Service animals are dogs who have been specially trained to help an individual with a disability. Currently, dogs are the only animals legally considered service animals. Service animals are protected under ADA regulations and may be brought into public places where other animals aren’t allowed. It’s important to note that service animals are not the same as emotional support animals, and emotional support animals are not protected under regulations in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals must meet specific legal requirements in their training and behavior. A service dog can help with several different disabilities including intellectual, psychiatric, sensory, and physical ones. The tasks and work they perform must have a direct relation to the disability of the individual who owns them. When service animals are in public, they’re working and should not be distracted.
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Service dogs can be used to help individuals with low vision or no vision to navigate through the world. These dogs are sometimes called seeing-eye dogs or guide dogs. A guide dog’s main job is to help visually impaired and blind individuals navigate around different obstacles. Their human directs them by using the skills acquired during the dog’s mobility training. With guide dogs, the human is often viewed as the pilot, while the dog is the machinery bringing them where they need to go. In the United States, guide dogs for the blind can be brought into public places that don’t otherwise allow animals. One important note is because dogs are red-green colorblind, they can’t interpret street signs for humans or let them know when a stoplight changes. The most common dog breed used for guide dogs is a Labrador Retriever. These dogs come in a good range of sizes, don’t have many genetic health issues, and are both gentle and willing in temperament. They’re also easy to keep and groom.
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