Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2020

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Ta k e 5 a n d t r y A B M P F i v e - M i n u t e M u s c l e s a t w w w. a b m p . c o m / f i v e - m i n u t e - m u s c l e s . 85 a s the use of service animals increases, you will likely encounter clients who rely on them to support their health and well-being. Understanding the laws, etiquette, and considerations regarding these canine partners will prepare you for treating clients who rely on them—while also building their trust in you. What is a Service Animal? According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform a task (or tasks) for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals. 1 The ADA also defines service animals as working animals, not pets. As such, service animals are allowed in stores, restaurants, medical facilities, and many other locations that are generally off-limits to animals. This exception is not because the canine is a service dog, but because the canine is assisting a person with a disability. If the dog were alone, without its handler, it would be considered a pet and would not be allowed in unauthorized areas. Service Animals vs. ESAs vs. Therapy Dogs As discussed, service animals are dogs (and, in some cases, miniature horses) trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a disabled individual, and are protected under the ADA. On the other hand, a dog whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support to its owner does not qualify as a service animal under the ADA. 2 Instead, this canine would be considered an emotional support animal (ESA), because it is not trained to perform a specific job or task. One caveat: Do not confuse a service dog that is trained to sense anxiety attacks and to take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact (such as handlers with PTSD) as an emotional support dog. Therapy dogs are different than ESAs in the sense that they typically do have training and/or temperament requirements, although they are not necessarily expected to perform specific tasks. Therapy dogs are also excluded from ADA protection. But, while the ADA does not protect ESAs or therapy dogs, each can be found in typical "no pet" areas, including hospitals, airports, clinics, stores, restaurants, etc., doing "work" and providing comfort. Caring for Clients with Service Dogs Preparation is Key Prepare for your appointment in advance, especially with a new client who has a service dog. Keep your questions simple when doing the initial client intake, but remember to ask if there is anything you need to know about interacting with them and their service dog. This way, you can work as a team. Also, consider potential barriers for your client and their canine. Will the waiting room be an issue? Will other clients be too curious or will they be uncomfortable waiting in the same lobby with an animal? Ignore the Dog (It's Not Rude) When caring for a client with a service dog, remember the dog is trained to assist your client (the handler) only and should not be touched without the handler's permission. Do not focus too much attention on the dog or interfere with its focus by talking to it or petting it. It is best to ignore the dog completely—and it is not considered rude. A handler's service dog is considered medical equipment and should be respected as such. Keep in mind, too, that your client may be sensitive to questions about their disability, their service dog, or both. Just like working with any other client, don't ask personal, unnecessary questions before client rapport is established. Many handlers are quite sensitive to others interfering with their service dog. Know the Rules Provide Equal Treatment Clients with service dogs may not be isolated from others, treated less favorably than other clients, or charged additional fees because of their canine companion. Additionally, the ADA says that service If a service dog tries to get your attention, respond. Many service dogs are trained to alert others in an emergency. You may be called upon by the canine to alert a family member, activate an alarm, or dial 911. If the service dog approaches you and is barking, attempting to get you to follow, etc., please pay attention. You may just save a life.

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