(Family Features) Service dogs work hard each and every day to protect their human counterparts. Not only are they constant companions, but they are hardworking animals that can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can help lessen the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, for example.
In honor of National Service Dog Month, consider these facts about the four-legged service animals:
Common Misconceptions About Service Dogs
Because they’re often cute and cuddly, it’s not unusual for people to forget that service dogs are working animals, not pets, and they have been individually trained to help people with disabilities. Guide, hearing and service dogs typically accompany a person anywhere the general public is allowed, including restaurants, businesses and on airplanes, providing support as their owners go about their daily lives.
However, a survey by American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, suggests that employees are not educated about the unique needs of customers with service dogs. Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) retail employees said they never received training from their employer on the questions they are legally allowed to ask customers to verify an animal is a service dog.
Further adding to confusion is a lack of understanding of the difference between service dogs and other assistance animals. Emotional support dogs and therapy dogs assist people in their daily lives, but they do not have the same responsibilities as service animals. For instance, therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to their owners, but they do not have special rights of access in all buildings or public areas. Since service animals often provide mobility assistance or communicate medical alerts, they should always be allowed to accompany their owners.
A Helping Paw
At times, these innocent misconceptions can lead to discrimination against those who rely on the support of a service dog. To combat this problem, American Humane and Mars Petcare, the world’s leading pet nutrition and health care business, created resources, such as training videos, to help businesses better accommodate patrons who have service dogs. Aligning with the Better Cities For Pets™ initiative, the videos and other resources help provide an understanding of the roles service dogs play to help create a world where pets and working animals are welcome across all communities.
“Dogs have incredible abilities, including saving lives and making the world a better place,” said Angel May, corporate citizenship lead at Mars Petcare. “Service dogs are animals that should be celebrated for the good they bring to society, and we hope that increased awareness of their working nature leads to a deeper understanding of their important role.”
For additional information on service dogs, visit bettercitiesforpets.com/servicedogs.