Assistance Animals – Variety and Care

20 Feb, 2020

Assistance Animals – Variety and Care

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People often remark on the extraordinary range of skills offered by assistance animals trained to support humans in disability. Today this is truer than ever. Most pet owners understand the range of tricks and emotions their pets can perform or exhibit. Many of us also know our pets have greater potential. Few, however, have the skills and the innate potential required to develop the broad range of skills required. For example as guide dogs for the blind or hard of hearing they must act in their owner’s best interest regardless of the owner’s particular instruction. Read on to learn more about the wide range of assistance animals trained today.

The Different Kinds of Assistance Animals

assistance animals
There is a surprising variety of assistance animals

Do you think of a visually impaired man or woman led by a dog, when you conjure up the image of a service animal? Think again. There are many different kinds of assistance animals that provide a variety of services. What category these animals fall under can depend on the country, but the generally accepted consensus divides them into five categories.

Animals for Emotional Support

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are different kinds of assistance animals, and it’s classification can vary depending on the country. An ESA generally provides comfort to their owners for conditions that may not be observable to the naked eye. They may help owners with anxiety, reducing depression, and assisting with these conditions when they are comorbid with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The professionals at provide more information on these animals for emotional support, especially in regards to how they’re approved. Some housing environments, require an ESA letter in order to gain acceptance into certain housing standards. This also applies when you need to travel with your pet i some public forms of transport.

Assistance Animals and the Law

In order to travel with an ESA in the United States, there may be different standards that apply to other assistance animals. Generally airlines require documentation from a psychiatric professional that is less than one year old.

Anyone who requires an ESA cannot be discriminated against, especially not by landlords. If discrimination occurs, it is against the law just as with any other assistance animal.

Guide dogs for the blind wear a yellow holster when in public

Guide Animals

We define ‘Guide animals‘ as those trained to assist the blind when they are walking and navigating their way in public arenas. Although we commonly associate dogs with this role, miniature horses can be used also. These animals qualify for this specialist training. They must be ‘intelligently disobedient’, meaning they’re required to refuse to follow an owner’s command if it places them in danger. They learn what ‘danger’ means in a public arena and develop a trained comportment to deliver their role.

These animals make travelling much easier for the visually impaired and increases their level of confidence and autonomy. They also have the added benefit that many ESAs have, in that they help the mental health of their owners by providing companionship. Because guide dogs are so focused on their job, it’s important to never distract a guide dog who is actively helping a visually impaired person.

assistance animals
Only some dogs will qualify for hearing dogs training

Hearing Assistance Animals

Hearing animals are the assistance animals used to help the hearing impaired. Usually hearing animals are dogs. In the United States it is common for these dogs to have a radiant orange leash, although it’s not a legal requirement.

In the United Kingdom there is a leading charity that is dedicated to the rearing and training of Hearing Dogs for the Deaf   Such organisations, as part of their special training raise their animals need to become desensitised to hearing many noises all at once, and their training requires that they interpret what they hear. A wide range of prompts are part of the training programme. For example, a hearing impaired individual may not hear a fire alarm at an important time, and so the animals guide them to safety. This is why socialisation and understanding noises is so important for these dogs.

Service Assistance Animals

assistance animals
Some assistance animals are very good for emotional support

The international assistance animal community defines service animals as those supporting conditions not related with hearing or visually impairments. In the United States, “service animals” define all forms of assistance animals. It is a blanket term.

Some of these animals may be medical emergency animals that are able to contact local medical services. They do this through the use of an animal friend device when they sense an emergency. Others may alert owners to take medications, such as diabetics who are experiencing periods of hyperglycemia, or hypoglycemia. Service animals support a range of other disorders varying from autism to PTSD.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Animal assisted therapy is a form of intervention using assistance animals. These are interventions that don’t take place over a long term period. Instead the therapeutic benefits manifest through their use. Assistance animals such as dogs visit nursing homes and prisons a part of animal assisted therapy programmes.

These interventions typically raise the mental health of the persons that they are visiting. The animals develop through specialist training in this form of socialisation. Inmate populations in prisons who are exposed to animal assisted therapy are less likely to engage in violent behaviours.

For many, physical and mental impairments, there’s often a complimentary assistance animal to help with an individual’s needs. They can vary from dogs to parrots, and even miniature horses, but they are all trained to help their owners live their lives independently. Non-profit organisations generally provide funds and training for the rearing and conditioning of these animals. If someone you know could use the help of an assistance animal, or animal assisted therapy, explore the options. Just remember to always be respectful, after all, they have a big job.

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