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National Service Dog Month: When It Is & How It’s Celebrated

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By Nicole Cosgrove

man with disability with his service dog

Dogs and humans have worked together since the first canines were domesticated thousands of years ago. Of all the jobs dogs perform for humans, those trained as service animals are among the most unique. To recognize the efforts of these special dogs, each September is designated as National Service Dog Month.

Keep reading to learn when National Service Dog Month started and how it’s typically celebrated. You’ll also learn some basic information about service dogs and the tasks they perform for their owners.

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When Did National Service Dog Month Start?

National Service Dog Month was initially known as National Guide Dog Month and was first established in 2009. The year before, the actor and founder of Natural Balance Pet Food, Dick Van Patten, started a fundraising effort for a guide dog training program in Florida. He later expanded his efforts to promote a national month to raise awareness and funds for guide dog training programs.

In 2009, Petco’s charitable foundation got involved, and the first National Guide Dog Month was celebrated in May. Eventually, the celebration was shifted to September and expanded to include all types of service animals, not just guide dogs.

service dog guiding blind woman
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

How Is National Service Dog Month Celebrated?

National Service Dog Month is celebrated by raising awareness and educating the public on what service dogs do. Companies and brands (especially pet-related ones) may partner with organizations that train service dogs to promote their work and raise funds for them.

Sometimes, local governments may issue their own proclamations or plan events to recognize service dogs or raise money. As an individual, you can celebrate by donating or volunteering with service dog organizations in your area or nationally.

Most of these organizations function as non-profits and typically need help and money to stay in business. Depending on the task(s) they’re trained to perform, it can take up to 2 years and cost tens of thousands of dollars to prepare a service dog.

What Is a Service Dog?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA,) a service dog is trained to perform a task directly related to assisting a person with a disability. A service dog can be of any breed or mixed breed. They don’t have to undergo formal training or certification, but most do before they’re placed with a disabled person.

Guide dogs for the blind are probably the most well-known service dog, but they can also be trained to perform many other tasks. Service dogs can alert hearing-impaired people to important sounds like the phone, doorbell, or smoke alarm. Mobility dogs can assist people who have trouble walking.

Service animals are also placed with people with emotional or mental health conditions such as depression or PTSD, but these dogs shouldn’t be confused with emotional support animals. Emotional support animals can be any domestic pet, not just a dog, and are not trained to perform tasks. They also don’t have the same legal protections as service dogs.

Service dogs for those with mental health conditions may be trained to warn people about upcoming panic attacks or remind them to take medication for their depression. Emotional support animals simply provide comfort and support through their presence.

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Conclusion

Service dogs often play a vital role in allowing people with disabilities to live independently and function more efficiently in their daily lives. Each September, we recognize and celebrate the work of these special dogs during National Service Dog Month. However, the organizations and groups that train these dogs are in business year-round and can always use support. If you’re interested in being part of training and placing a service dog, even in a small way, check online for local or national opportunities to help.

 

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Featured Image Credit: 24K_Production, Shutterstock

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