By Nathan Sites
We all have heard of a service dog, but do we know what the animal does, or the story behind one of the animals?
Sophomore BreiAnna Wesley, the only person in Delta High School with a service animal, has had a service animal for more than a year.
BreiAnna said that when she was in 8th grade her PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) had gotten bad, to the point where she would have to be taken out of class and put in a room by herself. Some days she said she would inflict self harm by scratching or hitting herself.
She said she needed help with it, so she took her pet and after a lot of training, it was a self-trained service animal.
Some may be thinking, “but service animals aren’t able to be self-trained!”
That is where they are wrong. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) an animal, such as a dog, may be trained by a professional or by the owner. In this case, BreiAnna self-trained her dog.
The dog helps BreiAnna by performing a certain task that will help her with her PTSD. She said the service dog is alerted to PTSD episodes and high heart rate. The dog then can do deep pressure therapy or light pressure therapy.
The dog is also able to carry things for her, open handicapped buttons, and open and close things like doors or cabinets.
Since the dog is a service dog, it is allowed almost everywhere with her. Eating establishments, schools, and grocery stores are among the places where the dog is able to go. The only places not allowed are medical areas like operating rooms.
According to the ADA, people who are allergic to the dog must be in a different room than one that the service animal is already in, meaning a change in schedule could be made to prevent an allergic reaction.
You can tell differences between service animals and normal pets by several things. Wearing a vest is not one of them. Under the ADA law it is not a requirement to have the service dog wear a vest.
There are ways you could tell. Service dogs are not pushed or pulled in a cart, they are on a leash, they don’t pull on the leash, they don’t bark or whine, and they don’t sniff everything.
Service dogs come in many different breeds and colors. Any dog can be a service animal from a Great Dane to a Chihuahua, and from black to white! However, some breeds are better than others. The golden retriever was born to be a service animal, while in some states it is illegal to have a pit bull as a service animal.
Now most of us love dogs, but an on-duty service animal should not be pet or stared at. There is only one exception to when we are able to approach a service animal. When a service animal comes up to you when it’s owner isn’t around, don’t leave it alone. Follow it, because when it does that it means that their owner needs help. Don’t leave them alone, because they are not able to bark or jump on people for help since they are trained not to.
But the service animal isn’t always a service animal. It gets a break when it is off duty, just like humans do.
BreiAnna likes to have her dog do agility and jumping practices. The dog gets all the food and water she needs and is given snacks, too. It is also given the unconditional love every dog needs.