Service Dogs for the Disabled
and Emotional Support Animals for Comfort and Companionship at Home
What kind of partnership are you seeking? To make our conversation with you easier, let's define some terms:
Applicants with disabilities who need the assistance of a dog in public spaces are seeking to partner a working service dog (SD). Service Dogs are protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act. A disabled partner has the right of access into public spaces when partnered by a legitimate service dog.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal this way:
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
By contrast, an emotional support animal (ESA) comforts primarily in the home. These dogs provide emotional support and companionship. Dogs functioning as ESAs are not approved for partnership in public spaces like stores and restaurants, but there are provisions for them in housing via the Fair Housing Amendments Act and during travel via the Air Carrier Access Act.
While we are proud to assist with the good work of both Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs, Possibility Dogs adheres to that differentiation. Service dog candidates partner those with documented disabilities and are trained to high obedience and task standards. These dogs and their handlers must be able to pass a Public Access Test.
While not required by law, Possibility Dogs does also require that Emotional Support Dogs trained through us be trained for and pass the Canine Good Citizen test, if with a homebound partner, and the Public Access Test, if a partner intends to fly with an ESA. This is a program standard. Such requirements provide for a safer and more confident partnership for everyone concerned.
Possibility Dogs is a Support Resource for the Owner-Trained Service Dog
For some people, training along side a candidate dog (a service-dog-in-training, or SDIT) can be a rewarding and therapeutic process. This is not true or appropriate for everyone, but for some, the collaborative journey can be powerful. We believe great things can be achieved through the professionally-supported owner-training process. For those with psychiatric or mobility conditions whose lives would be improved through partnership with a service dog, Possibility Dogs may be able to:
- help you find, evaluate, and acquire a canine partner with strong aptitude for service and
- develop a customized training protocol alongside professional trainers that addresses the specifics of your condition and the tasks that best serve it.
Possibility Dogs can serve your potential partnership in several ways.
- We can help you identify and evaluate rescued dogs local to you that might be good candidates for service beside you.
- We can also help coordinate professional training assistance in your area and, where feasible, send trainers associated with our group to you for “training intensives” over a weekend. A thoughtful, consistent training protocol and high testing standard is key to a successful service partnership. We can help you achieve that with your canine partner.
- In most cases, we begin searching for appropriate dogs with specific clients in mind, taking into account nature of disability, task needs, height and general mobility, and living environment. In some cases, we can connect you with dogs already evaluated by our organization as strong candidates for service. Possibility Dogs evaluates rescued dogs of all breeds, mixes, shapes and sizes. While many dogs are not appropriate for service, those that have passed the evaluation(including health and structural evaluation) are noted on our Facebook page with background information and service tasks best suited for. Please be aware! The status of dogs in rescue changes rapidly. If you are interested in a particular dog noted on our Facebook page, you will want to inquire with us and the rescue organization quickly.
You will then receive a Partner Application, to be filled out by you or an assistant at your direction, a Personal Reference form, to be completed by someone who knows you well, and a Professional Recommendation Form, to be completed by your medical or psychiatric professional that describes your disability and recommends the use of a service dog or emotional support dog. All information is kept strictly confidential.