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Psychiatric Service Dogs

WHAT IS A PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE DOG (PSD): 

A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a type of assistance animal that’s trained to perform specific tasks for individuals living with a mental illness. These unique tasks are directly related to the handler’s disability.

Most of us are accustomed to seeing guide dogs supporting those with physical disabilities like a hearing or sight impairment. However, a psychiatric service dog helps people with typically unseen and unnoticeable disabilities.

For example, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who experience panic attacks or anxiety can often benefit from the service of a PSD.

The rights of patients who are diagnosed with a qualifying disability and who are entitled to a PSD is protected under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

As such, Service dogs are permitted public access to places where pets or emotional support animals are normally not allowed including:

  1. Public Access Rights

The ADA gives disabled persons the right to be accompanied by a service animal in public spaces. Service dogs must be well behaved, stay on the floor or in a harness, and cannot override public health rules (such as entering a public swimming pool).

Service animal handlers should be aware that religious institutions are exempt from the ADA and are not required to permit access to service dogs. Your state may have specific laws that apply in this case.

  1. Travel Privileges 

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986 prohibits refusal and discrimination towards individuals based on their disability and their need for a service animal to accompany them. The ACAA allows disabled owners to take their service animal onboard a flight, in the cabin, without paying extra fees.

For those who intend on traveling with their PSD, it’s important to note that the Department of Transportation (DOT) permits airlines the right to ask PSD owners to submit a form or letter before departure. The form may require the individual to provide certain certifications, including proof that their PSD has been trained to assist with a disability and displays good behavior.

  1. Fair Housing 

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects people with disabilities (mental or physical) from discrimination when it comes to accommodation.

Landlords cannot deny housing to anyone based on their diagnosis. People with assistance animals, such as PSDs, are protected under the FHA even if the property has a “no pet” policy.

  1. Educational Facility Access

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows students to bring service dogs such as psychiatric services dogs into places of education.

The Department of Justice has guidelines and rules, but they are not always clear, and individual cases need to be discussed depending on your state and school.

NOTE THAT IRRESPECTIVE OF YOUR RIGHTS IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT YOUR DOG IS APPROPRIATELY TRAINED AND BEHAVES WELL IN PUBLIC PLACES.

WHAT YOU MAY OR MAY NOT BE ASKED ABOUT YOUR SERVICE DOG: 

The symptoms of mental disabilities are not always visible to others.

You could therefore expect a request for verification, especially when entering a place which does not normally allow dogs.

Under the ADA, the only questions a person or business may legally ask are:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

No one has the right to ask you to identify your specific disability or ask that your pet demonstrate their skill, however, the Department of Transport does gives airlines the right to also request further certifications when flying with your pet. Make sure you follow all requirements and provide these certifications beforehand, as to allow for stress-free travel.

Free My Paws offers a convenient telehealth service with fully licensed and highly experiences therapist who can assist as your consulting therapist and to provide a Therapist Referral Letter from the comfort of your home. 

A Therapist Referral Letter outlines the diagnosis that entitles you to a Service Dog or Psychiatric Service Dog and while it is not a requirement, it can also be helpful to identify your dog as a service dog with a service dog vest, and/or service dog ID card.

Some landlords could also have a specific form which needs to be completed.

 

 

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