According to the Humane Society of the United States, pet ownership in the United
States has more than tripled since the 1970’s with about 62% of American households said to have at least one pet in 2012 and 47% of households owning at least one dog. Many of us experience first- hand the joys and benefits of pet ownership. But for those suffering from a mental or physical illness, animals and pets can provide much needed healing and therapeutic benefits.
There are two basic categories of animals that assist the disabled – service animals and therapy animals.
The American Disability Act provides a very specific definition of a “service animal” and as of March 15, 2011 only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA and are defined by the Act as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Service animals are not considered pets and are specifically trained to assist a disabled individual with things such as pushing a wheelchair, alerting one to the sounds of smoke alarms, timers, and telephones; or picking up and carrying
items for an individual. While many therapy animals are specifically trained to provide therapeutic benefits to the disabled, they are not service animals and do not have the same rights to public buildings as service animals. They do, however, provide many healing benefits to the disabled and their families and have been found to significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue for people suffering from mental and physical disabilities.
What if I Need a Service Animal?
There are many public and private organizations right here in our own backyard that provide animal assisted therapy or information about therapy animals and service dogs and many of our local and regional hospitals provide special pet therapy services to their patients. The South Carolina Information Highway website is a great resource for information and can be found at www.sciway.net/med/disabilities. For those living in Western North Carolina, check out the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website, www.ncdhhs.gov/disabilities/, for a list of organizations that provide assistance to the disabled.
Many of us have known for a long time the enormous benefits a service animal can provide to the disabled. Animal assisted therapy is another way our furry and feathered friends can provide much needed assistance and emotional support to the disabled and their families.
If you have any questions regarding Social Security Disability, or you think your
disability may qualify you for benefits, contact the attorneys at Grimes Teach and Anderson LLP, for a free consultation today.