When most people think of service animals, they think of those guide dogs for the blind, or perhaps those dogs who help to find people buried after a natural or man-made disaster, or those who find lost campers and hikers.
However, there is a growing number of functions that service animals perform and a growing number of species of animals performing duties as service animals.
What A Service Animal Is
A service animal is any animal that helps someone with a disability function to their best of their ability. While many service animals are dogs, miniature horses, cats, ferrets, birds, and even monkeys, serve as service animals.
A service animal does not need to be certified as such, but it does have to be trained to perform certain tasks. For example, both miniature horses and dogs have been trained to guide the blind, allowing them to be more independent and navigate places they may otherwise have to avoid.
There are dogs that are trained to help the hearing impaired, those who have seizures, and the wheel chair bound. Monkeys are used for people who are quadriplegic, as well as those with agoraphobia.
And birds, particularly those who can talk, provide a real service to those who suffer from anxiety and some psychiatric disorders, helping to calm them and talking them through anxiety attacks.
Service animals are not pets, but often times, due to the fact that these animals work closely with the humans they serve, strong bonds are formed, and in most cases, people needing these animals don’t simply consider them as part of their family, but as part of themselves.
These animals provide a very special service to the people who own them, as they help them to lead better and more active lives. Service animals make it possible for those who are blind or hearing impaired to live completely independently.
They help those with agoraphobia actually be able to go out in public to do their own shopping, and even attend movies or eat in restaurants. In short, these animals help people with disabilities to live highly functioning lives.
However, there is a growing concern among businesses and their customers about the use of some of these species of animals as service animals. Most people aren’t thrilled to shared their grocery store aisles with a miniature horse, or even a pot bellied pig that is trained to be a service animal. And a good number of customers aren’t thrilled to eat at a restaurant buffet after someone with a monkey that is jumping around has gone through.
To make the situation worse, business owners and managers are not allowed to refuse service to people and their service animals, regardless of what species that animal may be. This is causing the government to reconsider what species of animals should be accepted as service animals.
Monkeys are of particular concern because they can carry diseases that could be deadly to humans. However, to deny a quadriplegic the use of a monkey to help them perform tasks that other animals simply may not have the physical capabilities of performing seems unfair. This leaves Government officials with the need to find a way to protect the public without denying this invaluable help to those that need it.
Regardless of the problems that may be involved, these service animals deserve our appreciation for all they do, and their willingness and ability to help those who depend on them the most.
What do you think of service animals? Do you have any concerns or issues about service animals?