A core individual freedom is a one’s natural right to make decisions affecting his or her health or body. This freedom is an integral part of the dignity and control for persons with disabilities as well. One of the major goals of the Disability Rights movement is that each person with a disability has the right to self-determination – free from the patriarchal attitudes of the “able-bodied”. This right to make medical decisions extends not only to traditional forms of medicine, but also to alternative treatments that assists a person with daily life activities — whether these activities are physical, sensory, psychological or social. More and more people with disabilities are using animal companionship and assistance to help them with their daily lives. DIG is creating a new project to address the needs of people with disabilities who would like to use service animals or emotional support animals. The project is called “Animal Partners”.
If you go to justdigit.org, and read our newsletter or look at our blog at justdigitlaw.wordpress.com, you will meet Deborah Fischer, who uses a service dog, Sorenson, to assist her due to her multiple sclerosis. You will also meet Anthony Merchante, a six year old boy, who uses a seizure alert and protect dog, Stevie. Last month’s newsletter contained the fight of U.S. Air Force veteran, Ajit Bhogaita, to keep his dog, Kane, at his home to assist him in coping with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Using animals as a component of therapy has long been recognize to cause significant improvements in cognition, social interaction and physical skills for persons with disabilities. Not only may an animal assist in physical activity, it also builds an emotional connection between a person and an animal promotes release of the neurohormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is responsible for inducing feelings of love and trust and is strongly implicated in pair bonding. For the past few years, more and more people with disabilities have chosen to enhance their lives and their condition by using animals as components of their care and lifestyle. This ranges from the elderly person that has depression or Alzheimer’s, a veteran that suffers from PTSD, an autistic child that needs a companion animal to become socially interactive, to an epileptic person that needs a seizure alert dog.
The law may allow people to have their service or emotional support animals in many public and private areas, however, many employers, or housing providers do not understand the law and they just automatically deny people with disabilities the right to have their animals. On the other hand, people with disabilities often do not know what is required to have a service dog, and the limitations of having an emotional support dog or a service dog. “Animal Partners” will attempt to present the law and requirements in a user-friendly manner so people will understand the rights and responsibilities relating to assistance animals. “Animal Partners” has a two pronged mission.
- First, to legitimize a person with a disability’s choice to have an assistance animal and to provide information of value and tools so that a person with a disability can by empowered to make an informed choice.
- Second, to make our community to be a kind and civilized place where it is acceptable for people with disabilities to feel comfortable and welcome with their assistance animals.
We hope you friend our “Animal Partners” Facebook site, visit the webpage at justdigit.org, and sign up!