The Institutional Equity, Diversity & Inclusion held an informational Zoom event on Jan. 26 to spread awareness and knowledge about support animals.
As described, there are three main types of support animals. The first is therapy animals, which are intended to provide emotional support to people in a variety of situations, including those who have been hospitalized, are in group homes because of age or disability, are in school, or are in other high-stress situations.
The second, and more widely known, are service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act only recognizes dogs and miniature horses as service animals because they have less illnesses that humans are susceptible to. Service animals are specifically trained to complete specific tasks for their handlers. They help with seeing and hearing, diabetes alert, seizure alert, PTSD responses, autism, and other disabilities.
Emotional support animals (commonly referred to as ESA) are dedicated to companionship. They are there to help their handlers cope with things such as PTSD, anxiety disorders, specific phobias (like to crowded spaces or loud noise) and much more. If you need an ESA, talk to a doctor about getting one.
Laney Malone had a stroke at 26 and lost complete use of her right arm and had to relearn tasks such as walking and speaking. She said she still struggles with speaking and drops things, falls down a lot, and has bad pain. She had trained her old dog, about six years after the stroke, to retrieve things for her, as well as training to support her if she fell or was doing something such as gardening.
After that dog died, Malone decided to get a service dog. Many know that this process can cost a lot of money between actually purchasing a dog, going to trainings that are sometimes out of your state, veterinary care, and other expenses that go into owning an animal. Malone said she “was originally stressed about the money aspect so I decided to go with the organization that looked the best on paper to me, because of their ethical breeding policies.”
Unfortunately, Malone says that this organization didn’t help properly with her service dog search and it led to a traumatic three-month experience with a labradoodle she was placed with.
Malone soon felt comfortable enough to look into getting another dog. She learned that it’s a common misconception that a service dog had to be professionally trained, especially for things like mobility. Of course, it’d be helpful to have a dog who was trained professionally in terms of seizure alert, diabetic alert, and seeing-eye dogs.
Eventually, Malone found Rocky, a black lab, who she has been training along with the help of a professional trainer. She says he has done really well in his training.
“For a well-trained service dog, they need lots of experience around people. Lots of socialization, lots of public spaces, crowded spaces with other animals and people wanting to hang out with them.”
Her tips for that task include having the knowledge, time and patience, and maybe an extra person who knows how to train animals, too.
Check in with the Center for Accessibility Resources (CFAR) if you think you might need access to any support animals. Email the Director of the CFAR, Carol Raymundo at email@example.com for more information and assistance.