In honor of today being the anniversary of the Seeing Eye Guide Dog, I thought it appropriate to answer a question I received from Doug.
Dear Hopeful: I am disabled and I would like to find out how to get my dog certified as a guide dog. Can you help? — Doug
Dear Doug: The issue of the guide dog certification is a confusing one. First, let’s start with defining guide dog. A guide dog is a dog individually trained to assist a person with disabilities. A guide dog is a working dog, not a pet. Most guide dogs are larger breeds like golden retrievers or Labrador retrievers. Other breeds can also make excellent guide dogs, the most important trait is that the breed is people-oriented, confident, easy to train, not over protective and not overactive.
Training your dog to become a guide dog is a very important part of the process. Guide dog training includes three main areas: manners, obedience with public area skills and task training. Additionally a guide dog must be taught a few extra things over and above standard dog training including to relieve himself on command; ignore food found on the ground or food that is left unattended; to ignore people while working and most importantly the dog must be able to perform three tasks to assist with his owners disability (per ADA recommendation, local laws may differ).
When it comes to “certification” there is no national or State of California law that requires official certification. There are many groups/organizations that you can find on the Internet to get “certification” which will come with a certificate of registration, identification tag, and often a guide dog vest. This is something you can do after your guide dog training has been completed and can be helpful in identifying your dog as a guide dog in public places. When choosing a program, ask lots of questions, observe a training session or certification evaluation and speak with others who have used this program. The certification evaluation should include: the proof of your disability; testing your dog’s manners, obedience and socialization skills; and demonstration of at least three tasks beneficial to your specific disability. Any certification program that does not include these standards could be unreliable.
The law does require a guide dog to wear a guide dog tag. To obtain a guide dog tag you need to first get a letter from your doctor stating your need for a guide dog. Your dog must be trained to perform at least one task related to your disability. Once you have these two things you can contact the El Dorado County Heath & Human Services Agency Animal Service at 1120 Shakori Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150 or 530-573-7925 to obtain the guide dog tag. If your dog is not licensed you will have to do that prior to getting the guide dog tag. There is no cost for the guide dog tag, but the cost for licensing your dog is $30 for one year or $75 for three years if you live in the city and $20 for one year or $50 for three years if you live in the county.
I found this website (courtesy of Sue at Animal Services) http://www.petpartners.org/Service_Animal_Basics It has some very useful information, goes into more detail and is worth a read
Hope this was helpful. — Hopeful Henry
— Submit your questions or letters via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. The Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA now has a Facebook page, so stop by and check it out at www.facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSocietySPCA you can also become a Facebook friend of Hopeful Henry at www.facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry. Join us at our open house Feb. 25 from 2-7 p.m. at our new office location 870 Emerald Bay Road, Suite 104.