When I attended a local university, I met an individual who is visually impaired who had a guide dog. I asked, “What is your dog’s name?” He declined to tell me. Later, I learned a guide dog may have a “public” name and a “private” name, known only to the owner (handler). This may vary depending on several factors, including the school where the dog was trained, and the preferences of the handler.
However, a service animal refers to any dog trained to do tasks for a person with a disability. This includes: physical, mental, psychiatric, sensory, or intellectual conditions. The performance of work by the animal must be related to the disability of the handler. Other animals which may assist individuals with disabilities are not considered service animals. In order to enhance interaction with individuals who use service animals, some tips are provided below:
- 1. Speak only to the handler and not to the dog when greeting a service animal team. Don’t distract the dog in any way from the task it is performing.
- 2. Do not pet the dog without permission from the handler.
- 3. Understand that greeting a dog could distract the animal from its work. This could result in injury to the handler.
In essence, these animals are important to their handlers for balance, mobility, assisting with seizures, retrieving items, and alerting individuals with hearing loss to sounds. Service animals carry out a variety of tasks which helps their handlers maintain their lives. They are not pets, but hard working creatures. We need to be thoughtful when confronting a service animal team.
Source: Service Animals, NH Governor’s Commission on Disabilities, at: http://www.nh.gov/disability/information/community/serviceanimals.htm