September is National Service Dog Month
If you don't utilize a service dog but are crazy about animals, it can be very confusing to know how to behave around them. Dogs are incredible creatures and it's no wonder that those who usually interact with pets can make the common error of trying to pet or give a service dog attention. Did you know that this simple act of love could endanger the lives of their handler? These special dogs are trained and work so closely to their owner that even relatives living within the same household are told to not give the dog special attention. We've compiled the following tips so you can better understand the important relationship between service dog and handler:
- If a service dog tries to get your attention, listen to them! Some dogs have been trained to locate help in the event of a fall or seizure. If a dog who is labeled as a service dog won't leave you alone, look around and follow them. You could save someone's life.
- Do not distract these animals. When you see them out and about in public, these animals are actively working. Doing their job without distractions is critical to their handler's safety. Unless a handler has specifically invited you to interact with their animal, you should leave them alone.
- Teach your children and pets. Kids and other animals cannot read the label on the service animal and won't know the importance of their job. Explain to kids that the animal is doing a very important job and needs to focus (just like taking a test!). Keep your own animals a distance away.
- Remember that they could be working even if they don't look like they are. If a handler and their service animal are relaxing, the animal may still need to remain vigilant in case of a medical emergency.
- Handlers do not have to answer your questions. The function of having a service animal is not always obvious and people are different. Some people feel very comfortable talking about how their service animal helps them, others prefer not to disclose their medical information. Respect their privacy.
- No need to question legitimacy. It's true that there have been cases of people disguising their pets as Emotional Support Animals. This can cause suspicion among the public. Remember that there is no logical reason to assume that a handler is lying without any evidence. It's important to remember that many disabilities are "invisible" and the animal may be assigned to a handler due to epilepsy, psychiatric disorders, hearing impairments and a variety of other conditions that are not immediately obvious to observers.
- Do not pretend your pet is a service or support dog. This just creates an increase in regulations to make life more difficult to people who already have to deal with a medical disorder. If you feel like you would benefit from a service animal, contact your doctor to start this process.
- Don't be sad for the service animal. People assume that these animals are constantly working. These animals do get to enjoy time off and are beloved family members.
- Service animals can go where their handlers go. This federal right is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Be respectful. The best way to help the handler and the service animal is to respect their space and right to privacy.