Myth vs Facts


Bella has a new job

With all the attention we have been getting lately, I’ve noticed a lot of myths surrounding service dogs floating around on the comments section of different articles. I’ve decided that I think it is time to post about a lot of myths and facts that surround service dogs, their handlers and the team its self. Education is one of the most important parts of reaching equality for service dog teams. Some of these will be kind of obvious and others will be new. I got some of these from other service dog teams. Keep in mind these are questions many teams have heard or come a cross during their time as a service team.

Some of these I will be doing a full article on soon so these are just short answers for now. Also, I am not an expert and may not word something write, so if a fellow handler thinks something should be reworded let me know and I will change it the best I can. I want to represent us in a positive way so let the education begin!

  1. Myth: Being disabled is the only qualifications in terms of a service dog.
    1. Truth: not only must the handler be disabled, but also the service dog needs to be task trained to mitigate that disability. You can’t have a service dog with out a severe disability that affects your quality of life. Also just having a dog comfort you does not make them a service dog.
  2. Myth: Service dogs, Emotional Support animals, Therapy dogs and comfort animals are all the same thing.
    1. Truth: While all of these animals can help people, they are each different and perform different functions. Also only one of them has public access and the others don’t.
      1. Service Dogs: They are task trained to help mitigate a person’s disability. The handler must have a disability that limits their quality of life and the dog must be highly trained for public access and tasks. Service animals can only be Dogs or miniature horses in the United States. Some states have other limitations or laws regarding service animals as well.
      2. Emotional Support Animals (ESA): Are a great tool for those with a psychiatric or other illness that needs emotional support in their home when it is not always available. Like no pet housing or even hotels or airplanes. But they do not perform tasks and do not qualify for public access.IMG_6758Henry thinks he can be an At home ESA while I work.
      3. Therapy dogs: a therapy dog is used to provide comfort for other people. While they can go into some public places, their handler must ask each place for permission first.
      4. Comfort animals: This is just another term for a family pet and while they are great they do not have any legal rights other then being cute in our homes.
  3. Myth: A service dog must be certified, registered, Identified by a vest or have ID’s.
    1. Truth: There is no legal requirement in the United States that says a service dog must be certified or registered. In fact, sites that claim to be registration and provide identification are scams. Also while many teams choose to use Service dog vests we are not required to use them. There is no standard for Identification in the US.A few weeks agoSometimes we don’t use a vest while working.
  4. Myth: “if I register my dog online, I can take them in public.”
    1. Truth: like number 3 indicates, this is an illegal process that can put other teams in jeopardy. By faking a service dog, you risk the rights of real teams if your dog misbehaves.
  1. Myth: Service dogs have public access rights
    1. Truth: Like number one states, you can’t have a service dog with out a disability. While the dog must undergo public access training and task training to accompany their handler public. That dog does not have access to go in to public with somebody other then his or her handler.
  2. Myth: All veterans qualify for a service dog.
    1. Truth: Like #1 talks about obtaining a service dog will depend on how bad your disability is just being a veteran wont qualify you. When it comes to PTSD related disabilities, comfort is not a task and the dog must still be task trained to mitigate the disability.
  3. Myth: Any dog can be a service dog
    1. Truth: Service dogs can be any breed, type, size or even age and background… but service dogs need to have a very specific temperament, their health needs to be stable, trained to a high level, etc. so not every dog will be a good fit
      1. In fact it is common for service dogs in training to be washed out or disqualified if they are not meeting standards.
      2. Some states have their own laws so make sure to check with local laws if you are concerned. BUT local laws will not trump national laws.
  4. Myth: “I get nervous sometimes and my dog makes me feel better, he/she should be a service dog.”
    1. Truth: I may sound like a broken record right now, but these are all questions we get. Once again, comfort isn’t a task and a handler must be disabled to qualify for a task trained service dog. For certain situations, the dog may be an ESA but will still not qualify for public access.
  5. Myth: Businesses have no rights when it comes to service dogs
    1. Truth: this will be answered in two parts
      1. 1st, the business can ask two questions when it comes to service dogs
        1. Is that a service dog required because of a disability
        2. What task or work is he/she trained to perform
          1. Neither question requires you to disclose your medical condition or diagnosis
        3. 2nd, a business may ask that a service dog be removed if it is misbehaving but must allow the handler to come back without the service dog.
  6. Myth: Service dogs are only for the physical disabilities
      1. Truth: in today’s society, service dogs can be trained for all sorts of disabilities both visible and invisible. As long as they are task trained to mitigate the disability they are good to go
  7. Myth: Little dogs cant be service dogs and neither can pit bulls
    1. Truth: there are no laws against size or breed. In fact I know people with all sorts of breeds and sizes of dogs that make amazing service animals. Its really the training that counts in this case
  8. Myth: “My kids should be able to pet service dogs” or “you can never pet a service animal”
    1. Truth: Petting is always up to the handler. Depending on the situation they will either ask you not to pet or they will teach you the correct way to greet their service animal.
      1. I’ve been asked what parents should teach their kids and this is my opinion: Always, ALWAYS teach your children not to approach a strange animal with out asking first. Whether the dog is a service dog or not, please be cautious when approaching a strange animal. I know this sounds impossible but I will look into this and see if I can find some good advice on how to teach this to your children.

So I don’t plan on this being the end of this article. In fact what I want next is your questions. If you are a handler and have a myth or question your commonly hear let me know. If you are not a handler but have a question about service dogs or even mental illness send them my way and I will ad them to this post. Not all questions or comments will be posted but I will try to do my best.

The ball is in your guy’s hands now.

Instructions: either write your question here, or message me or post it on the dog in the room Facebook page.

I look forward to hearing from you

7 thoughts on “Myth vs Facts

  1. Hello! I just found your blog due to your new found fame 🙂 I love that picture of you and Bella on your wedding day, I had tears in my eyes after reading the story. I also suffer from mental illness, and just came out about it on my blog. It’s hard to be genuine. I look forward to following yours and Bella’s adventures in the future, and congratulations on your new marriage!

  2. I have a granddaughter who will be 6 in March. She is undergoing testing right now for possible anxiety. Does she have to have a doctor’s diagnosis in order to qualify for a service dog and where do we begin in finding the right dog for her?

  3. I am newly matched and I had a very disturbing conversation with a friend. She asked what I was going to do if challenged at a business with my dog and I told her that businesses can only ask whether she is a service dog and what is she trained to do. As you mentioned above that is all I have to say. “Yes she is a service dog and she is trained to mitigate my disability. ” My friend snorted and said well fine then F you too! I was floored! I told her that the response is appropriate to the law and simple, she saw it as a rude and nasty comment that would make her furious with the person and their dog. I am still quite upset that a friend found this so upsetting. Felt I was being snotty and using language no one would understand rather than answering straight out. I know this is obviously HER issue but I’ve had a few other reactions to the “mitigate my disability” and how no one will understand that phrase. So if others have had encounters where that answer irritated, how did you handle it? Thanks all

    • Hi Linda! Thank you for reading our story. Access challenges are a huge (unfortunate) part of being a service dog handler. I have found that the easiest response is to act confident and be firm. I think your approach is a good example. When it comes to friends getting use to having a service dog entering your life as well as theirs by default can be a difficult adjustment. Sticking to the facts is always important. Try explaining to her that while that may sound like a harsh response sticking to facts and being a little “harsh” sometimes is the only way to stick up for yourself and protecting your rights. Good luck!

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