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How to recognize an official service animal

Posted at 11:33 AM, Feb 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 11:14:38-05

Saturday at Fetch Pet Boutique in Great Falls, the Big Sky Chapter of Canine Companions for Independence held a seminar to help people distinguish between different types of support dogs.

Canine Companions for Independence Volunteer Chapter President, Kim Monroe, said this seminar was 4 months-in-the-making and served as a timely opportunity to teach the public about what a service vest represents.

“We were very excited to just talk to the public about what is an emotional support animal versus a therapy animal and a service dog,” said Monroe.

The different categories of dogs that help people with disabilities include: emotional support animals, therapy animals, and puppies in training.

Emotional support animals and therapy animals have the least public access as they aren't required to go through the extensive training that service dogs and puppies in training do.

Monroe said there are behaviors to help distinguish between a real service dog and a dog simply wearing a service vest.

“A service animal helps someone with a disability to do tasks. So they’re task trained,” Monroe said.

Tasks can range from opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, and helping people with PTSD.

Monroe said some other indicators of a service dog is one that is:

  • Well-behaved
  • On leash
  • Looking at owner for communication

She said there are three key reasons why being able to distinguish between a real service dog and a dog wearing a service vest:

“Service dogs are special. They receive thousands of hours of training. We don’t want people to just think they can put a vest on their pet and take them out in public. One, it stresses out your pet. Two, it is a misdemeanor now in the state of Montana. And three, people who need service dogs, it does them such a disservice and it really harms our community,” Monroe said.

To find out more information about service dogs or Canine Companions for Independence, click here .

Waggin' Tails is working to bring a companion dog to East Middle School