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Everything You Need To Know About Service Pets

Humans and animals have shared relationships since the beginning of humanity. In the olden days, animals were only thought of as a source of food. However, over time, people began training animals to act as pets. Today, animals are not just members of the household, but also play important roles in facilitating military personnel and law enforcement officials in effectively performing their duties. At the same time, animals also assist people with mental and physical disabilities in performing daily tasks more efficiently.

At present, there are close to half a million service dogs in the US alone. These pets are trained rigorously and comprehensively through a process that takes a minimum of 18 months. They acquire the ability to perform major life tasks while assisting other people with several physical or mental disabilities. Even though less than 1% of the population in America that lives with disabilities has a service pet, these animals continue to serve as vital companions in the lives of people who are challenged in any way.

Want to learn more about service pets? Here are some things that you would love to know:

What are the tasks that service pets can assist in?

One of the great things about service pets is that they are able to assist people in performing almost every major daily task. This can include anything from helping people dress up to moving from one place to another, picking up objects, getting in and out of bed, going to the washroom, and even commuting outside the home for any reason. The extent of training a service pet receives means they can understand their companion’s needs and facilitate them to the best of their abilities.

Obviously, there are certain limitations to the things a service pet can assist you with. These include acts that are not exactly qualified as major life tasks. Some of these activities are driving any kind of vehicle, the ability to help other people with grocery shopping, and being in a relationship. Despite your physical and mental challenges, these tasks will require personal effort, and the service pet may be unable to help here effectively.

Which disabilities qualify for requiring service pets?

For many people, a guide dog is only for people who are blind. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a wide range of impairments and disabilities a service pet can assist with. More importantly, these animals are able to support mental and physical conditions alike. Whether the disorder or ailment concerns any major systems of the body internally, like the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and neurological ones, or externally like a disfigurement, amputation, or natural condition, service pets can come in handy for individuals.

Even patients who are suffering from AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, paralysis, migraines, epilepsy, depression, anxiety, addiction, multiple sclerosis, hearing and speech impairments, or muscular dystrophy, just to name a few, can consult their respective physicians for getting a service pet. The treating doctor will be able to assess your situation accurately and advise whether the guide dog will be able to make a difference for you or not.

Is a formal prescription necessary?

Although it is best to sit with your treating physician and discuss at length the prospect of getting a service pet, this doesn’t mean that a letter from the doctor will be mandatory. Service pets undergo a tiresome training process; not all dogs qualify to enter or complete the training either. It is not about breeds or overall dog population but the ability of the animal to adapt themselves for the role they are being trained to perform.

A letter from the doctor may not be necessary, but when there are legal challenges, a person may need to present proof of disability for getting a service pet. In public, you’ll need to be ready to present evidence of what your service pet is prepared to do and the fact that you are indeed impaired and require the animal for day-to-day assistance.

What is the process of getting a service pet?

Getting a service pet or emotional support animal is no easy feat. This is partially because only a handful of animals qualify for the training, but also because the training is expensive as well as time-consuming. On top of that, the service pet and its companion need to form a bond if they are to partner for the rest of their lives. Hence it is no surprise that even less than 1% of America’s disabled population has a guide dog.

There are organizations that specialize in not just training service pets but also getting owners ready to have the animal with them. The training process takes at least 18 months, but the wait for a service pet can still stretch to three years. People with disabilities can acquire a service dog easily when they pass the necessary bonding requirements for being with the animal. Moreover, once they get a pet, they have the legal right to take it anywhere they intend to go.

The protection and rights that come with service pets

A service pet holds more protection and rights than normal pets. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities are protected strongly against discrimination due to their physical or mental impairments. This law protects areas including transportation, local or state government services, telecommunications, public places, and employment. Any and all protection that applies to a person with disabilities also stretches to their service pets.

As a result, service pets are able to accompany their owners anywhere needed. From government buildings to places of employment and public transport, service pets are allowed entry. This holds true even when no pets are allowed at a certain facility or institution. As a result, you don’t have to worry about leaving the pet behind if you are going to any of these places. Service pets, therefore, come with the right to greater accessibility and the ability to go anywhere their owner wishes to take them.


Service pets are healthy companions. They are not just there to assist people with daily tasks like getting up, going to the washroom, and doing other activities. These animals are like support systems for people with mental or physical disabilities. In times when these individuals feel lost, shattered, and alone, their pets act as the medium that offers motivation to get through life. Naturally, getting a service pet is more about forming the right connection with your pet rather than finding an animal with the best training.