4 Types of Service Animals & the Amazing Work They Do
When you think of a service animal, a dog probably comes to mind, and most likely a guide dog for the blind. While dogs and horses are the only types of service animals that are officially recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are plenty of other animals that help humans in their daily lives. Here’s a quick rundown of four different types of service and support animals. Have you seen any of these doing work in the field?
Dogs are most commonly utilized as service animals. While most people think of dogs that help the blind, the jobs of canines actually vary quite a bit! There are dogs that can help with:
- Severe allergies
- High blood pressure
- Emotional support and therapy
There seems to be no end to the jobs dogs can help people with! Each dog, depending on their job, may have unique gear or vests. For instance, autism assistance dogs for young, non-verbal children, only have a vest with identifying and emergency information. A brace or mobility support dog, however, may have a special brace or harness to help their human.
What Makes Dogs Great Service Animals?
- They’re recognized by the ADA and are therefore allowed to enter stores, schools, and other facilities.
- There are several reputable organizations that train service dogs.
- Support dogs can help with a very wide variety of ailments and problems.
Are There Downsides to Dogs as Service Animals?
- Some people are allergic to dogs.
- Service dogs can be expensive – They can cost around $1,000 or more, if the owner needs more intensive tasks performed.
- They require special training and socializing obligations of the owner.
Support Dogs in the News
Dogs as support animals for PTSD is becoming more and more common. They can become lifelines for those who have served in the military. Rocky is one such service dog. He was trained by Operation K9, a non-profit organization that serves Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Colorado. Operation K9 matches veterans with service dogs. Each dog is trained to the standards set by Assistance Dogs International and must be able to take direction, retain training, and have a good drive to do their job properly.
Rocky found a job with veteran Bobby Galyon and has the ability to detect anxiousness, anger, and other emotions. The Gaylons credit Rocky with saving Bobby’s life.
Believe it or not, cats can absolutely be emotional support animals! Although the 2010 ADA Revised Requirements only recognize dogs and mini horses as official support animals, cats still help humans with plenty of things.
People have found that cats can help with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and loneliness. For example, if a person suffering from depression or anxiety has trouble getting out of bed to start their day, a cat can provide a soothing and calming presence and gentle responsibilities to be fulfilled daily. Smaller than dogs, quiet, and clean, they can be the perfect emotional support animal in a limited amount of space like an apartment.
Cats can also work as therapy animals. These are animals that are brought to organizations or businesses in an effort to help in an emotional or mentally beneficial way. They tend to be helpful in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and similar facilities.
What Makes Cats Great Service Animals?
- They’re an alternative to dogs if you’re not a dog person.
- They tend to be easier to care for than dogs because they don’t need as much socialization, they don’t have to be walked daily, and most don’t require you to bathe them.
- They can be happier in smaller spaces, such as apartments, than many dogs.
Are There Downsides to Cats as Service Animals?
- Some people are allergic to cats.
- They do not have the same protections as service dogs – Apartments and businesses are not required to allow your emotional support cat to stay.
- It may take time for an owner looking for an emotional support cat to find the perfect one – Personality is key!
Service Cats in the News
There are several instances of cats working as emotional support or therapy animals. Cats in nursing homes, for example, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety while also promoting exercise and movement. A survey in Ohio found that 71% of nursing homes did have a socialization programs involving animals.
Cats can also be wonderful additions to families in times of stress. Rachael Masch, a graduate student in Arizona, has an emotional support cat named Figaro that helps with anxiety, depression, and motivation while she attends school.
3. Miniature Horses
Miniature horses are the only other animal aside from dogs that are officially recognized as service animals by the ADA. Reaching up to only 34 inches and 100 pounds, they can be considered a service animal if they:
- Are housebroken
- Are under control
- Won’t compromise safety requirements
- Can be accommodated in the facility into which they are brought
Miniature horses tend to have two jobs:
- A guide animal or
- A therapy animal
But they are also currently being trained for mobility assistance. However, since they’re so easily scared, they need quite extensive training and socialization.
What Makes Horses Great Service Animals?
- They are recognized by the ADA as official service animals.
- They provide an alternative to people who are allergic to cats or dogs.
- They have a much longer lifespan (30 years on average!) than other service animals.
Are There Downsides to Horses as Service Animals?
- Horses can be easily scared and require much more training than other animals.
- They are currently only available for the blind.
- They will not be comfortable or allowed in small spaces, such as apartments.
Service Horses in the News
It comes as a surprise to many that miniature horses can be considered service animals. However, since they’re recognized as official service animals by the ADA, they are required to have the same accommodations as service dogs, which means service miniature horses cannot be denied access to stores, malls, etc.—just like service dogs.
The addition to mini horses to the list of approved animals is recent, and Southwest announced in October of 2018 that they will be allowing the service animals aboard their aircraft.
Although birds do not officially qualify to be service animals, they can make wonderful emotional support animals. This is due to their ability to show empathy and to learn words. They’ve been known to recognize emotions and help with:
Their ability to speak can help soothe their owner through an episode, and the owner can also be comforted by the fact they can talk to their animal and have it respond. Emotional support birds tend to be easier to care for and travel with due to their size. However, it’s important to note that many birds require special care, so research is needed before getting one as a service animal.
The types of birds that are commonly emotional support pets are:
- African grey parrots
- Amazon parrots
Service Birds In the News
Birds are not always accepted as emotional support animals. Since they’re not recognized as official support animals, like dogs or miniature horses, places of businesses, schools, planes, and other facilities are not required to allow your bird in. At least one school allows them, though: Wayne State University. Their size makes them perfect for dorm living. A freshman attending the school has birds to help her feel at home, help her cope when in a dark emotional place, and keep her calm.
What Makes Birds Great Service Animals?
- They take up less room than dogs, cats, and mini horses.
- They can be easier to care for than other common service animals.
- They may allowed in apartments where emotional support horses would not be.
Are There Downsides to Birds as Service Animals?
- They can be loud.
- Birds live a long time and may even outlive their owners – Parakeets, for example, live about 5 to 10 years, but African gray parrots can live up to 60 years!
- They require extensive socialization from the owner.
Although only dogs and miniature horses can be recognized as official types of service animals by the Americans with Disabilities Act, that doesn’t mean other animals can’t help people with the stress and struggles of daily life! Dogs, cats, miniature horses, and birds can all provide humans with quality-of-life assistance, whether that be for mental or physical health.
Do you have a support dog or cat? If they’re new to your family or it’s time to schedule their annual check-up, give Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital a call at 281-693-7387.
The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital
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