Before I met Nicole and Angel I had seen people with service animals BUT I had no idea how much they could change someones life. Nicole and I met at Art Awakenings a program that promotes empowerment and recovery through the power of creative expression with adults and youth who face behavioral health challenges. I love painting with Nicole and cracking jokes! Nicole is a very amazing, sweet and strong person she is also the owner of a very amazing service animal named Angel. Angel is a very fitting name for this sweet dog! Not only does she support Nicole at the studio she supports everyone! She is very obedient and lays right next to Nicole at the studio, with Nicoles permission she will go give hugs and kisses.
Angel is very smart and aware of not only Nicole’s needs for support but others in the studio. There are some days I come in feeling a little down and Angel will sit next to Nicole and wait for permission to come give me hugs. She always cheers me up!
Before Angel, Nicole told me she would isolate for days sometimes weeks at a time. She would stop taking her medication and would be hospitalized repeatedly. Angel makes sure Nicole takes her meds everyday. Nicole says that Angels unconditional love for her does what all the the doctors and medications in the world could NEVER do!
Nicole shared the following information with me, hoping to help others learn how to get their dogs trained as service animals too.
Nicole told me that there is really no time frame to get your service animal certified through the Americans with Disabilities Act. The service animal has to be specifically trained to do something that aids their owner with their disability. Service animals must have basic obedience training, and training on how to act in public places.
Power Paws http://www.azpowerpaws.org/
, ADA, and AZ Assistive Dog Association helped Nicole with guidlines on how to get Angel trained. Legally the owner must have full control of the animal at all times. Trained service animals can go anywhere their owner goes such as public transportation, restaurants, theaters etc. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_with_Disabilities_Act_of_1990
businesses must make reasonable accommodations to assist individuals with disabilities.
Unfortunately there are people who abuse these rights, they claim their pets as service animals to get into public places and to get their pets on an airplane for free.
I watched this 20/20 report a few weeks ago on a Friday evening and it really upset me.
I worry that if people continue to do this will the people who actually have true certification and licensing such as Nicole be permitted to bring Angel on an airplane? Not too long ago there was a man at Sky Harbor airport that brought his pit bull (not registered as a service animal) to the airport to board with him. They were waiting to board and the dog snapped and bit a man with no provocation. People who take advantage of the rights of the disabled, make it hard for people with service animals. They are the ones getting attention from the media, not Angel and others animals who are saving lives. Nicole hopes that in the future there will be some sort of central registry or other guidlines in place to ensure that these animals are properly trained before working in public. Until then is its up to dogs like Angel and the people they support to be a positive example and educate the public.