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Service Dog Awareness: What it means to be a service dog

Service Dog
Posted at 4:51 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 10:11:42-04

BUTTE — Learning how to be a service dog can be rough.

But for 7-month-old Boulder, an American Bull Staffy, the work is in his blood.

"His dad was a service dog and both sets of grandparents were service dogs so that’s how you know that they’re gonna have a good temperament for it," said Thea Lingle-Dubyak, Boulder's owner.

Psychiatric Service Dogs like Boulder are nothing like emotional support animals. A service dog is trained to perform specific tasks that helps mitigate a person’s disability or challenges.

"Hundreds if not thousands of hours go into this training. An emotional support dog does not go through any of that," said David Riggs, founder and CEO of K9 Cares Montana.

Some people will try to pass on emotional support animals as service animals, but in 2019, Riggs and his organization as well as other organizations helped pass a law that would help protect people with disabilities as well as businesses regarding misrepresentation of service dogs.

"It is now a misdemeanor in the state of Montana to put a vest on a pet and bring it into a hotel and try to pass it over as a service dog," Riggs said.

Boulder has been training for this job since he was three months old, learning commands in a different language so he doesn’t get distracted while on the job.

Boulder listens to commands in German like "sitzen", "platz", and "hier."

"Boulder hier!"

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are classified as medical equipment. This isn’t to take away from the fact that they’re living beings, but because service dogs have a job to do.

"Honestly people shouldn’t go up and disturb them, they’re working whether they’re in training or already trained they need to stay focused on their task," said Riggs.

As for Boulder, he still has a long way to go in his training, but he’s eager to help his handler.

"I mean it’s a really big process training a service dog and like not anybody can do it and not any dog can do it," said Lingle-Dubyak.

DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Extended interview with David Riggs, founder and CEO of K9 Cares Montana

Extended interview: David Riggs, CEO of K9 Cares Montana