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Tue, Feb. 25

All About Pets: There is a difference between service and therapy animals

Not all Therapy and service dogs are tiny lap dogs, though many pretend. Pearl is OK with a big hunk on her lap. (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

Not all Therapy and service dogs are tiny lap dogs, though many pretend. Pearl is OK with a big hunk on her lap. (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

In Friday’s Courier, there was a most interesting front page story about a fellow who managed to successfully register a beehive as a service animal. The online organization he went through easily allows most anyone to register an animal as a service animal. He successfully made his point that more regulation is needed. He is hoping that tighter legislation will be forthcoming requiring very strict registration requirements.

This fake online registration system has caused unbelievable problems for businesses across the country. People are bringing improperly trained animals onto airlines, which causes much distress for travelers, and into other places where they do not belong.

Store managers and businesses are very restricted as to what they can ask a person who enters with a dog or other animal regarding that person’s specific needs that require this companion. Signs posted at the door are maybe a deterrent, but certainly more regulations are absolutely necessary. If a person is determined to take his pet everywhere with him, at this point, it is difficult to prevent that.

On the other side, my boy, BoJay, just passed the test to be a therapy dog. This means that he is qualified to visit children in schools and people in residential facilities. A different level is required for us to be able to visit hospitals, but we will take it one step at a time. There are many wonderful things we can now do to bring some smiles, and we are eager to get started.

But some people do not see the vast difference between a service dog and a therapy dog. Both can be seen wearing their appropriate vests. But a service dog is specifically trained to provide very specific help to one particular person after a very specialized and lengthy training process. These dogs can legally be brought into a store, airplane or restaurant.

Therapy dogs do not have those privileges. They are specifically trained to be friendly, bring smiles and comfort to a variety of people who are stressed or uncomfortable or just want a friendly, hairy creature nearby for a while.

As was well-pointed-out in the Courier article, massive problems exist due to the lack of tight regulations for service dogs.

On a lighter side, how about this? There is now a noise-canceling kennel available for those very sensitive pets who seriously object to fireworks and thunder. The “Ford Quiet Kennel” can be found online.

So important at this time before the new year gets any further along: make some resolutions. It is never too late. Write them down and check every so often to see how you are doing. These do not need to be life-changing, though they can be, but something as simple as bringing a smile to a non-smiling face or giving someone a hand. A smile is so easy to share and if the smile is not returned, you did your part. But if by chance it is returned, WOW, how wonderful. Try it. You will love it.

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at cpowerspak@gmail.com.

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