15 October 2013

This Blog Is Closing

I am stopping this blog. I have enjoyed some of the topics and comments to them. I have really appreciated the emails and wish to thank those people. I will continue working with the mobility dog trainer as I am able.

It is a shame for all the service dog fraud that is happening, but I can only advise people to write their congressional members and express their displeasure. I have done this for the last year, but it has not yielded any response. I cannot deal with the negative stories and constant fraud articles. I see enough of that happening in my own small town from people with their “comfort” dogs. I have never seen so many ill tempered pets and know of a few that have been bitten by these “comfort” dogs. One grocery store has evicted several of these “comfort” dogs and they return with “fake” documents all the time.

Service dogs in the public places are supposed to be trained to be silent generally and not cause a nuisance to people round them.

I will keep my blog here up and operating as long as I am able.  I may publish a few service dog blogs there.


14 October 2013

Too Much Service Dog Fraud

In many of the articles, I have been reading lately about service dogs, I see too much service dog fraud being foisted on the American public. This summer, I had a couple of days that I spent with the trainer of mobility service dogs. He was working on the good citizen's phase with two dogs so that they would be ready for placement with people needing mobility service dogs.

What does this mean? It means training the dog to behave in public, not to bark or misbehave when in the public or in stores. Yes, they are taught when to bark if their owner goes down or becomes unable to get up if the wheel chair is tipped over.

Because this is still training, my friend has always had a good relation with the police and other law enforcement agencies and always alerts them when he will be in town doing training. The first day, the storeowner was happy to see him and asked what the second dog was doing. He introduced me and stated I was his assistant and had worked with him for two years on and off. In looking around the store, I noticed that there were two levels and two steps up to the second level.

When I mentioned this to the storeowner, he asked me to come with him. From a storage closet, he removed a ramp and showed me the two hooks on one end and said to watch while he put the ramp in place. My friend said he knew of this and told the storeowner that the next day he would be back with two possible matches for the dogs and one of them would be in a wheel chair. The storeowner said they would follow normal procedures as they had in the past and use the wider and slightly longer ramp. My friend said you have a longer ramp? The storeowner then put the one ramp back and removed the second ramp and put it in place. He then explained that because of its length, it would need to be raised and lowered because it would block the nearest isle and he did not want people to fall over it. He said that all of his clerks knew how to use it and one would be around to assist during the visit.

While we had been watching, three teenage boys had been moving closer to us. The storeowner asked them what he could do for them. One of them said for us to move away from the dogs as they should not be in the store and they were going to remove them. The storeowner said that the dogs were in training and were allowed in the store. The loudest boy said he was tired to seeing dogs allowed in shops, restaurants, and other places around town and he was going to put a stop to this.

The storeowner quietly said for them to put the guns away. He had seen one of the city police enter the store and that he had moved up behind the three boys. He then spoke up and told the boys to put their weapons on the floor and back up toward his voice. Two of them did, but the loudest boy was not going to and started to turn with the weapon in his hand. My friend said one word, drop, and the storeowner, my friend, and I dropped to the floor. The two dogs dropped at the same time, but I could tell they were ready for action if called on.

The boy turned to see what had happened and the policeman collared him and took the weapon away in one quick move. Then the policeman asked for back up to escort the boys to jail. He used his handcuffs for the loudest one and when two other city police arrived, the other two were handcuffed and taken out of the store. The storeowner said the loudest was the ringleader and would probably spend some time locked up.

I asked if there was hope for the other two and the storeowner said he hoped so and would be considering this in court. I asked if it would be possible for the two to be on hand to watch the dogs in action the next day as we moved around town and in and out of different businesses. My friend said it may be worth the effort to walk over to city hall and the police office and talk to them. The storeowner wished us luck and we left.

The police chief was not impressed with our proposal, but did talk to a couple of the police for their opinion. Both stated this may be good for the two boys, but not the third as he and his dad were troublemakers in the town. The two boys had already stated that the son of the gun storeowner had supplied the weapons they had.

The chief asked what time we would be there and then told the two policemen to make sure they had time to spare as they were assigned to be with the boys. The next day we were ready for trouble and had warned the police of this before we even started. The Chief put two others on what we had suggested and they did catch the loud boy's father before he could do the damage we had suspected. He had positioned himself along the route we would be traveling and was standing with a weapon ready to kill one or both dogs.

When we completed the day, both boys were impressed and asking questions. They knew one of the clients for one of the dogs and were surprised how well they worked together and most of the questions were directed to her. They asked if she would be coming back to school and she disappointed them by saying that the dog may be strong, but not for three flights of stairs at their school. She would be required to attend a school with no flights of stairs. Then she dropped the bomb on them when she said she would be ready to testify against and gave the loud boy's name. One finally got his voice back and asked if he was the one that caused her to need a wheel chair. Yes, was her answer and I said that maybe his father was looking for her as well.

With that, the two boys were back in custody and we were on our way back to my friend's farm. My friend recounted the events of the previous day and why the two boys were there today. The girl said she felt very comfortable with her dog and the other person said he was not and that maybe he should wait for a larger dog. My friend agreed and thought both had made good choices.

As much as I have enjoyed this blog, there will be no more posts because of all the fraud happening in the service dog world. When and if the people responsible act to put penalties and some other actions into place to prevent this, I find no joy in promoting the service dog world. I am tired to seeing “comfort dogs” in grocery stores and other places just because people feel that fake documents allow them to take poor behaving pets in stores where pets are normally not allowed. There are just too many places on the internet making all sorts of fake documents available.

Thank you for reading, and good-bye.

03 September 2013

Wikipedia Definition of Service Dog

Occasionally there is a need to look at the Wikipedia pages, but when something is so grossly in error, I have to wonder why I looked. Why you ask? When a breed of dogs that the homeowner's insurance in most states will not cover, you need to be concerned. In the second paragraph, there is a list of dogs often trained for use by service dog organizations. This statement, “And in recent years American Pit Bull Terriers are the most common breeds used as service dogs”, should be considered an error as by their very nature, few have the temperament to serve as service dogs and I would not even consider working around the pit bull breed.

I have talked to several insurance agents locally and asked about whether the insurance companies they represented would cover pit bull terrier dogs on homeowner insurance or even renter insurance. Every one declared that no; the pit bull terriers would not be covered. I also know from my own experiences with several individuals that do own them that the temperament is not reliable. One family swore they trusted their pit bull, but about three years ago, the dog took quite a bite out of their son's face. At the time, the police seized the dog and put him down. The courts have now decided that the police did the right thing.

The list of dogs many insurance companies will not cover is growing and even a couple of breeds/mixed breeds used for mobility service dogs are now on the list of at least one insurance company. It is mainly because of their size and the damage they can do in some stores that has earned them the notoriety.

Therefore, I can only urge people contemplating a service dog to check with their insurance company to find out if the breed/mixed breed they are considering is covered.

Dogs should have desirable character traits, especially good temperament or psychological make-up and good health. Dogs should be matched to the task for which they are trained. Therefore, a Dachshund or a Beagle would not be selected as a mobility service dog, but a Newfoundland or a Saint Bernard would make an excellent mobility service dog. This is a good site to search for a breed and then look up each breed individually to discover the health problems with that breed.

Most dog breeds or mix of breeds are capable of being some type of service dog, but most are eliminated because they do not have the health qualifications or temperament qualities needed.

26 August 2013

Diabetes Service Dogs Work

Dr. Bill Quick seems to have passed on this study. Maybe this is because the study was done in the UK and is reporting positive results. I had to put in this dig, but Dr. Quick is a scientific minded person and has no time for things research has not proven. Whether this is a strength or a weakness depends on your beliefs as well.

Having observed diabetes service dogs in action and having one alert on me while visiting a person with a diabetes alert dog, leaves no doubt in my mind that a properly trained diabetes service dog is capable of being another tool for those that need this assistance. I have read about diabetes service dogs that were not properly trained and a State of Missouri lawsuit against a seller that was not selling properly training dogs.

The study was published in PLOS ONE. Unfortunately, the issue date is not given, but some research located it. The full abstract and study may be read here. As stated, this study is the first of its kind. It analyzes whether trained dogs can accurately and consistently serve as an early-warning system.

Seventeen dogs trained by Medical Detection Dogs, a UK charity that works with researchers and universities and trains dogs for several medical diseases. In this study, the researchers collected data from the owners to analyze whether the dogs were accurately able to respond to their hypoglycemic levels. They also checked whether the owners experienced better blood glucose management.

The results show that all 17 owners reported positive outcomes, including: Fewer paramedic calls, fewer unconscious episodes, and improved independence. “Lead author Dr. Nicola Rooney says: "Despite considerable resources having been invested in developing electronic systems to facilitate tightened glycemic control, current equipment has numerous limitations."

"These findings are important as they show the value of trained dogs and demonstrate that 'glycemia alert dogs' placed with clients living with diabetes, afford significant improvements to owner well-being, including increased glycemic control, client independence and quality-of-life, and potentially could reduce the costs of long-term health care."

The important point of the study is that it confirms that trained detection dogs perform better than the chance level, meaning the level that would be expected if random choices were made. The amusing fact it that as of yet, no one can figure how the dogs are able top detect the change since an odor, sweat, or breath has been detected, except by the dogs.

Dr. Nicola Rooney does state that further research is needed. Of course, they want to see if they can determine how the dogs are able to this. Most previous studies focused on hypoglycemia only, but this study also considered hyperglycemia. Some dogs had started to alert at times of high blood glucose. This was important to the researchers because this meant that there was less time between highs and lows. Therefore, the researchers check the medical records from before and after dog allocation.

The types of dogs in the study included six Labrador Retrievers (LR), one Golden Retriever (GR), two LR/GR cross, one Poodle, one Collie Cross, two Labradoodles, one Lurcher, one Cocker Spaniel and one Yorkshire Terrier.

03 June 2013

Can Therapy Dogs Help Kids With Autism?

ASDA (Autism Service Dogs of America) was founded in 2002 by Priscilla Taylor. Incorporating her love of dogs and her background as a special education teacher, she formed this non-profit, community-based organization to aid special children. While many service dog agencies existed to meet diverse needs, none provided specially trained dogs for children with autism. Ms. Taylor, Founder and Director of ASDA, received some of her education at Assistance Dog Institute, the only institution of higher education for dog studies in the world. The ASDA was not part of this study, but I felt it should be included to give more meaning.

While ASDA may be a great organization, their advocacy of having autism service dogs for parents to enjoy an evening out while leaving the child at home tethered to a service dog seems like cruel and unusual punishment and an abandonment of their responsibility as parents. I can only hope that they hired a baby sitter as well. If not then I feel there is something wrong happening here.

Service dogs for autism provide a physical and emotional anchor for children with autism. When out in the community, a service dog can increase safety and make families feel secure. In many cases, the service dog accompanies the child to school, where its calming presence can minimize and often eliminate emotional outbursts, enabling the child to participate in his or her school day. Transitioning among school day activities is eased and the service dog provides a focus through which the child can interact with other children. This helps increase the opportunity for the child to develop social and language skills.

Even though the above is promoted and stated by ASDA, I know what has happened around the country with other service dogs. I am wondering if an adult is not required for supervision of the dog in the classroom and at the school. Many school districts have prevented service dogs in the school until the age of 14 to 16 unless accompanied by an adult.

I will give ASDA credit for stating that not every child with autism will benefit from a service dog. The do say that they screen and evaluate each situation to have a goal that ensures a successful match of the child, the family, and the dog. Because of the successes that have been achieved, demand for specialized service dogs for autism is growing rapidly. Under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are no exceptions to where a service dog is allowed; all public places must allow access. It is important however that the child’s school be cooperative. ASDA will not place dogs with children whose school will not allow a service dog. As least they did acknowledge this.

I can be appreciative of the fact that the ASDA wants dogs that have reached adulthood and be fully trained first. It is also important to remember that while the dog will probably become a trusted member or your family, its purpose is as a service animal, not a pet. I do like that they have a socialization and training program from eight weeks of age, and then graduate to the advanced training at approximately 18 weeks of age.

From my experience of being with a trainer of mobility dogs, I know how important the advanced training is and most of the steps involved. The dogs accompany the trainer to various locations, schools, classrooms, and public places. During this time the dogs are being trained in public access skills, socialization skills, and other skills they will need as a service dog for the special challenges of autism. Upon passing the public access test, the dogs will be matched with a child and family from the waiting list.

13 May 2013

NZ Soon Will Have Diabetes Response Dog

This has taken me awhile to check out, but it is for real and New Zealand will shortly have its first trained diabetes response dog. Service dogs are not new to New Zealand, but there are dogs for the blind, hearing impaired, and for mobility or disability assistance.

In researching the topic of service dogs in New Zealand, I found out that they have dogs for security, police dogs, and other service dogs. New Zealand is up front in their rules and regulations more than the USA and very clear about who is in charge and the procedures to be followed. The USA is obtuse and too lenient with their regulations. There are rules for flying on New Zealand's airlines, for entering the country (importing) your service dog and what must be done beforehand.

The dogs for diabetes resulted after Merenia Donne was injured in a serious car accident. She established a charity to train disability assistance dogs because her dog saved her life by pulling her from the wreckage. The charity, “the Kotuku Foundation Assistance Animals Aotearoa has been training dogs to help people deal with a range of conditions including agoraphobia, autism, OCD and Parkinson's.”

The Kotuku Foundation Assistance Animals Aotearoa is not yet reflected on the list of approved organizations for certifying service dogs, but this does not mean it may not be approved. This New Zealand government website lists the regulations for assistance dogs. Once trained, two-year-old German shepherd 'Uni' will be able to smell abnormal blood sugar levels.

Merenia Donne said in talking about characteristics for a diabetic response dog, “What you look for is a dog that's a very busy dog and a dog that likes to use its nose. So they're are little bit a kin to training a dog for drug detection, and explosives and various other things like...search and rescue dogs, so the training follows some of the principles. You need a dog that's willing and happy to use its nose all day everyday, but in doing so, to focus just on that one very important key sense."

Ms Donne says the dog can then take steps to alert the person or seek assistance.
"They will have a rubber rod or a toy that hangs from their collar and they're taught to grasp it as they sense a change in blood chemistry," she said. "That it will give a clear signal to the person who's beginning to go into a hypoglycaemic event. If it's progressed beyond that point, and the person is incoherent...then what the dog is also trained to do is to push an alarm button or to go and find someone."

Ms Donne says 'Uni' is in the final six-months of training - a process which costs around $NZ50,000 or USD equivalent of $41,455.

Some links that may be interesting about service dogs in New Zealand -

17 January 2012

Service Dogs Have Rights Too!

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is getting action done when places feel they can ride roughshod over people with service dogs. This time St. Edward Mercy Medical Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas was caught in the cross hairs of the US Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

Few details are made known, but the medical center does have to establish non-discrimination policies. This means teaching its staff and program participants of the policies and training them on their obligations to provide these services without discrimination to qualified persons with disabilities. Staff must receive training specific for permitting service animals into its facility in accordance with Section 504.

People in the USA that believe an entity receiving federal financial assistance has discriminated against them or someone else on the basis of a disability may file a complaint with the OCR. Guidance for filing the complaint can be found here.

By bringing this action, HHS has shown that it will enforce Section 504 and ensure access to health care. Service animals are used by people that have different disabilities and must be allowed to accompany people with disabilities. Many places do try to limit their access and more will face problems.

Section 504 provides that any entity may not limit access to service animals and prevents places from denying access just because the individual does not produce a tag or other documentation about the service animal. This also applies to what tasks the animal performs, veterinarian's health certificate, or other documentation about the animal's health.

Other entities must take heed from this settlement and be prepared to allow service animals for people with disabilities. Read the press release from HHS here.

15 December 2011

Dogs for Diabetes

I was surprised to see this article in Diabetes Health as I have tried in the past to get information from Dogs for Diabetes, and have been totally ignored. I have had short communications with a couple of clients of Dogs for Diabetes (D4D) and both seemed very pleased with their service dog from D4D.

Generally if something seems too good to be true, it is. I am not sure about this trainer and the conditions outlined in this article. There may be good reasons to limit the area in which you will serve clients, but when excellent trainers can train from coast to coast, I have some concerns.

I have assisted a mobility dog trainer here in Iowa and he has dogs all over the Midwest. The dogs are well trained for serving the person and the person is trained to keep training up-to-date and refresh the dog on a regular basis. He is available for communications with clients and is always willing to take a dog back if a client becomes unable to use the dog. He has two periods during the year for anyone wanting to come back with his or her dog for refresher training.

Whether I am misunderstanding the meaning of what Mark is saying, or I have been taught differently, I cannot say. I think Mark misspoke in the following statement in response to Nadia's question. “Training a dog to provide an alert to a potentially life-threatening condition is a serious matter. It requires a clear understanding of the medical condition, as well as of dog behavior and training skills. Dogs have been known to assist their close human companions spontaneously, but the anecdotal information does not prove that it is due to scent recognition, or empathy the dog may feel from the onset of serious symptoms. Scent training has the potential to provide an alert prior to the onset of the condition, while in these cases the dog's recognition of symptoms is a reaction after the condition is present.

The bold is my emphasis and the part I dispute. Yes, in a few instances, Mark is correct, but the dogs that I have witnessed that have been self-trained, generally alert to the onset of the condition, and not after the condition is present. I think it has to do with the service dog owner and the dedication to training. If the owner is not dedicated to the training, I can see Mark's situation being a fact. However, I will not make a blanket statement like Mark, as there are too many variables.

I am glad the rules they have established work for them. I have been told that the age of 12 should be the lower limit and most trainers try for 16 years of age, but will work with lower ages depending on the person and the dog. Some dogs trainers use are smaller dogs that do not weigh as much. Those in the mobility area are often much heavier and most trainers will not work with person younger than 16. The trainer I am familiar with has only made two exceptions in almost 20 years. One was 14 and the other was 12. Both already had the dogs of choice and had a good working relationship with the dog.

The guideline for having diabetes for one year sounds reasonable. I know that many organizations prefer that the person have type 1 diabetes and have hypoglycemia unawareness to be considered, but not in all cases. I am not aware of people with type 2 diabetes being eligible for diabetes service dogs from most organizations.

This has to be the exception to most diabetes service dog placement agencies. This seems unsustainable. Nadia: What are the fees associated with getting a service dog? Susan: A D4D service dog is valued at approximately $35,000 to $45,000 by the time it's placed with its diabetic team partner. The total cost to the person with diabetes for a dog currently is $150, which covers an application processing fee and training supply costs.” I also wonder if there are other costs not mentioned.

Susan is correct in her following statement and it is a shame that a few of these businesses are not exposed for the frauds they are. Susan: There's a growing number of organizations, as well as trainers, claiming to provide service dogs to assist people with diabetes. Some are successful, while many others are not. Training methodology, client services, including client training, follow-up and continuing care, and costs-up to $50,000 a dog-create a confusing variation in outcomes. At times there have been disturbing misrepresentations in the industry, resulting in broken promises to consumers. D4D's goal as an industry leader is to leverage its expertise to set and maintain standards and educate the public.”

I wish them success. I just hope that they would have included more information on their web site. It is there, but the information is minimal at best.