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Special Needs Dog Vest: What to Do (or Not Do) If You See an Animal Wearing It

By    |   Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 06:56 PM

Special-needs dogs wear different vests that indicate they are uniquely different from the average family pet.

These vests identify whether the dog is a service dog for the disabled, or in some cases that the dog itself has a disability of some kind. In either case, the vest lets people know that there are specific protocols for interacting with the animal wearing it.

Vests are available for special needs dogs that are disabled, have a medical condition, or a personality trait that may prohibit interactions with strangers. The vests are often brightly colored, have a place for the dog's name, and an emblem indicating their condition.

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For example, the emblem may read "Blind Dog" together with a printed warning, "Do Not Pet." Before approaching or interacting with a disabled dog, always ask the owner for permission first.

Special-needs service dogs wear a variety of vests that let the public know that the dog is in service to a disabled person. According to the American Disability Act, "Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

"Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties."

There are certain protocols to follow when a dog is wearing a service vest. For example, it is important to not interrupt the dog who may be in the middle of training or a specific task for its owner.

And, no matter how tempting, it is best not to pay attention to the dog through sound or even eye contact until the owner has given permission. Pet Partners also advises people not to "ask personal questions about the handler’s disability or otherwise intrude on his or her privacy."

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For the most part, people who encounter special-needs dogs are respectful of the animal's job and the owner's disability. But there is growing concern about people who put service-dog vests on their dogs just for convenience. According to a recent report on ABC News, "Lying about your pet being a service dog is a misdemeanor. Lawmakers will be exploring the issue, including asking the state boards to review the process for authorizing use of service dogs."

NBC News reports, "It's an easy law to break, and dog cheats do. By strapping a vest or backpack that says 'service animal' to their pet, anyone can go in stores and restaurants where other dogs are banned, creating growing problems for the disabled community and business owners and leading to calls for better identifying the real deal."

Finally, Anything Pawsable brings up an interesting point. Occasionally people will approach the owner of a special-needs dog and say something like, "I wish I could have a service dog because then I could take him anywhere!"

Although not said maliciously, the statement is disrespectful.

"If you do not have a disability, then you do not qualify for a Service Dog … By expressing a desire for a Service Dog, you’re also wishing for the accompanying disability. For a disabled person, hearing an able-bodied person openly wish for a disability (even if you don’t actually say those words) is deeply hurtful. It suggests you don’t take them or their disability seriously and furthermore, it makes light of the thousands of hours of training and socialization their partner has undergone to perform his job."

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Special-needs dogs wear different vests that indicate they are uniquely different from the average family pet. These vests identify whether the dog is a service dog for the disabled, or in some cases that the dog itself has a disability of some kind.
special needs dog, vest, what to do, wearing, disability
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2015-56-06
Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 06:56 PM
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