Stop discrimination against Psychiatric Service Dogs

This is a forum to discuss legislation and legal matters pertaining to the rights and welfare of dogs. Please remember to counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice and responses.

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Super Silver- Service Spoodle
Barked: Wed Apr 29, '09 5:53pm PST 

"New Discrimination against People Living with a Mental Illness

For years, the U.S. has been a world leader in promoting equal access for all Americans, including the disabled. However, recently there has been a proposed ruling that will change that. You may have seen a person with a disability such as blindness use a service animal but did you know that dogs can be trained to assist a person disabled by mental illness?

The use of Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) has afforded many mentally disabled individuals to reach a new level of wellness and the opportunity to lead happy and productive lives. Service animals play an important role in helping the consumer manage and alleviate severe symptoms such as anxiety, hallucinations and mania.

However, now the rights of those who use a service animal as part of their wellness plan, are being challenged by new rulings that will provide regulations that just don't make sense. Congressional subcommittees want to make revisions to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

The ACAA prohibits discrimination by airlines against qualified individuals with physical or mental impairments. Requirements address a wide range of issues including boarding assistance and certain accessibility features in newly built aircraft and new or altered airport facilities.

Now, the Department of Transportation wants:

• To ask passengers about their disabilities and about the
training of the service animal.

• Provide special documentation regarding the medical need for the service animal and disclosure of the handler's diagnosis as someone who is mentally-ill.

• To require that service animal handlers, with mental health disabilities, provide the airline 48 hours advance notice before travel will be authorized.

What is most appalling is that it is ONLY people with a mental illness who will be required to show medical documentation and give 48 hours advance notice and not people with any other types of disabilities!

We must stop the discrimination NOW. Please join us in sending a letter to members of Congressional subcommittees before these new rules are put into place.

Let's never forget that our democracy is based on the principles of equality and freedom. Let's keep it that way."

If you visit the link, at the bottom you can type in your zip code and it will take you through finding your representatives and sending them a message, it's super easy! Stand up and speak for equality!
Nadiya KC- Dog- Advocates

Member of KC Dog- Advocates.
Barked: Wed Apr 29, '09 8:39pm PST 
Mental illness is not like a physical disability and I do think that many abuse the service dog use, making it harder for people with mental illness to have a service dog.

If I recall do they not need a letter from the psychiatrist for the use of the dog? From what I gather Psychiatric service dogs are the new kids on the block as far as service dogs. I had never heard of one until I had asked my own doctor, not that I needed one but just to find out if they really do help.

I believe that they do, especially for people with panic attacks and anxiety attacks. I don't think anyone should have to disclosure what the nature of their disability is, if the attending physician recommends a dog for a mental illness it should be treated as any other service dog.

I will sign. Claire McCaskill is my rep and she's a good friend, I know she will support this.

Edited by author Wed Apr 29, '09 8:44pm PST

Harley, SD,- CGC, TDI

Super Service- Boy!
Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 6:19am PST 

Mental Illness IS just like"physical" illness. Having a degree in psycholog, I can tell you that mental illnesses are caused by a chemical change in the brain, meaning they have a MEDICAL and PHYSICAL cause. They manifest in the peron thinks, hense the label Mental Illness.

It is very difficult for people to abuse PSDs as the dogs HAVE to be trained to an extreme level of obedience just as other SDs. I could understand having rules of proof for ESAs (who are animals that provide a calming effect on people with mental disabilities) because they do not have to be trained to the level of service dogs and they do not have to be task trained. ESAs do not have public access rights as do SDs other than that they can fly with the handler and can live in no pet housing. I can see ESAs being abused but not PSDs. I don't think these regulations should be in affect for ANY SD.

First, they put restrictions on PSDs, then Medical Alert, then, hearing dogs, then Guide Dogs and mobility dogs....just like BSL....descrimination for one is bad for all.

Nadiya KC- Dog- Advocates

Member of KC Dog- Advocates.
Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 7:24am PST 
I know what your saying Harley, but mental illness is not as apparent as a physical disability people don't *see* it. I know I'm bi-polar with panic attacks and only the people who know me can see the changes, strangers don't. They never know that I have a disability, unless I go into a full panic attack...it isn't pretty.

I don't know a lot about SD's of any type but I will help those who really need to have one for whatever disability they have. I've tried to get into the ADA laws and it just confuses me.

Edited by author Thu Apr 30, '09 7:26am PST


Super Silver- Service Spoodle
Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 8:29am PST 
You are right that mental illness is an "invisible" disability (I think that's what you were trying to say, at least?)-- in other words, oftentimes when people look at someone with a mental illnss they don't realize they have a disability.

The problem is that mental illness isn't the only invisible disability that service dogs can assist with. They can also assist with seizures, diabetes, migraines, Deafness, balance disorders, severe environmental allergies etc. So the theory that they need to require this proof of psychiatric service dogs because they are invisible disabilities doesn't really fly-- if this is the reason, then they should be having the same requirements of all people with invisible disabilities who have service dogs.

Personally I am fine with requiring a doctor's letter to fly-- but ONLY if all service animals have this same requirement. As long as I (a person with a psychiatric service dog) am treated the same and have to provide the same paperwork as someone with a guide dog, mobility dog, or other type of service dog, I would be happy.

Thanks for signing!
Harley, SD,- CGC, TDI

Super Service- Boy!
Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 10:33am PST 
As Ollie said, psychiatric illnesses are not the only invisible illnesses.

For example, Harley is a medical alert dog for NCS, which is an invisible medical condition. Unless I actually faint, people don't know I'm having problems unless they REALLY know what to look for. I look like a very healthy person, which I am not.

I am not for having ANY SD having to have a doctors note. What if the patient is inbetween doctors (which I have recently found myself by no choice of my own) and has to fly suddenly for a family emergency? There are situations which could prevent someone from getting a doctors note, especially in short notice.

Oh, Nadiya....No type of SD has to have physician approval just to have a SD. It is reccommended, but not required.

Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 11:54am PST 
Here is the list I use off of my brochure for medical conditions that SD's can be trained to assist with.

Service Dogs are trained to assist people with both visible and invisible disabilities. Some disabilities include but are by no means limited to:
Alzheimer’s and other Dementia conditions
Autism (all spectrum disorders)
Bipolar I and II
Brain Injury
Cardiac Disease
Cerebral Palsy
F ood Allergies
Hearing Impairment
Inner Ear Conditions
Joint Replacement (knee, hip)
Multiple Sclerosis
Muscular Dystrophy
Other Anxiety Disorders
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Spinal Cord Injury
Visual Impairment

Many of those listed above are invisible disabilities such as diabetes, and food allergies to name two. And just like diabetes, mental illness is a chemical disturbance in the brain (usually serotonin and dopamine) as diabetes is a chemical disturbance in the production of insulin.

Mental Illness also can cause problems with physical functioning in a variety of ways which I won't go into. But of all types of Service Dogs to deny on Airline the PSD is quite possible the silliest. Those who are used to the constant reassurance of their PSD, to have it suddenly removed will regress in their illness causing (severe) panic and anxiety unneccessarily. Why should this disability be treated differently than anyother. The rights of all should be treated equally no matter what the medical condition. And the terminology should be changed to medical condition not disability. In my opinion.

Edited by author Thu Apr 30, '09 12:01pm PST

Nadiya KC- Dog- Advocates

Member of KC Dog- Advocates.
Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 12:42pm PST 
I did know about the stroke, my husband had a brain stem stroke last May and one of our doxies is his so called SD, she watches over him because he has balance problems and he is blind from it. She stayed by his side constantly I wouldn't even know where to start to use her as any type of SD. There really hasn't be an incident where she had to alert, he's never alone.

I do know one thing she is the reason that my husband did as well as he did after the stroke and he continues to improve I credit that to Sissy. I think if it weren't for her he would have gone into a very deep depression.

Life is GOOD:)
Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 1:05pm PST 
That would be terrible if they tried to stop psychiatric service dogs. I know first had how much they can help since a family member on mine has just been diagnosed with dementia. She was giving a Chihuahua named Gypsy and that little dog loves her and helps keep her under control. I really believe if she didn't have that dog to take care of and love then she would be getting a lot worse. She remembers the dogs name and that she has to feed in twice a day and take it out. If you know anyone with dementia then you know how great that is. But they also don't abuse the right to take her everwhere. They know that Gypsy can't go someplaces and don't fight with the rules. I never thought that psychiatric dogs would make a big deal until Gypsy has helped change a life.

Barked: Thu Apr 30, '09 6:19pm PST 
I'm wondering if this is a knee-jerk reaction to people who are currently abusing the system.

I know a person who went to a doctor and basically paid for a diagnosis of some anxiety disorder. Then this person proceeded to purchase a fabricated SD certificate, bought a little jacket, and voila! Her dog now travels free of charge. This person literally did this just to save money in the long run on her airline expenses.

The problem is, how is the airline supposed to authenticate the physician's diagnosis, or the SD certificate? No matter what they do, determined people will find a way to exploit the system. It's pure futility.
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