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GUIDE: How to Get a Service Dog in Florida

man with service dog on benchWho is eligible to get a service dog?

Anyone with a disability, which the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities. One can have a record of such an impairment, or be regarded by others as having one. It is then up to the individual to seek out an organization and follow the application process.

What organizations should clients look at for different kinds of service dogs? 

It depends on the type of assistance dog a client needs. If you are not looking specifically for a Mobility Assistance Dog, Genesis will typically, suggest people research Canine Companions for Independence, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Assistance Dogs International, and K9s for warriors. Genesis Assistance Dogs, Inc. ONLY provides Mobility Assistance Dogs.

How long does it take? Does it cost money? 

Different organizations will take different amounts of time to match a client with a service dog. Most reputable service dog organizations have a wait list of 2-5 years. A client may be matched earlier or later than the date provided to them by the organization.

Genesis Assistance Dogs, Inc. places our dogs at no charge to the client.  You are encouraged to explore other organizations to see how they handle placement fees, etc.       

What types of service dogs are available?

Service dogs exist for assistance with mobility-related disabilities, autism, PTSD, emotional support, and medical alert.

What are service dogs capable of?

The ADA 2010 Regulations provides the following examples of work and tasks that a service dog can perform, but is not limited to:

  • Guiding the blind or those with low vision
  • Alerting the deaf or hard of hearing
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure
  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • Retrieving items
  • Providing assistance to those with balance issues or disabilities related to mobility
  • Helping those with psychiatric or neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
  • Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack        

What are a client’s responsibilities towards an assistance dog?

The client is responsible for feeding the service dog, cleaning up after the dog, and identifying appropriate locations for dog use. 

The client is responsible for veterinary care, including vaccinations and heartworm prevention is also the responsibility of the client. Clients must also be able to provide adequate exercise for the health and well-being of the dog.

The assistance dog’s behavior must be under the control of its partner while working. If the client cannot control the service dog and they are posing a threat to the health and safety of others, they may be asked to remove the assistance dog from the premises.

A client is never required or responsible to disclose what their disability is in public, nor is anyone allowed to ask about the disability, require the medical, training, or other special documentation of the service dog, or ask that the service dog demonstrate its ability to perform a task.

Can younger clients take service dogs to school?

Although the ADA technically permits service dogs to go wherever their partner goes, in practice, different schools have different policies regarding service dogs.

Usually, a student in Florida requires an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or a 504 plan in order to have a service dog with them. If another student in the classroom is allergic to dogs, consideration will typically be made to mitigate the circumstances.  Proof of shot records and health records may be required by individual school districts.

Other than this, there are no definitive federal guidelines, and clients should reach out to the school or school district in question to determine what their policies are regarding assistance dogs.

How long will a client keep a service dog?

Most organization of this nature provide service dogs for life, but for specific information please contact the organization directly. 

 


Sources:

http://disabilityrightsflorida.org/resources/disability_topic_info/service_animals#goto_tabs-tab-menu-4

http://www.thedogknowledgeservicedogfoundation.org/who-qualifies-for-a-service-dog/

 

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