Man’s best friend
Calling dogs “man’s best friend” may be a cliché, but it seems true for many people who consider their pets to be family members. And for some people animals are not only pets, but helpers and therapists.
More than pets
Dogs have been used to help visually impaired persons for hundreds of years, but now they and other animals assist people with other types of disabilities, as well as provide companionship and comfort.
Besides “guide dogs” who assist blind persons, other categories of animal helpers include
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. Emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, but may include other animals.
A service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
Dr. Vania Manipod explains how these terms apply to psychiatric illnesses in her blog post here-
The Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, “requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle.”
Other countries may have different laws so if you plan to travel abroad with your animal assistant, you should check the laws for your destination prior to arrival to avoid any problems with your animal’s entry or departure.
Remember that animal assistants are not just pets, they are working; so we should not distract them or interfere with their duties when we encounter them, as this report warns.
The Veteran’s Health Administration uses horses to help veterans deal with PTSD.
And for other veterans, “living with wolves” saves their lives.
I welcome your comments about how an animal assistant has aided you or a family member.