Weatherford Democrat

June 1, 2013

VETERANS’ CORNER: The differences in therapy, service and working dogs

Weatherford Democrat


Last week I received an email from a veteran in California, seeking assistance in replacing his dog that had to be put down after attacking a small child.

The kennel that sold the dog to the veteran would not honor the request to replace the animal.

After some research I had disappointing news for the veteran. When ordering the dog the veteran failed to tell the kennel, one, that he was a veteran; and two, that the dog was to be used for PTSD and TBI therapy. A “working or protective” dog was sold to the veteran.

Service dog, therapy dog or working dog – what’s the difference and does it really matter? The answers are yes and yes. Yes, there is a big difference between the classifications. Yes, it does matter to the dog, the handler and the public in general. Here’s why.

A working dog classification could mean the designation provided by organized pedigree groups such as the American Kennel Club. Working group breeds are bred to perform such jobs as guarding property, individuals, rescues, as well as police and military work. The size of these dogs generally are large to giant in size, strong animals, capable of intense labor and fighting defensively. These dogs serve a specific purpose that requires specialized training to become professional working dogs. Their effort and value goes beyond mere pedigree or championship. There are more tan 14 subcategories of professional working dogs on record.

A service or specialized assistance dog is specifically trained to assist humans with disabilities. They may provide functions such as sight or hearing. Many service dogs help companions cope with various mental conditions like post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and autism. Service dogs also support people with medical conditions including diabetes, epilepsy. narcolepsy, and service allergies. They can also be trained to pull wheelchairs, carry oxygen,life-support equipment or medications for their human partners.

Service dogs earn another important designation. They are protected under the 1990 Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This legislation provides access to service animals working with their humans in any area where the public is permitted.

In the United States it is not required by law, ADA, to register an animal used for human service. It is not unusual to find service dogs with their partners in all venues and arenas, anywhere people go.

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. They are trained to provide comfort, affection and entertainment to people in nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, schools and retirement homes. These dogs are often used in therapeutic environments, such as assisting with teaching children experiencing learning disabilities and as stress reducers with victims of accidents, crimes and natural disasters and crises. Therapy dogs are not service dogs and are not protected by ADA regulations. Public institutions may limit or prohibit access to a therapy dog.

Training required for a therapy dog designation varies, and it is much less rigorous than that of service dogs.

Regardless of the dog, whether working dog, service dog, or therapy dog, these dogs remain our best friends, favorite family members, loyal assistants and in most cases, our heroes!

Researching information regarding these animals, the following sites were found for the dog desired. For therapy or service dogs go to www.caninecompanionsforindependence, Santa Rosa, Calif., and for protective dogs go to, Frankfort, Ky.

Remember, be detailed and informative when speaking to these kennels in order to avoid problems.

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.