It’s National Assistance Dog Week! This is one cause that we are thrilled to help spread awareness about. As you may know, we work with some wonderful service dog organizations, and provide veterinary care to these amazing pups. A Bourne, MA vet discusses assistance dogs below.
While Fido has been helping humans out for thousands of years, his official role as an assistance dog is fairly new. The first Assistance Dogs came about back in the 1700’s, where they were used to help wounded war veterans. In 1942, the California-based organization Guide Dogs for The Blind opened its doors. Over the next several decades, assistance dogs were trained in many different capacities. In 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act recognized assistance dogs as dogs that have been trained to help disabled people. This also meant Fido was allowed anywhere his human needed to go, with the only exceptions being certain sterile environments, such as some hospitals and laboratory areas.
Dogs have to go through quite a bit of training to qualify as assistance dogs. Fido must prove that he can stay calm and focused in public places, even in crowds. Assistance dogs can be trained in a variety of tasks, such as pulling wheelchairs, helping visually-impaired people navigate busy sidewalks and intersections, and alerting people to oncoming seizures.
There’s a bit of confusion around the distinction between assistance dogs and therapy dogs. Therapy dogs are trained to provide emotional support. While this is also extremely important work, it is not exactly in the same wheelhouse as what assistance dogs do. (Note: we work with Heroes in Transition, a group that provides emotional support dogs. You can learn more about that organization here.)
If you see an assistance dog, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing. Fido isn’t a pet: he’s a dog on the job, and needs to be able to concentrate. Never approach, pet, or interact with a service dog without permission from its owner.
Assistance dogs have helped thousands of people live full, independent lives. They’ve actually been complete game changers for many folks. Consider making donations to a group that works with assistance dogs. Sharing the word on social media will also help.
As your Bourne, MA animal clinic, we’re here for you. Please feel free to contact us anytime!