Service Animal Myths and Facts

Almost everyone knows what a guide dog is, and most people even understand it’s not appropriate to pet them while they’re working. For many people, that’s as far as their service animal knowledge goes. There’s nothing wrong with that– it would be impolite to accost someone with a service animal with scores of questions about their partner’s tasks. However, if you want the facts about service animals, you’re in the right place.  The following are a few common myths about service animals, followed by factual information.

Myth: All service animals are dogs.

Fact: No. Service animals come in many species. Some individuals with visual impairments have trained miniature horses as guide animals. Capuchin monkeys have also been taught to assist people with disabilities, because their hands make them better able to perform certain tasks than dogs. Cats sometimes develop the ability to predict seizures, and even small pets like rats and hamsters can sometimes serve as seizure alert animals or as emotional support animals, which are afforded some legal rights, though fewer than those of service animals.

Myth: Only people with physical disabilities use service animals.

Fact: Psychiatric service animals are invaluable working companions that often allow a person with a psychiatric disability to participate in society more fully. Service animals have also been trained as working partners for people with Autism, cognitive disabilities, and various invisible disabilities such as heart conditions and seizure disorders.

Myth: Service animals work all the time.

Fact: Most people who use service animals are careful to allow them to have plenty of time to relax, play, and enjoy life. However, if a service animal is wearing a vest or backpack denoting its status, it’s like that it is working and should not be disturbed. When it’s not working, you likely wouldn’t be able to distinguish the same service animal from other pets. Your dog may have played with a service dog at a dog park without your ever knowing that your pooch’s new friend is also a working service animal!

Myth: Service animals have official identification proving their status.

Fact: In the United States, service animals do not need to provide ID or other paperwork denoting that status. In Canada, however, service dogs must be certified as such. Many advocates for the rights of people with disabilities prefer the US system, because it allows people who use service animals to integrate more fully into society. After all, nobody would dream of asking someone using a wheelchair to prove they need it in order to enter a store, right? However, some activists prefer a national ID and testing system for service animals, citing the many reports of ill-behaved “service animals,” which might give community members a poor impression of all service animals.

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  1. Jacques Speiden
    | Reply

    Another Great write up, I will be sure to bookmark this in my Propeller account. Have a great day.

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