Dogs have walked by our side for thousands of years and have proven to be very helpful to us, especially in times of need.
As well as encouraging us to exercise and socialize more, the average dog can make us happy just by letting us pet them as it releases a chemical in our brain called oxytocin.
Today, dogs are so tuned in to what we need and what makes us happy that they can even be trained to help us live our life without limits if we are disabled.
Service dogs are much more than a tool, they are a friend with thoughts of their own which gives them the problem-solving capabilities and intuition that a hearing aid or walking stick cannot provide.
It is no wonder that service dogs are a popular option for those with disabilities, but it is not as easy as some people might think.
A service dog is very valuable because lots of time and money has gone into each one so that they are prepared for whatever the service dog world throws at them such as commands and environments.
This is why you need to jump through a few hoops before you can be given a service dog, but the details of this process differ slightly depending on where you live and the laws and regulations that are followed.
In this guide, we will walk you through how to get a service dog in Texas, including what disabilities qualify you for one, how to register for a service dog, and how to register your own dog as a service dog.
Service Dogs And Disabilities That Qualify For Them
When most people think of service dogs, their first thought goes to a guide dog which is given the task of guiding a person who suffers from vision impairment.
However, there are many different types of service dogs that are trained to help with specific disabilities, and below are just a few of the most common service dogs and the disabilities that they are used to help with.
As mentioned earlier, guide dogs are for those who suffer from vision impairment.
They are usually seen wearing a harness that has a handle attached that the person holds onto as the dog guides them around obstacles and such.
Common breeds that make good guide dogs are Labradors, golden retrievers, and German shepherds as they are intelligent and have a lot of energy which is important if they are walking around a lot.
Guide dogs must be very smart because sometimes they have to choose not to obey a command that the owner gives them. After all, it is the safest thing to do.
For example, if a blind person and their guide dog are about to cross the road and the person tells the dog to walk on, the dog will stop if there are any cars coming.
If you are deaf or are hard of hearing, then you may be entitled to a hearing dog that will alert the owner of particular noises before leading them towards it, such as the doorbell.
This allows the person to relax and know that if there is a sound that is important, they will know about it and what to do next.
Hearing dogs are not required to wear any special clothes, but most owners will put a vest on them that will make others aware that they are service dogs and should not be distracted.
Mobility Assistance Dogs
If you have problems moving around inside or outside of the home, then a mobility assurance dog can do a lot of the work for you such as fetching, turning off lights, and closing doors.
Mobility problems can be caused by genetic conditions, or by an accident, and are both qualified for having a service dog to help with if it is affecting day-to-day life.
These dogs can also be trained to brace their owners if they have problems with their balance and consist of them standing or walking beside the person as they hold onto them for support.
Some can pull their owner’s wheelchair if they are wearing a special harness.
Seizure Alert Dogs
Service dogs that are trained to help with seizures are capable of calling the ambulance with the help of a special phone for service dogs as well as other things such as moving their owner’s body into a safer position, applying pressure to the body to prevent injuries, acting as a barrier between the owner and the floor or wall, waking them up, and bringing their medication as they regain consciousness.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
If you suffer from problems such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, a service dog will be able to sense when you are about to experience a negative symptom such as a PTSD flashback or anxiety attack.
For those with bad depression, having a service dog can give them the motivation to get up in the morning because they have something to look after and take for walks which are very beneficial for mental health.
Sometimes psychiatric service dogs are mistaken for therapy or emotional support dogs but as they go through extensive training similar to guide dogs and hearing dogs, they are not considered pets and are given the same legal rights as other service dogs whereas emotional support animals are not.
Autism Service Dogs
These service dogs are usually assigned to autistic children because they can teach them about social situations and responsibilities.
A lot of autistic people also tend to connect more to animals than they do to other humans so a service dog can be a great way to give them more confidence.
Some autistic children can be prone to running away but an autistim service dog is trained to keep them from wandering and can track them down if they runoff.
If an autistic person is having a meltdown and is hurting themselves or other people, the dog can alert the parents or other carers so that it doesn’t escalate.
How To Get A Service Dog In Texas?
Before you go ahead with starting the application for a service dog, there are some standards that you must meet so that the service dog is being put into a suitable environment, these include being at least 12 years of age, having a stable home, having the capability to look after the service dog, have no other pets in the home, be enrolled in therapy, and be able to participate in any training that the dog needs.
To get a service dog in Texas, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires you to prove that you have a record of having an impairment whether it be physical or mental.
They must also know if the disability you have has had negative effects on any major life event that you have experienced such as moving house.
There are professional organizations that can provide the appropriate dog for you, but keep in mind that it can be a very lengthy process and the first dog that you are given may not be the correct match.
If this is the case it is important that you tell the company that gave it to you so that you can get given a dog that will give you the best experience.
You must have a disability that has been professionally diagnosed and some organizations will ask that you provide a letter from your physician that states the disability and how a service dog will be of benefit.
You will be asked to go through an application process which may only consist of a form or an interview with supporting documents and if that is successful, you will then be asked to visit in person for an applicant orientation day.
An application usually has a non-refundable cost of about $50.
The applicants will be given lots of information and lessons so that they can carry on the training for their service dog because it is important that the dog is trained continuously to keep the commands fresh in their minds.
They will also be taught how to act around the service dog, for example, some service dogs are best with only having one owner feed and walk them so that they stay focused on the disabled individual rather than looking to other family members.
Depending on your individual needs, the wait time for a dog can vary from days to months, to even over a year if they are finding it particularly challenging to find a dog that suits your needs.
Once you have been matched with a service dog that works for you, you can then bring it home which will take a couple of months to become fully natural and comfortable because you are still getting used to each other.
Registering Your Own Dog As A Service Dog
It is important to know that not every dog can be a service dog and it usually takes at least two years of extensive training for a dog to meet the requirements that will ensure that they are successful.
The United States of America does not require you to register your service dog, and there are only two questions that businesses are allowed to ask you legally which is asking if the dog is required due to a disability and what it is trained to do.
If they ask to see the legal registration of the service dog, remind them that you are not required to have one.
Unfortunately, some people are fooled by scam websites that say that they are legally required to register their service dog with them otherwise they are committing a crime.
These sites then charge a registration fee, so you should avoid these sites at all costs.
Do not attempt to make your dog look like a service dog by putting harnesses or equipment on them that state that they are a service dog so that you can take them into establishments that they otherwise would not be allowed in.
In the state of Texas, this is classed as a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $300 and 30 hours of community service.
To prove that your dog is a service dog, you can get it to pass the ADI public access test which is a credible service that people use to document the training that their dog has been given.
It may not be legally required, but the public access test is seen as an unofficial standard for service dogs and has some standards that your dog must meet before passing and being given a certificate.