with service dogs. Even if your intentions are good, they may not want to stick around to answer your questions or engage in conversation.
- Service dogs and emotional support animals are the same
People are quick to group service dogs and emotional support animals into the same category. Both play incredibly important roles, but their roles do differ. Emotional support animals are untrained, while service animals are trained and are viewed as a medical aid.
- Any breed of dog can be a service animal
Most breeds can train to be a service dog. But when it comes down to it, the most important factors to remember are genetics and temperament. A handler wants to have a dog that is healthy and up for the task, and one that can behave well.
- It’s alright to pet a service dog
It is never alright to pet a service dog! When you see one out in public, it is working and should not be distracted. Its focus should be its handler. Some people think it is okay to pet the dog when the owner isn’t looking, but that is considered disrespectful.
- Only blind and deaf people use them
Although it is common for the blind and the deaf to have guide dogs, those are not the only types of disabilities that a service animal is needed for. Others include those with seizures, autism, diabetes, and more. You can never judge someone just because it doesn’t “seem” like they need help.
- Businesses are allowed to ask handlers to prove their disability
Businesses are not legally allowed to ask someone with a service animal to “prove” their disability. But businesses do have a right to ask a dog and owner to leave if the dog is being unruly or aggressive.
These are some of the most common misconceptions about service dogs and their handlers. Now that you know more, you can be a better ally for the disabled community.