Monday, July 26, 2010

Appropriate Behavior Around An Assistance Dog

July 26 is the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Learn correct etiquette when an assistance dog is working with someone with a disability.
How should people behave around an assistance dog?
The Americans With Disabilities Act guarantees people with disabilities the right to be accompanied by a service animal in all areas open to the general public. Service animal means any assistance dog or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Here are some tips to follow when meeting or approaching a working assistance dog and his or her partner:
  • Don't be afraid of the dog. Assistance dogs from organizations like Canine Companions for Independence and other members of Assistance Dogs International are carefully tested and selected for appropriate temperament. They have been professionally trained to have excellent manners.

  • Don't touch the dog without asking permission first! This is a distraction and may prevent the dog from tending to the human partner.

  • Never feed the dog. It may be on a special diet. CCI dogs are generally on a feeding schedule as well. Food is the ultimate distraction to the working dog and can jeopardize the working assistance dog team.
  • Speak to the person, not the assistance dog! Most handlers do not mind talking about assistance dogs and their dog specifically if they have the time.

  • Do not whistle or make sounds to the dog as this again may provide a dangerous distraction.

  • Never make assumptions about the individual's intelligence, feelings or capabilities.

  • Be aware of potential architectural barriers to the individual. Be respectful of the assistance dog team. They are a working pair going about their daily lives.
Business owners: Some customers and employees may be anxious or nervous about an assistance dog in your establishment. Reassure them that the dog is thoroughly trained and has a legal right to be there under the ADA. People with assistance dogs deserve the same respect as any other customer.

Taken from the Canine Companions for Independence website.

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