We often hear the terms “Service Dog” , “Therapy Dog”, “Emotional Support Animal” used interchangeably. As I began on this exploration I learned that each term has very different meanings and those interested in connecting with a service animal or helping their clients connect with one should take the time to truly learn the difference between the three.
Here is a more detailed breakdown created by http://www.sdwr.org of the three categories of options for individuals interested in connecting with animal assisted therapy and the varying types of options available based on condition/services required.
For more detailed regulations regarding Service Animals- I felt it best to go straight to the source- the Americans with Disabilities Act- (ADA). Click this link to learn more about the specific regulations and requirements for an animal to be officially a service animal.
The official definition is as follows:
“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.”
Additionally here’s a link that answers most commonly asked questions about service animals according to the ADA. https://www.ada.gov/archive/qasrvc.htm
What I have found across the board is that service animals dedicated for a documented disability are significantly more recognized nationally and owners have more rights/options as to where these animals can be taken in their local communities. Additionally I was able to find Nevada specific information about rights/regulations located online at the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center about Nevada. A detailed pdf outlining lots of information is available by clicking this link. http://www.ndalc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Service-Animals.pdf
However, as I suspected… when I started trying to find out online via search engine EXACTLY where I can connect a client to a service animal in Nevada, I started having a hard time. All I was simply looking for was a form or a link to a government website to learn more about the process to begin, etc- and I found myself circling various government pages with information about regulations that essentially lead no where. OR I was able to find local private agencies where you can pay to have your dog become a service animal.
Sure- I could outreach to friends that I know that have a service animal but that is not the purpose of this exploration. I wanted to approach this process and attempt to access information as an outside person seeking help to learn just how easy it is to connect to this type of treatment and support. Let me tell ya folks… in Nevada- this is not so simple. I consider myself a fairly savvy user of online search engines having to locate resources online constantly for my clients as a social worker and I find myself struggling to find a simple link. Imagine if I was a lower functioning, vulnerable individual who is not so savvy with looking things up online, or comprehending complex concepts/processes. I would likely give up.
At face value, I am finding that there is a clear gap in Nevada regarding the ease of access to service animals. However, I am just getting started and plan to continue my efforts over the next several weeks to try to simplify this process not only for myself – but for social workers and those in need in my community and learn more!
Call to Action: If anyone has any additional resources/link information that can help me officially connect my clients to service animals in Nevada (preferably at no cost) please leave a comment! Any help/guidance would be greatly appreciated!