Pet column: Job openings for elite dogs increasing |

Pet column: Job openings for elite dogs increasing


These nonprofit organizations offer online support, resources and referrals for disabled persons seeking assistance dogs and/or training, for trainers wishing to specialize, for working teams, and for the general public: Assistance Dogs International, a coalition that trains and places assistance dogs; International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, representing people partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs; Working Like Dogs for people with working and service dogs, and for those who would like to learn more about them.

Find current regulation information on the Department of Justice web site at ADA specialists are available at 800-514-0301 (voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY). States’ assistance dog laws complement or expand federal laws.

Horses lost their jobs long ago. Sporting and working dog breeds are more likely to perform in the ring than in the field. However, top jobs for elite dogs are increasing and increasingly visible in public places and workplaces, The August 2013 International Assistance Dog Week celebrated the puppy raisers, trainers, dogs and their handlers who are enabling more human partners than ever to lead fuller lives than thought possible. IADW choose to recognize the growing diversity of assistance dog work with the theme: “Seeing, hearing, sensing, supporting — there’s a dog for that!”

West Virginia University associate professor and researcher Margaret Glenn and assistance dog expert Marcie Davis, founder of IADW and author of “Working Like Dogs: The Assistance Dog Guidebook,” announced a precedent-setting initiative with the goal of expanding career horizons for people with disabilities who partner with assistance animals. “The number of assistance dogs in the workplace is increasing rapidly due to returning military veterans and the proliferation of types of assistance dogs now available,” Davis states. “Many employers have no experience with assistance dog teams, and don’t know how to respond to this employment issue.” The Job Accommodation Network, a service of the Department of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor, is fielding more and more inquiries about workplace accommodations for assistance animals.

“Assistance dog” and “assistance animal” are often used as umbrella terms, resulting in confusion about regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Qualifying service dogs must be individually trained for specific tasks which help mitigate the specific disability of their human partner, who is a legally defined disabled person. Due to abuse and outright fraud practiced by owners wanting free services, transportation, and unlimited access to business establishments with untrained pets, the ADA was revised, effective in March of 2011. The revision limited the term “service animal” to working dogs, and in special cases miniature horses. (Yes, they must be house trained, just like the dogs.) The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners sets standards for both canine and human partner. Working dogs must exhibit specific public behaviors and under the ADA may be excluded if they do not. It is a federal offense to represent a pet as a service animal and punishment includes heavy fines as well as jail sentences.

In April of this year, the Fair Housing Act was clarified as well. Emotional support animals, including “comfort dogs,” do not qualify as service animals under the ADA but do have privileges under the FHA. While trained service dogs have full access anywhere the general public is allowed, emotional support animals qualify only for housing accommodation and some may qualify for airline cabin access with documentation of handler need from a mental health practitioner. So called “therapy dogs” are not service dogs or emotional support animals unless trained and owned by an institution. These casual visiting animals do not have legal public accommodation or travel rights, are allowed in facilities by invitation only, with individual requirements for access and behavior.

Less than half of service dogs in training become working dogs. They are schooled and tested over a long period at a cost of about $50,000 each. However, graduates often are provided free to qualified applicants by organizations such as Companion Canines for Independence and Paws With a Cause. The average service dog knows 40 to 70 commands and is a solid, unflappable partner. Certified service dog trainers participate in supervised internships before qualifying to train individual service dogs and their humans. In the United States, there is not yet an official federal agency certification for the various service dogs and assistance animal categories.

— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.” Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.

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