According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks of benefit to a disabled individual in order to be legally elevated from pet status to service animal status. It is the specially trained tasks or work performed on command or cue that legally exempts a service dog [service animal] and his disabled handler from the “No Pets Allowed” policies of stores, restaurants and other places of public accommodation under the ADA.
The following list identifies a number of tasks a service dog could be trained to do that would serve to mitigate the effects of a disabling condition classified as a psychiatric disability. In particular, the tasks were developed for those who become disabled by Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Depression, conditions attributed to a brain chemistry malfunction. The List also contains some activities that may be useful as a coping mechanism, but would not stand up in a court of law as "a trained task that mitigates the effect of a disability,” and those will be marked with a Disclaimer to provide guidance to a therapist and patient on that issue. The author, a mobility impaired service dog trainer who has been deeply involved in the assistance dog field for many years, initiated research into this new kind of assistance dog in 1997. She became familiar with these disorders through the input of early pioneers of the psychiatric service dog concept. Subsequent research has involved garnering input from experts in psychology and psychiatry and from patients to gain a better understanding of the symptoms, treatment goals, and ways in which partnership with a service dog might become a valuable adjunct to conventional therapy.
In addition to task training, it should also be recognized that housebreaking, basic obedience training and mastering the behaviors of no nuisance barking, no aggressive behavior, and no inappropriate sniffing or intrusion into another person or dog’s space are an essential part of educating any dog for a career as a service dog.
Dani, Gillian, and Frank, all work in this capacity
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