When is the last time a product that had the label “As Seen on TV!” worked in the real world exactly like it did on TV? Let’s keep this in mind the next time you see a service dog related story on TV. I’m not saying that service dogs are not amaaaazing, they really are, but they can’t slice and dice and they don’t come with a set of Ginsu knives when you call 1-800-Amazing-Service-Dog within the next 10 min.
Myth: Service dogs are proven to help people with (fill in the blank with medical condition of your choice).
Fact: We personally believe that service dogs can be very helpful but actually, there is very little controlled scientific research that is specific to service dogs and medical conditions. A lot of what people say about service dogs is based on anecdotal information that is not substantiated by research. Yeah, I know, we are totally bursting a big bubble here on this one. Check it out for yourself – search for terms like assistance dog and diabetes or assistance dog and epilepsy at the National Library of Medicine – no Ginsu knives here.
Myth: The public and businesses are very welcoming to people with disabilities who use service animals.
Fact: Everyone is different and not all businesses or individuals are informed on service dogs. Even in areas where the public is educated, many people stare at a person with a disability who has a service dog with them and members of the public will often approach and ask questions about the service dog or the person’s disability. Yep, just because that’s a bit rude does not mean it won’t happen. If interaction with the public is very anxiety provoking, a service dog may not be the best choice to mitigate a disability.
Myth: If you tell a business your dog is a service dog and buy it a cape, no one can stop you from taking your dog everywhere.
Fact: Service dog fraud has become well-known. In fact CCI started a campaign to stop service dog fraud. Businesses are become more aware of their rights as well. The news coverage on this issue has increased over the years and it may lead to more restrictive legislation down the road.
Myth: There are no real standards when it comes to service dogs.
Fact: There are training standards that have been set by several large organizations such as Assistance Dogs International, the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners and also the Delta Society.
Myth: Service dog trainers and programs are regulated by the government.
Fact: Most states have no regulation of trainers and providers of service dogs at all. It’s the wild west and the demand for service dogs is over the top so while there are many scrupulous businesses and programs, there are also unscrupulous people taking advantage of the high demand. Whether you go to a non-profit program or a for profit business, be very, very careful choosing a trainer or program for a service dog. Be especially wary of guarantees and anything that is “not typical.” If you have almost never seen “x” breed being used for service work there is probably a good reason.
Myth: My service dog is the cutest service dog in the entire world.
Fact: Mine is. Just kidding, yours is pretty cute too. Stay warm and cozy all!