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What Disabilities Qualify for a Service Dog?


What disabilities qualify a patient for a service dog?

Service dogs can have a profoundly positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities. These loving animals are specially trained to help their handlers perform day-to-day tasks. They can provide their handlers with a sense of independence and safety.

What Disabilities Qualify for a Service Dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has a very broad definition of “disability” and doesn’t limit the types of disabilities that qualify for a service dog. What’s more, there’s great flexibility when it comes to the nature and severity of a person’s disability.

The law states that if you have any physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, or emotional condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities, you are qualified to have a service dog. The life activity may be limited by a constant problem, like paralysis, or a problem that occurs at certain times, like low blood sugar.

Physical Disabilities That Qualify for a Service Dog

The ADA defines physical disabilities as any anatomical loss, physiological disorder, or cosmetic disfigurement affecting one or several body systems, including musculoskeletal, neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, special sense organs, reproductive, genitourinary, endocrine, hemic and lymphatic, and skin.

Physical disabilities that may qualify an individual for a service dog include but aren’t limited to:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • ALS
  • Deafness (partial or complete)
  • Blindness (partial or complete)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
  • Paralysis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Arthritis
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Scoliosis
  • Chronic pain
  • Vertigo
  • Seizures
  • Osteoporosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Asthma (or other breathing problems)
  • Diabetes
  • Autism
  • Allergies
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cardiac-related disabilities
  • Dizziness/balance problems
  • And more…

How a Service Dog Can Help Someone with Mobility Issues

Service dogs can assist individuals with mobility issues in many different ways, depending on the specific nature of their handler’s disability. Mobility support dogs are trained to help their handlers perform everyday tasks by:

  • Pushing or pulling a wheelchair
  • Assisting with the transfer from a wheelchair to a bed or bathtub
  • Retrieving things for their handler from the floor or from across the room
  • Opening doors or pushing automatic door buttons
  • Turning lights on and off
  • Covering their person with a blanket

Some service dogs are specifically trained to brace individuals with balance issues. Such mobility assistance dogs must be large enough to support their handler and often wear a special harness that helps them pull a wheelchair and support their person.

The inability to perform certain tasks can be humiliating to individuals who are wheelchair-bound, especially in public settings. Having a service dog to help with such tasks instead of relying on the kindness of strangers can provide individuals with a much greater sense of independence and personal security.

Service Dogs for Individuals with Sensory Disabilities

Whether a person is deaf, blind, or somewhere in between, a service dog can significantly improve their safety and quality of life.

Perhaps the most commonly known types of service dogs are guide dogs. These dogs help low-vision or blind people navigate the world. They typically wear harnesses with a handle for their owner to grasp. Guide dogs are receiving training on “selective disobedience.”

They can choose whether to obey or disobey commands based on their assessment of the situation. For instance, a dog will disobey their owner’s command to cross the street if there are cars coming.

Hearing dogs, on the other hand, are trained to assist individuals who lack the faculty of hearing. They help increase their partner’s awareness, independence, and safety, both in and out of the home. The dog alerts their handler to sounds such as knocking on a door, doorbells, smoke or fire alarms, phones ringing, cars honking, or even the person’s name.

Service Dogs for People with Specific Medical Conditions

Service dogs can also be trained to help individuals who don’t have mobility issues, but have specific medical conditions. Some of these medical conditions include:

Diabetes: Diabetic alert dogs are trained to alert their handlers to chemical changes in their blood sugar before their levels become dangerous. After an alert, the partner must test the blood and use medication to adjust their levels. Some dogs are trained to call emergency services.

Epilepsy: These service dogs assist their handler during and after an epileptic seizure. They may use deep pressure to end their handler’s seizure early, help their partner regain consciousness, or find help for their person. They also bring medicine to their person after a seizure.

Allergies: Allergy detection dogs are trained to pick up the scent of a harmful allergen and alert their person before they come into contact with it. These service dogs are frequently paired with kids to help with severe allergies.

Asthma: These service dogs are trained to remind their owners to check their oxygen levels, medication levels, and shortness of breath. They can also retrieve medication, wake up a person suffering from shortness of breath, or call for help in case of an emergency.

Heart Disease: Cardiac Arrest Service dogs are specially trained to use their strong sense of smell to recognize chemical alterations that occur when the heart rate or blood pressure changes. They warn their handlers or notify a family member when they recognize such changes.

During a health emergency situation, service animals can also roll over their handler and clear their airways to prevent suffocation. These dogs should carry medical information and medication in their vests so first responders know what to do.

Mental Disabilities That Qualify for a Service Dog

A mental disability is any mental or psychological disorder, such as emotional or mental illness, organic brain syndrome, mental retardation, or specific learning disabilities.

Mental disabilities that may qualify an individual for a service dog include, but are not limited to

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety disorders and phobias
  • Mood disorders
  • Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders
  • Autism
  • Dyslexia
  • Age-related cognitive decline
  • Neurocognitive disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dissociative and personality disorders
  • Stress-related disorders

Psychiatric service Dogs can perform a range of tasks for individuals with mental disabilities. These dogs can be trained to distract the handler from harmful things such as depression, panic attacks, mood swings, or self-harm by nuzzling, rubbing, or licking their owner. They can also instigate play to distract their handler.

In panic attacks, they can apply deep pressure by lying on their handler’s chest to help calm them. Psychiatric service dogs can assist people with PTSD or anxiety through crowd control or checking the perimeters to ensure the area is safe.

Another task these service dogs can perform is reminding their owner to take medication or calling a support person or therapist through numbers programmed on a dog-friendly phone.

Florida Service Animal Rights Lawyer

An individual with a service dog has full access to all public areas as granted by federal law. This ensures that assistance animals are never separated from their human partners.

If you believe that you’ve been illegally denied service or access because of your service animal, the animal rights attorneys at The Goodwin Firm can help.

Contact us today to schedule a legal consultation.

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