The first thing you need to know is that service animals are not pets. They are skilled, hardworking professionals. Never approach a working service dog unless you ask permission first. The people they help depend on them for their safety. Now that you know the first rule, in honor of National Service Dog Month, here are some things to know about these fascinating animals.

What Is a Service Dog?

Service dogs are protected by law and are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are specially trained to assist their people and by law must be allowed in all public places because they are medically necessary to that person.

While other animals may be used as emotional support animals or therapy animals, only dogs are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are no restrictions on breeds, and any breed of dog may become a service dog.

People’s lives are touched by their service dogs. The dogs give them more independence by helping them perform tasks they may not be able to do for themselves. Though there are many, here are some types of service dogs we’re celebrating during National Service Dog Month.

  • Guide Dogs: Often seen wearing a harness, these highly intelligent, well-trained dogs help their owners with visual impairments safely navigate. 
  • Hearing Dogs: These dogs are trained to recognize important sounds and alert their hearing-impaired owners. Sounds such as a doorbell, alarm, or even a crying baby are on the dog’s radar. Some even learn to respond to sign language commands.
  • Mobility Assistance Dogs: For handlers with mobility impairments, these dogs help with a large variety of tasks. They may get items for a person, assist their owner as they transfer to a wheelchair, press buttons, and even help pull a wheelchair. 
  • Seizure Response Dogs: Trained to respond to a seizure, these dogs help protect their owner through barking to alert others, activating alarms, and / or movement that helps keep their person safe. 

Here’s What to Do If You See a Service Dog During National Service Dog Month or Anytime.

Most of the time, a service dog wears a vest or harness, so you know they’re not a pet but a hard-working professional service dog. However, they aren’t required to wear identification. If you see one out working, it’s important to admire it from a distance. Distracting a dog from their work may be dangerous to the person relying on the service. Only approach or pet a service dog if you’re told it’s okay.

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