For many, dogs can provide emotional support to owners, but for some, the duties go far beyond just comfort and the dogs are necessary for survival.
In the case with Dutch the dog in Montrose, there was some dispute as to whether or not Dutch was in fact a service dog.
KKCO 11 News learned service dogs do not have to go through any specific training, and instead can be trained by their owners. The dogs just have to be able to perform specific tasks that assist their owners.
Jeremy Aguilar and his family pled for the life of his dog, Dutch, in court on Thursday. Despite Aguilar’s plea that he needed his service dog to help with his PTSD, the judge says Dutch wasn't a service dog until after his attack.
But it can be confusing, and few do know what makes man's best friend a service dog.
“There is no certification, no ADA certification for service dogs," ADA consultant Jerry Gallegos said. "[A service dog] might open a door for you, or help you up or he might bark when you're in trouble."
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is a dog that's individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
“People with PTSD, people with diabetes, people that can't see, people that can't hear [may use a service dog]," Gallegos said.
Gallegos went on to say a service dog’s duties are specific to the disability. For example, his shih tzu is trained to tell him when its time to take his diabetic medicine as he battles diabetes.
Then, there are dogs like Tyler, a therapy dog trained to provide emotional support to people in need.
"He’s been through many classes, but for the most part, there's a TDI, Therapy Dogs International training that they do,” Tyler’s owner Carolyn Sauer said.
Despite the services he provides, Sauer says Tyler is not considered a service dog under the ADA.
If dogs can be trained with specific talents, they can become service dogs regardless of any state or local government certification.
According to the ADA, businesses are only allowed to ask if dogs are service animals because of diabilities, and what tasks they've been trained to perform. They cannot ask about a person's specific disability.
Gallegos says many service owners choose to carry cards or dress their service dogs in vests to avoid that confrontation with businesses, but that is not required.
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