Service animals, as defined by Title II and Title III of the American Disabilities Act (ADA), are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. This disability can include a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Titles II and III of the ADA make it clear that service animals are allowed in public facilities. A service animal must be allowed to accompany the handler to any place in the building or facility where members of the public, program participants, customers or clients are allowed. Even if the business or public program has a “no pets” policy, it may not deny entry to a person with a service animal. Service animals are not pets. So, although a “no pets” policy is perfectly legal, it does not allow a business to exclude service animals.
West Yavapai Guidance Clinic has two service animals, Annie and DJ Piddles, who work to provide support to our clients.
DJ Piddles is specifically trained to support a person living with autism spectrum disorder or an anxiety disorder working with her handler.
She is trained in the following tasks:
Repetitive Behavior/Stimming Interruption
Assistance with Meltdowns/Overstimulation
Deep Pressure Stimulation
Crowd control/personal space
Many times, DJ Piddles has been asked to support one of our clients when he or she is having a hard day and often will be called to assist in a crisis assessment to help keep an individual grounded. There is one client who would work toward his goals to earn time to walk DJ once a week and through the course of two years, the client was able to stay out of an inpatient setting after many years of needing higher levels of care.
Annie is a service dog whose job is to task for her handler/owner. However, Annie also adds enrichment to the lives of the children in our services. She recently had a success story that the client would like to share. He wishes to be called Oscar for the sake of this telling. Oscar is a young man who has begun to experience psychosis that has taken a quick, frightening downturn. He was in offices when he began to have a command hallucination directing him to hurt a staff member and to hurt himself. As a result, he was taken to Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) for assessment to go to a psychiatric hospital where he could get immediate treatment for his needs. At the hospital, Oscar was very frightened to go inside, stating that the voice was telling him that “something very bad” was going to happen to him if he were to enter. The hospital staff members were kind enough to triage him outside and to gain permission for Annie and her handler to go into the hospital room with Oscar and his grandmother.
While waiting for a room, Oscar continued to hallucinate and Annie would not go far from him, sitting with him and letting him pet her head and ears. He was able to calm enough to go into the Emergency Department room and have the social worker assess him. While in the room, Annie jumped up on the bed with Oscar and let him hold her. When this happened, Oscar’s blood pressure dropped 20 points. He was able to stay calm and the voice subsided without medication intervention. Oscar then had a successful transfer to a psychiatric hospital, where his needs were met. He has reintegrated to his home and continues in services with West Yavapai Guidance Center (WYGC).
Service animals can be something other than a dog that can be trained to perform tasks, but they are not pets. They are allowed 100% access with their handler. Under the ADA, there are a limited number of questions that can be asked regarding the animal’s services to protect one’s privacy.
Service animals are different from working animals, therapy animals and emotional support animals. Working animals support law enforcement, detect cancer, are involved in search and rescue efforts, etc. These working animals do not have full access and are not covered under the ADA. Therapy animals are trained animals that go into situations and provide comfort to others. They are not protected under the ADA and do not have full access. Emotional support animals provide their specific owner with comfort but are not trained to provide a specific task or duty for a disability.
WYGC is fortunate to have these service dogs to help, aid and soothe people in their daily lives – and offer companionship to boot. QCBN
By Obsidian DeLeau, MA and Heidi Ackzen, BHT
Obsidian DeLeau, MA, is a child and family therapist. Heidi Ackzen, BHT, is a DDD liaison and case manager. Both work at West Yavapai Guidance Center.