A service or special assistance dog is specially trained to assist humans with disabilities. They are many people’s eyes and ears, assisting with sight or hearing. But there is more to just sight and hearing. Many service dogs help companions cope with various mental conditions like post-traumatic stress syndrome and autism.
Service dogs might also support people with medical conditions including diabetes, epilepsy, narcolepsy and severe allergies. They can be trained to pull wheelchairs or carry oxygen, life-support equipment or medications for their human partners. The list goes on and on.
Service dogs earn another important designation: They are protected under the 1990 Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This provides access to service animals working with their humans in any area where the public is permitted. It is not unusual to find service dogs with their human partner in malls, restaurants, theaters, hotels, amusement parks, on trains, buses or planes. Anywhere people go, their service companions may follow!
Therapy dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds. They are trained to provide comfort, affection and entertainment to people in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, schools and retirement homes. These working dogs are often used in therapeutic environments such as assisting with teaching children experiencing learning disabilities and as stress-reducers with victims of accidents, crimes and natural disasters/crises.
Therapy dogs are not service dogs — and are not protected by the ADA regulations. Public institutions may limit or prohibit access to a therapy dog. Training required for a therapy dog designation varies, but it is much less rigorous than that of service dogs.
Regardless of the tag, working dog, service dog, therapy dog or professional working dog, they remain our best friends, favorite family, loyal assistants and, in most cases, our heroes!
We have all seen a police dog, service dog or therapy dog in our lives and hopefully when you see them you will honor these guys for their loyalty and courageous efforts!