Sign In

A helping paw

April 1, 2020

The health care needs of each person are multifaceted, consisting of various factors that makes everyone unique.

Therefore, effective health care requires collaboration between various professionals to support healthy and meaningful lives. We celebrate April as National Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational therapists (OTs) play an important role across the lifespan in a child’s development or an individual’s recovery and integration into society after a life changing incident. Occupations are everyday life activities, from brushing our teeth to navigating the SunRail after work. OTs work closely with clients to provide individualized skilled services, empowering individuals to feel confident participating in everyday activities. Various interventions are associated with this profession, including those cute animals in vests you may have seen around. The terms service animals, emotional support animals (ESAs), and therapy dogs are frequently seen as interchangeable. However, these animals have different training, rights and roles. Service animals are specifically trained to work with individuals with disabilities, aiding with tasks directly related to the disability— picking up a dropped item for an individual with Parkinson’s Disease, alerting an individual with hearing impairments when someone is at the door, guiding an individual with low vision across the crosswalk, and even detecting changes in blood sugar for those with diabetes. Service animals are covered under Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), meaning they are allowed in every public setting to assist the individual with the disability. However, under the ADA, only dogs can be considered service animals. Conversely, ESAs and therapy dogs are not covered under the ADA. They are not necessarily afforded the same rights to access in public facilities, but can still play a crucial role in providing emotional support and alleviating stress or anxiety. Nevertheless, they do not require any specific training. Unlike service animals, ESAs include a wide array of unique animals, such as birds, rabbits and turtles. Technically, any animal can be considered an ESA, but they require a letter from a licensed health-care professional confirming the individual has a disability and that the ESA would be beneficial for their disability. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, require more training to interact with a variety of people. Therapy dogs are certified as they often travel to places such as hospitals, libraries, and schools to provide emotional support. OTs can play a special role in integrating therapy dogs into their practice with animal-assisted therapy. OTs can also assist individuals with disabilities on how to care for their service animal and incorporate them into their daily routines. As tempting as it may be to pet these animals when you see them in public, it is important to remember that they are performing essential jobs for their owners and not to distract them. Avoid talking, feeding, or petting animals without asking for consent from their owner. Despite whether the animal walks up to you or not, it is imperative you speak directly to the handler and ask for permission first. These animals typically wear vests, reminding others not to pet or touch them. Remember, individuals with service animals utilize them to manage a health condition; they may not want to draw public attention. Therefore, weigh whether it is worth speaking to the owner or appreciate the animal’s service from afar.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Oscar The Blind Dog

    In the weeks leading up to a heated presidential election, another close race played out that had dog lovers across the country faithfully voting online every 24 hours for their favorite furry friends. For four weeks, from Sept. 10 to Oct. 9, nearly 1 million votes were cast in Garden & Gun magazine’s Good Dog […]

    Read more

    Genius Dog Challenge

    Six dogs are competing to become the world’s smartest dog – a title reserved for the pooch that learns words the fastest. Shany Dror is a driving force behind the Genius Dog Challenge, which is live streamed on Facebook and YouTube every week until December 16, when the winner will be announced. The canine challenge […]

    Read more

    Finding Homes For Dogs

    Adoptable Animal Rescue Force gives back to the community by finding the right homes for dogs. We’ve been a Teller County nonprofit, no-kill rescue since 1999. Social networking has allowed us to expand our services in recent years to include dogs coming in from high kill shelters in New Mexico and Texas. There are times […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Retiring

    Talking to police or giving testimony at a courthouse, can be a scary experience for many. Since 2014, service dogs have been allowed in the courtroom to provide emotional support for those in need. For Emery Baert, having Madison with her made a huge difference. “If she wasn’t there, to this day, I wouldn’t know […]

    Read more

    A Shelter Dog's Life

    The sound of paws and claws precedes Isabella’s entrance. She bursts out of the Worcester Animal Rescue League’s front door, dragging Sara McClure, WARL’s dog program coordinator, behind her. McClure has two hands on Izzy’s bright red leash as the pit bull mix comes barreling into the parking lot. McClure motions for me to take […]

    Read more

    Veterans Court Therapy Dog

    Howard County Superior Court II Judge Brant Parry stood in his courtroom last week and looked around like he had lost something. “You want to see her?” he asked, still looking around the mostly empty room. A few moments later, a brown fluff of fur came bounding through an open back door, prompting instant smiles […]

    Read more