Service Dogs for Psychiatric Disabilities

by KL on October 13, 2010

Who is considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines an individual with a disability as a person who:

  1. Has a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  2. Has a record of such an impairment; or
  3. Is regarded as having such an impairment.
  4. The definition of “service animal” was changed on July 23, 2010.

Some of the benefits under the Act  include mitigation of the negative effects of the illness. Service dogs provide the following benefits:

  1. Social and emotional benefits of loving and caring for another creature and having that affection returned
  2. During formal therapy sessions the presence of the dog eases anxiety
  3. Improves social interactions and decreases aggressive behaviors

What are some of the tasks that a service dog can perform?

Perform personal services for the disabled person

  • Carry a message or get help from neighbor, co-worker or others
  • Answer a door bell
  • Remind individual to take medications at specific times
  • Bring a beverage to enable swallowing of medications
  • Alert sedated individuals to alarm clocks, doorbells, phones and smoke detectors
  • Turn on light and open doors
  • Wake the disabled person at a specific time each day in the case of hypersomnia
  • Help with keeping balance and assist in rising

Help assure personal safety at home

  • Bark for help in an emergency
  • Leave the premises in an emergency
  • Dial 911 or Suicide Hotline on a special K9 speaker phone
  • Check the house for intruders for reality check
  • Retrieve an emergency cell phone programmed to 911

Help assure safety away from home

  • Prevent others from crowding their owner to prevent emotional overload or panic attack
  • Provide individual’s ID if individual is unable to speak
  • Fear management in public
  • Keep suspicious strangers away
  • Increase safety around ATM

Help manage moods and emotions

  • Prevent a loss of self-control
  • Break the spell or interrupt sedative side effects
  • Recognize a panic attack
  • Nuzzle a distraught owner to help with calming
  • Respond to persistent sadness or hopelessness with Hug, Cuddle or Kiss commands
  • Provide tactile stimulation for lack of motivation or apathy
  • Reduce hyper-vigilance for those with PTSD

Where can I find additional information about Psychiatric Service Dogs?

Service Dogs for Bipolar Disorder

Psychiatric Service Dog Society (PSDS)

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)

Service Dog Central – Psychiatric Service Dogs

UC Davis Veterinary Medicine – Psychiatric Dogs