Response to a Veteran

[A comment was made on one of the posts of this blog and my reply got long. I thought it might be of more general interest, so I’m making it a post for any here to see.]

A reader said:
“You are full of crap if you were to read the ADA and what it says about service animals there are only two on the list. One the dog and the other is the miniature horse and only if it is house trained to relieve it self outside. ADI wants everyone to believe that they are the only ones that can pass or fail a dog so it can the full monopoly on the entire world to be the only organization that is qualified to train and test a service animals qualifications. They already own Europe so why not give them America as well. Considering we the veterans that served our nation should have nothing to say about our animals and the help they give us. Again the ADA states clearly that only dogs and mini horses make the cut and then only if the mini horse is house trained.”

My Reply:
“There are several things to be addressed here.

“First, most members of the general public don’t know what ADA says, and the majority don’t even care. They have no idea that a snake is not a service animal. Yet snakes have been passed off as service animals! As of 2012, the ADA has revised requirements for service animals. The Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals set separate requirements for the mini horse, and does not support the wider public access permissions a service dog does.

“Second, given the numbers of companies that are selling service dogs with little or no attention to what a service dog should be, some kind of guidelines need to be in place. A company that has been training guard dogs for years, then decides they’d like to get into the service dog business has no clue about service dogs. Service dogs are an entirely different thing. Similarly, the person that wants to hang a vest and patches on their pampered little darling or their guard dog and call it a service dog is giving service dogs a bad name. A well-trained service dog will not growl, bark and certainly not snap or bite. “Service dogs” trained by guard dog companies can be problematic in this regard. Many dogs trained by their owners also have difficulty in this regard. The public access test is supported not only by ADI (Assistance Dogs International), but by IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners) and by Pet Partners (formerly know as the Delta Society).

“Third, I don’t know what your problem is with ADI. It started in the US in 1985 with trainers of Hearing Alert Dogs and Hearing Alert Dog training/placement organizations getting together and agreeing to certain basic standards. [This is similar to any professional organization start-up. The members start it, the members set the standards, and the members enable the standards. Medical and Nursing professional organizations are like this – and they set the standards and guidelines for practice in various specialties. Architects and Engineers have the same kinds of organizations. Many of the organizations, if not international in scope, have collegial relationships with similar organizations across the world.] In a short time, ADI grew, and decided first to formally affiliate with the Delta Society and a couple of years later to formally affiliate with Assistance Dogs Europe (ADEu). In a short time, ADI grew, and decided first to formally affiliate with the Delta Society and a couple of years later to formally affiliate with Assistance Dogs Europe (ADEu). See the ADI History page on their website.

“IAADP was started by people who used service dogs – the assistance dog partners themselves. It, too, grew in scope and became international. I know a bit less about Pet Partners, except that they support the public access standards needed to ensure public safety and public access for assistance dogs. ADI has done very good work. Their members provide various kinds of assistance dogs (Guide Dogs, Mobility Assistance Dogs, Hearing Alert Dogs, Autism Assistance Dogs, Medical Assistance Dogs, and PTSD Assistance Dogs – probably others that I’m not listing). The ADI, in my opinion, is filling a needed gap/niche.

“Fourth, as a user of an assistance dog, I can input my needs and concerns to PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assistance Life Services) which provided both my Mobility Assistance Dogs, and through IAADP – which meets jointly with ADI and maintains a close relationship with ADI – after all, it is the assistance dog partners who are the people who need and use the dogs provided by assistance dog providers. (I know, that sounds redundant, but I have been up with serious pain since 4am and I’m not a coherent as I would prefer.) PAALS also provides Service Dogs for Vets.

“Fifth, Veterans can, should, and do have a lot of say as to what help their dogs should give them. When obtained through a legitimate service dog organization, the vets, like any recipient, are interviewed extensively about what they need. If they want to train their own dog, they are certainly permitted to do that under ADA. There can be a problem with public access and poor behavior on the part of the dogs not tested for public access. This would not be a problem if those training their own service dogs understood the need for the specific behaviors needed for public access.

“The Public Access Test is published on the website of ADI, and IAADP has a page that discusses various aspects of the public access test. If your home-trained dog can pass all items on the test, plus 3 specific items it needs to do in public for you, I see no problem.

“The needs of Veterans, while somewhat different from those of other citizens, are being met by member organizations of ADI. As I am seeing it, the main problem is the vast need and the limited number of organizations and limited availability of appropriate dogs. It takes a special dog to become the service dog partner of a Veteran. Not every dog is qualified to become a service dog – of any kind – much less for a Veteran. As one among many organizations, however, PAALS is providing service dogs to Veterans with various needs. If you need one, I hope you get one soon!”

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ACCEPTED for 2nd Service Dog!!

mixed-smiley-046Joy reigns in our household! Kim from PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services) called on Friday (yesterday) and said it is official – that I have been accepted as a client for a second mobility service dog! YAAAY!!

Now the final wait begins. There are “lots of dogs” in the pipeline. It is simply a matter of whether it will be this year or next year. That may seem like a long time. But given the number of people waiting and the number of dogs available (nationwide), that is a very short time! At the time I partnered with Emmy, there were over 2000 people waiting for service dogs and only 700 dogs available each year.

Emmy in 2012 - Right After Her October Grooming

Emmy in 2012 – Right After Her October Grooming

 

And more people apply all the time. Obviously not just with PAALS – there are about 300 service dog organizations across the country. Only about 100 of these are members of ADI (Assistance Dogs International) or other certifying organization.

In my last post I referred to another website that discussed how to spot fake service dogs. The reason there are fake service dogs “out there” is not just because the owners want their precious pet to go with them everywhere. There are people who need a service dog so badly and have waited so long that they “create” a service dog. While it may be well-trained by the owner, the owner-trained service dogs I am familiar with are less well-trained. They are not kept as clean and well-groomed as they should be. They frequently have a bad smell because of poor diet. Their behavior is not as good as it should be.

Yes, I admit my bias. Waiting – however long it takes – to get a service dog through a well-run organization that trains the dogs carefully and ensures their behavior through annual re-certification by unbiased testers means there will be no problems with my dog. I will be re-trained to be a good partner – to be sure I know what I need to do: daily grooming, brushing of teeth, brushing of fur, excellent diet, no table scraps, regular vet visits, keeping up with immunizations, quarterly bathing, and daily practice of the behaviors she (or he!) will have been trained to perform. Over the course of a week, each behavior should be practiced at least 3 or 4 times. If there is hesitancy or improper execution extra time must be spent to bring that behavior up to speed.

This level of care and ongoing training is somewhat difficult for me with my Rheumatoid Disease and Fibromyalgia and with the attendant pain and fatigue. But it is worth it. Frankly, taking care of Emmy (my previous service dog) forced me to move more and to be more active. “Therapeutic,” said my rheumatologist. “Moving around helps keep your joints from freezing up. Keeps your muscles working.” It’s true. I will admit I have less inclined to be active since Emmy retired – not just because of the diseases, but because it is hard to force myself to do the moving I need to do. Himself helps me with that (“Come on, old girl, come sit with me in the kitchen while I cook supper.” “Go with me to Home Depot.” “Time to go to the grocery. Come on.”), and the gardening I started doing the year before Emmy retired helps, too. But – I have to admit honestly that there are times I don’t move around when I could if I just “pushed” myself more.

So – we are very happy. A new dog will be here relatively soon! She will be my helper, my companion, and my new friend.

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