HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTION: Can it prevent disease?

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By: Sharon LangerDog paw print

In the past 20 years there have been many studies conducted that measured the therapeutic value of human-animal interaction. A companion animal may reduce anxiety, loneliness, and depression and thus delay the onset, decrease severity, or even slow the progression of stress-related conditions. Pets can stimulate someone to exercise, provide social support, and can help someone socialize in a group setting. They can be our therapists as well as our companions. Pets have been shown to be a source of tactile comfort by increasing sensory stimulation while decreasing blood pressure and heart rate.

In 1990, the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction organizations was founded to gather together national associations and related organizations interested in advancing the understanding and appreciation of H-A interaction. This organization has been officially designated as a working partner of WHO-The World Health Organization.

The Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition, in England, gave a $2 million grant to the Eunice Shriver national Institute of Child Health and Human Development to research further H-A interaction to specifically study on a larger scale how children perceive, relate to and think about animals and how pets in the home impact children’s social and emotional development.

If you have read this far into this article, I suspect you are an animal lover who already understands the power they bring to the human condition. I find it interesting that this power is actually being scientifically tested, and the results should help those of us who work with and for animals to make our case to the rest of the community.

A note from Matt….

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This Month, DIG achieved a major victory by ensuring that a student with a disability is permitted to have a service animal in schMax and Matt sitting at Florida State University.ool.  The Court upheld the tenet that a person with a disability has a fundamental right to the accommodation of that person’s choice.  That choice, as long as it is reasonable, cannot  be taken from that person by the government, housing provider, or employer.  In February, our newsletter will focus on the use of alternative accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Litigation: Pledger v. SAS Transportation

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By: Matthew Dietz

Litigation – Pledger v. SAS Transportation

Jeff and Suzanne Pledger love to go on cruises. Jeff is blind and Mr. Pledger and his guide dog Joelle he uses a guide dog named Joelle. As an advocate for persons with visual impairment, Jeff is the past President of Verizon’s Disabilities Issues Awareness Leaders (DIAL), which provides support and resources to Verizon’s employees with disabilities. As part of his accomplishments, he was part of the task force to develop the 1996 Telecommunications Act. This Act provided many benefits to people with disabilities. For example, this work force was instrumental in developing cell phones that are easier to use by people who have low vision and hearing loss.

Jeff and Suzanne have been on a number of cruises, and on January 13, 2014, they flew into the Ft. Lauderdale Airport for a five day cruise departing out of the Port of Miami. Prior to the flight, the Pledgers contacted SAS Transportation, Inc. for transportation to the cruise ship and, as a courtesy, they disclosed to the transportation company that there would be a service dog included in the requested trip.

The owner of the transportation services declined the transportation request because there is no room on the vehicle for a service dog and it would make other passengers uncomfortable. He suggested they would need to arrange a private shuttle.  The Pledgers attempted to educate the owner of SAS regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and state statutes requiring equal access to individuals with disabilities with service dogs, but the owner would not bend, and wrote back:

“I respectfully decline your request as my vans are not set for animals even service dogs and with how heavily reserved we are and the vans being full it is not in the best interest of my vehicle to transport your request. I apologize but I do have the choice if I decide to turn down a request especially if I feel the situation is uncomfortable for all of my passengers. There is just no room for a dog in the shuttle vans because our vans are full and the vans have no extra room for a dog.”

The Pledgers requested assistance from Disability Rights Florida, Florida’s federally-mandated protection and advocacy system that provides legal and other services to persons with disabilities. An advocate reached out to the owner and attempted to educate on the requirements of the ADA, but again was ignored.

On June 17, 2014, Disability Independence Group joined Disability Rights Florida to sue SAS Transportation on behalf of Jeffrey Pledger to ensure that SAS Transportation would not discriminate against persons who use service dogs, and just four months later, obtained a settlement agreement that ensured adequate policies, training, and notice to customers that SAS was going to allow persons with service dogs to travel in their vehicles.

Flying with your Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal

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All Air Carriers are legally required to allow both emotional support animals and service animals on flights without charge. However, it is always good to review the requirements for service animals for your particular airline, and whether there are any conditions that need to be met. In addition, some international destinations and Hawaii provide additional qualifications for transportation of any animal.

TSA Checkpoints

Upon arrival at the TSA checkpoint, advise the officer that your animal is a service animal. At that time, you can use the disability or family lane to expedite the screening process. If the passenger and service dog are screened by a metal detector, they can proceed one of three ways:

  • The passenger can walk through first with the animal following behind on its leash;
  • The animal can walk through first on its leash with the passenger following behind; or
  • The passenger and dog can walk through at the same time. If the passenger and the dog walk through at the same time and the metal detector alarms, both the passenger and dog are subject to additional screening, including a thorough pat down.

Airlines

Where does the dog go in the airplane?

When making reservations, a passenger with a disability can request either a bulkhead seat or a seat other than a bulkhead seat. A dog or other service animal may accompany a passenger with a disability to the passenger’s assigned seat and remain there as long as the animal does not obstruct the aisle or other areas that must remain unobstructed for safety reasons. If a service Bulldog lounging on a leather airplane seat with the dog's leash in the hand of a woman in a purple dressanimal cannot be accommodated at the seat of the passenger with a disability and if there is another seat in the same class of service where the passenger and the animal can be accommodated, an airline must offer the passenger the opportunity to move to the other seat with the service animal. Switching seats in the same class of service must be explored as an alternative before requiring that the service animal travel in the cargo compartment. However, if the service animal’s behavior in a public setting is inappropriate or disruptive to other passengers or carrier personnel, an airline may refuse to permit the animal on the flight or offer the passenger alternative accommodations such as accepting the animal for carriage in the cargo hold.

Is it required to give advance notice?

It is not required under the law to provide advance notice if you are traveling with a service animal. However, in order to guarantee your seat assignment, you should be aware that, depending on whether the carrier provides advance seat assignments and the type of seating method it uses, it may have a policy requiring passengers with a disability (i) to request a particular seat assignment 24 hours in advance of the departure of the flight or (ii) to check in at least an hour before the departure of the flight.DOG

What proof is necessary to prove that the animal is a service or emotional support animal?

For a service animal who’s use is not obvious, as with any public accommodation, the airline agent may ask (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. According to DOT regulations, an airline must accept the following as evidence that the animal is indeed a service animal: (1) the credible verbal assurances of a passenger with a disability using the animal, the presence of harnesses or markings on harnesses, tags, or identification cards or other written documentation.

For emotional support animals, the documentation required is different, and most airlines require current documentation (i.e., dated within a year of the date of travel) from a mental-health professional stating that: (1) the passenger has a mental health-related disability; the passenger needs the animal for the mental-health condition; and the provider of the letter is a licensed mental-health professional (or a medical doctor) and the passenger is under the individual’s professional care. Most airlines have specific forms that are found on their website.

How do you get problems resolved – the Complaints Resolution Official

Each Air Carrier has designated at least one Complaint Resolution Official under the Air Carrier Access Act to handle disability-related matters at each airport that carrier serves. Each CRO must be trained and thoroughly proficient with respect to the rights of passengers with disabilities under the ACAA and accompanying regulations. Whenever there is any disability related problem involving an air carrier, the first person to request is the airlines CRO, and the CRO has the ability to resolve the complaint. If the CRO does not resolve the situation or take a complaint, the Department of Transportation has an aviation consumer disability hotline for resolving issues related to disability accommodations. The toll-free number for the hotline is 1-800-778-4838 (voice) and 1-800-455-9880 (TTY).

References for specific Airlines

  1. United Airlines: http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/specialneeds/disabilities/assistance_animals.aspx
  2. American Airlines – http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/specialAssistance/serviceAnimals.jsp
  3. US Airways – http://www.usairways.com/en-US/traveltools/specialneeds/animals.html
  4. Delta Airlines – http://www.delta.com/content/www/en_US/traveling-with-us/special-travel-needs/disabilities/service-animals.html
  5. Alaska Airlines – http://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/accessible-services/specialservices-support-animals.aspx
  6. JetBlue – http://help.jetblue.com/SRVS/CGI-BIN/webisapi.dll?New,Kb=askBlue,case=obj%281095%29
  7. Southwest Airlines – https://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/unique-travel-needs/customers-with-disabilities-pol.html#unique_travel_needs_allergies_disabilities_pol_tab_list_tab_10

Department of Transportation FAA regulations regarding service animals- http://airconsumer.dot.gov/rules/20030509.pdf

TSA for service animals and monkey helpers – http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/service-animals

Cruising with your Service dog

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US Navy dog with a sailors hat onDogs have long been the companion of our U.S. Navy Sailors on vessels for their ability to build morale. In the early days, dogs often served a more practical function by leading patrols onto foreign shores to search for food and warn of any dangers lurking out of eyesight. Now, most cruise ships allow service animals on board their ships. While service animals are permitted, emotional support animals or pets are not.

At the time of reservation, you should advise the disability Sailor feeding a dog on board of a navy shipservices office of any disability related needs or accommodations, such as a service animal. Most ships designated relief areas with cypress mulch, paper pellets or sod to accommodate service dogs. The ships are not required to provide food or care for the dog, so you may need to bring your own dog food on board. Many of the ports you may visit will only accept annual rabies vaccinations; however, it is a good idea to research the requirements needed at each port. If the service animal does not have the required vaccinations or documentation the service animal not be able to disembark.

Have Dog – Will Travel

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How to travel with your service or emotional support animal

For many, travelling without their service animals or Jack Russell Terrier sitting holding a stick with a bindle (also known as a hobo stick)emotional support animal is not an option. However, in many cases, the concern and fear of being denied access is enough to keep some from traveling with their animal.

Basic Facts:

  • There is no certification, registration, or official license for a service animal.   A service animal is a dog or a miniature horse that is individually trained to assist a person with a disability. Since there are many different types of disabilities and tasks that a service animal may do, there are no generally recognized license for a “service animal”.
  • An emotional support animal is not a service animal. An emotional support animal is any animal that lessens the effects of a psychological disability. Any mammal, reptile, fish, or bird can be an emotional support animal.
  • A dog that is specifically trained to do tasks for a person with a psychiatric disability is a service dog.
  • Service Animals are generally allowed in public accommodations or governmental facilities; however, public accommodations and governmental facilities are not required to permit emotional support animals admission into their facilities.
  • When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Two questions may be asked: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.
  • A business may not ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
  • While there is no official standards for training of service animals, Assistance Dogs International, a coalition of not for profit assistance dog organizations, has developed suggested standards for the type of obedience and specialized training recommended for service animals.

The Goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act is “to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency” for individuals with disabilities. The right to travel with one’s service animal is critical to achieving these goals.

Paws in the Court

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Paws in the Court

11th Judicial Circuit of FL andDog paw print

Children’s Courthouse & Juvenile Justice Ctr

This project is a collaboration between the Humane Society, Volunteers, Court Teams and Administrative Office of the Courts. This project will provide victims and witnesses comfort and reassurance during court appearances including depositions and trials. Research has shown that interaction with pet therapy has helped many persons by reducing anxiety, providing comfort and a calming presence so that the victim or witness can testify; reduce apprehension or fear of the court process especially when testifying against an alleged abuser, as well as assist in the healing process. To meet the dogs click here.

Kiddle’s Ordinance

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By: Matthew Dietz

On July 6, 2014, Nancy Alfonso’s worst nightmare occurred while she was having lunch at a restaurant in Doral with her friend Luz Rosenthal. Nancy’s guide dog Kiddle and Luz’s guide dog Chelsea were with the friends, when Kiddle became violently ill and started vomiting inside the restaurant. An emergency veterinarian was about a mile away, and no one would help.

The restaurant called 911, but they did not assist animals. An off-duty police officer was at the restaurant and would not help. He said, “Ah – it’s a dog” and went back to his seat. Forty-five minutes passed before a Good Samaritan drove Kiddle to the vet. Unfortunately, it was too late, and Kiddle died.

NBC Miami http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/911-Call-Shows-Paralyzed-System-When-Service-Dog-Needed-Help-267721061.html covered this tragedy, and everyone wanted to know what could be done. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people, not animals, no matter how much that animal is part of a team leading to independence. As part of the report, Disability Independence Group was called as the “disability expert.” However, instead of saying nothing could be done, Matthew Dietz wrote an ordinance for the City of Doral so a first responder would have a duty to assist and drive a service animal to an emergency veterinarian when the person
with a disability does not have transportation. He called it “Kiddle’s
Ordinance” in memory of Nancy Alfonso’s dog.
Luz Rosenfeld, who advocates for the visually impaired through her
organization, Fundación para Invidentes https://www.facebook.com/FundaInvidente/timeline?ref=page_internal, is active in community life in the City of Doral. She contacted her city commissioners, and immediately Vice Mayor Christi Fraga sponsored the ordinance, and Doral Mayor Luigi Boria proposed it. Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera would like to go further and proposed to add to this ordinance an ADA Police Sensitivity Training Program and a Responsible Vendor Program, so Doral businesses and restaurants will(?) welcome service animals at their establishments.
Although Kiddle’s Ordinance is still in discussion, it looks favorable
that it will pass, and the City of Doral, Florida will be in the forefront of ensuring that its community is welcoming to persons who use service animals.