Service animals play an extraordinarily important role in the lives of their humans, and not simply the humans that they care for on a primary basis. All people who live with, work with and care about those with service animals are helped by the unendingly positive roles these animals play.
What is the difference between a service animal and an assistance animal?
While many people automatically think of guide dogs when they hear the term “service animal,” these kinds of dogs are actually more often assistance dogs. What’s the difference, you ask? To sum it up in one word, the difference is training.
Service animals go through profoundly more training than assistance animals do. To be technically classified as a service animal, the animal must complete and adequately pass a service animal training program. These program can be between six to nine months long, and only approximately 20% of animals who enter into these programs successfully graduate to service animal status.
On the other hand, assistance animals are still very much appreciated by the people whose lives they make easier, but assistance animals may go through substantially less training or less varied training than their service animal peers. Assistance animals are, instead, trained in only one or several fields and are not as versatile in their ability to perform task.
What are some tasks these animals can perform?
As previously mentioned, service animals can perform a wide variety of tasks. People who require regular medications but tend to forget to take those prescription drugs can be reminded by their service dog. Furthermore, if the animal detects that their caregiver spontaneously begins feeling nauseous, dizzy or is in need of some other kind of medical care, it can retrieve either the person’s medication or even a phone for the person to use to call the hospital.
Other roles that are ideally played by service animals include bringing drinks to swallow medicines, providing emotional support, responding to real or imagined crisis situations, protecting the person when he or she is in potentially unsafe situations, keeping the person from psychological overload and even helping to alert medical personnel if an emergency is occurring.
Assistance animals on the other hand may be trained solely in the assistance of a hearing-disabled person, a special needs child or a wounded military veteran. Assistance animals, depending on their training and care priorities, can detect everyday sounds for their caregiver or perform helpful tasks around a home or in public.
Who is helped by service animals and assistance animals?
There are numerous types of people who utilize service and assistance animals, such as those suffering from medical conditions like arthritis, seizures, visual deficits, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and more. Service animals are also ideally suited to help veterans who are coming back to the homefront and are wounded in some way, suffering from psychological trauma or a combination of both.
KIM is one of many military-friendly programs that strive to help disabled and returning veterans get the most out of their lives back in the U.S. Service animals can be a huge resource for veterans who have special needs upon returning home.
It is, of course, important that the special needs of all of these people are able to be met by their service animals, and that’s where KIM comes in.
Keeping service and assistance animals healthy
The bond between human and animal is one of the reasons it’s so critical for the animal to remain healthy at all times. An organization like KIM provides mobile veterinary care to service and assistance animals whose caregivers might not be able to afford to get them care, or might not be able to get them to a veterinary clinic.
By bringing medical care to the animals at their caregiver’s home, veterinarians at KIM can ensure that the animals are able to continue caring for their humans effectively, as well as alleviate any mental stress felt by caregivers about their service animal being unwell.
For those living with people who are benefited by their service or assistance animal’s presence and work, the animals become just as much family as the individual being cared for. Thus, the longer these working animals can be kept in tip-top shape, the better for everyone involved. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do as well.
If you’re interested in doing your part to help the service animals in your area, KIM would very much appreciate your support in their current fundraiser. And don’t forget that you can always voice your support on Kindred Canines in Motion’s social media pages!