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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The United States Service Dog Registry has joined the Internet for Peace campaign

Only a few times in a lifetime does an invention or idea come along that transforms the world. The printing press, penicillin, waste management, the telescope, the calendar and clock, the industrial revolution — the list could go on and on. One of the greatest inventions of our time is unarguably the Internet. It has the power to change lives and disseminate information instantaneously to the entire world. It affects how we live and learn on the most basic of levels.

It also has the ability to connect people together as a powerful force for peace. That's why we're joining Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Umberto Veronesi, Georgio Armani, Ricardo Luna, David Luna, Wired Magazine, Citroen, Current TV, Google, Oglivy, Sony Ericson, UnendoEnergia, Vodafone, Fastweb, Fineco, Meet the Media Guru, Telecom Itallia, Tiscali and thousands of independent people just like you to recommend the nomination of the Internet for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The internet can be considered the first weapon of mass construction, which we can deploy to destroy hate and conflict and to propagate peace and democracy,” said Riccardo Luna, editor-in-chief of the Italian edition of Wired magazine. “What happened in Iran after the latest election, and the role the web played in spreading information that would otherwise have been censored, are only the newest examples of how the internet can become a weapon of global hope.”

We invite you to join the Internet for Peace campaign today by signing their online petition. It costs absolutely nothing and will only take a moment of your time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Study: number of people living with paralysis equal the populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. combined

This article was originally published at the the Christopher & Dana Reeve Newsroom

According to a study initiated by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, there are nearly 1 in 50 people living with paralysis — approximately 6 million people. That's the same number of people as the combined populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. And that number is nearly 33% higher than previous estimates showed.

What does this mean?
It means that we all know someone — a brother, sister, friend, neighbor, or colleague — living with paralysis. These aren't strangers. They are only one degree of separation from all of us. But their lives are different. They live with a condition that affects their family life, their ability to work, and their capacity to enjoy even the most routine everyday activities that others take for granted. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation wants to change that.

Identifying the need
In 2004, the Reeve Foundation convened more than 60 of the nation's preeminent scientists, scholars, health advocates, and experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the nation's top universities, policy centers, and nonprofit health care organizations to identify what was needed to improve the quality of life for people living with paralysis. This Paralysis Task Force quickly discovered that there was insufficient reliable information about the prevalence of paralysis. Without that information, it would be impossible to devise new or evaluate existing policies, programs, and services for people living with paralysis. As a result, the Task Force's first recommendation for advancing paralysis as a public issue was to build a more robust and comprehensive national knowledge base about it.

Gathering the data
Five years later, that knowledge base has been established, supported by data from a project led by researchers at the University of New Mexico's Center for Development and Disability (CDD) from 2006 to 2008. Researchers designed and conducted an exhaustive survey of more than 33,000 households across the country. More than 30 experts in paralysis and statistics, including those from the CDC and 14 leading universities and medical centers helped to develop and set the parameters for the study. Today, this study represents one of the largest population based samples of any disability ever conducted.

Download the complete 28 page report from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What are the Minimum Training Standards for Service and Assistance Dogs?

While not required by law, having proof of completion of these or other similar Minimum Training Standards and a Public Access Test (explained below) for Service and Assistance Dogs in the form of a professional training certificate or video recording may be helpful if challenged on the validity of your Service or Assistance Dog.

Please remember that owning and using a Service or Assistance Dog is a privilege, covered under the law, for disabled individuals who use a dog to help them complete specific physical tasks they would otherwise have difficulty performing on their own. It also comes with great responsibility. Service and Assistance Dogs teams have been granted their rights based on their excellent behavior, politeness, public conduct and the necessary, beneficial and functional tasks the dogs perform for their disabled owners.

Certain types of Service Dogs, such as Psychiatric Service Dogs, will require a doctor’s prescription for airline travel and access to other public areas. Simply registering with us does not qualify an animal or an individual as a Service or Assistance Dog Team or provide any special rights, legal or otherwise. Registration is for personal identification purposes only, similar to an online resume or providing a vest for your dog. Under the ADA, Service and Assistance Dog teams are not required to provide identification materials of any type in most circumstances, including badges, ID cards, dog vests or capes. Registration or membership with any organization is also not required.

Please note that misrepresenting an animal as a Service or Assistance Dog for any reason is not only unethical, but illegal and may be punishable as a misdemeanor. It is also in direct violation of our Terms and Conditions.


Training may be completed by yourself, a friend, family member or professional trainer or training organization. It takes about six months to a year (120+ hours) to properly train a Service or Assistance Dog. A full-time professional trainer may be able to train a dog more quickly. Be prepared to spend at least 30 hours of training in a controlled public setting so that the dog will learn to behave obediently and unobtrusively in public. Please remember that you are 100% responsible at all times for the behavior and control of your Service or Assistance Dog, even during training.

Our mantra is document, document, document. We highly suggest keeping a notebook or a blog as a log or record of your training dates and accomplishments. It will not only serve to help you during the training process but will also serve as a useful paper trail for your Service or Assistance Dog.

Note that all states do not grant the privileges of the ADA to Service or Assistance Dogs who are in training. Owners who have Service or Assistance Animals in training may register with us, but are personally responsible for obeying all applicable laws.

Basic Obedience

Your dog must obey basic verbal and/or hand signal obedience commands such as Sit, Stay, Come, Down and Heel. When off leash, your dog must come when called.

Your Dog's Behavior
Your dog must also display good behavior and social skills including:

  • No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals; no biting, no snapping, no growling, no mounting, no lunging and/or barking;
  • No begging for food or petting from other people;
  • No sniffing merchandise or people who pass by;
  • No urinating or defecating in public unless given a command/signal to eliminate in an appropriate place.

Physical Tasks Related to a Disability

Many disabled people have pets. A Service or Assistance Dog is distinguished from a pet by the specific physical tasks they have been trained to complete. A Service or Assistance Dog is individually trained to complete specific identifiable physical tasks that it's disabled owner has trouble completing for him or herself. In other words, simply having a disability is not enough to qualify a pet as a Service or Assistance Dog. While it is illegal for someone to ask about your disability, they may ask what physical tasks your dog has been trained to complete.

What does it mean to be individually trained?

Individual training is the process by which a dog is specifically taught a behavior or task through rewards, praise or corrections. Methods may include using treats, clicker training or praise. Natural dog behavior such as protectiveness, barking, licking or comforting an owner are not considered appropriate tasks under the ADA, even if those actions help the disabled owner.

What is a Physical Task?

A physical task is a chore or behavior that a Service or Assistance Animal performs, on command or cue, to help a disabled person with something that they can not easily do for themselves.

A physical task must also be quantifiable in some way, such as fetching a medicine bottle for someone who is having a seizure, opening doors or drawers for someone who has physical mobility issues or alerting on glucose levels for a diabetic.

Examples of some things that would not be an appropriate physical task would be simply providing companionship, emotional support, guarding, protecting or even tasks performed merely for convenience such as fetching the morning paper.

If you need more clarification, please seek a local Service Dog trainer for help.


Your dog should appear clean and well groomed at all times. Some Service and Assistance Dog handlers feel that a vest or I.D. is very helpful, even though it is not required by law. It is extremely important to look professional at all times.

Your Behavior

Please remember to be confident, polite, courteous and respectful at all times, even if you encounter someone who is unfamiliar with the ADA. Be prepared to explain what tasks your dog is trained to complete to help manage your disability. You do not need to explain your disability. Keep in mind that the impression you leave with someone may be their only experience with a Service or Assistance Dog team.

Passing a Public Access Test

The best tool for evaluating a team's readiness to graduate or finish formal training is a Public Access Test like the one available at ADI. It may be administered by a friend or family member, but again, keeping a video recording of your animal passing the test may prove valuable in the future.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to travel with your Assistance or Service Dog, a step-by-step guide

It's that time of year again that many of us begin to think about traveling to be with family and friends for the holidays. While traveling with your trained Assistance Animal is your privilege, there are some steps you need to take to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Know what to expect
The Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration has universal guidelines for traveling with your assistance animal. But each airline interprets them slightly differently. The key to success? Always call first!

International traveling
Are you flying out of the country or to an island like Hawaii? Service Animals may need to be quarantined depending on your destination. Check with the airline to find out what the current regulations are for your destination country. Confirm with your airline and ask if there are any quarantines happening that you need to be aware of.

Some people are uncomfortable flying, and so are some animals
Even the best trained Assistance Animal may have difficulty flying and you need to judge your own animals temperament before you consider flying. If you are at all concerned about how your assistance animal will react to flying consider driving, Amtrak or Greyhound. Please note that Psychiatric Service Animals may also require special documentation from your doctor in the form of a letter.

Contact your airline before you travel
The crew may need to make preparations for your boarding, so you must call to make them aware of what type of animal you use. The agent may also be able to help you select the most comfortable seat for you and your animal. Find a direct flight if possible because it will make for an easier experience for you and your animal.

We've provided some links to the major carriers to make your life easier. Carrying certificates of training or identification cards, such as the ones we provide will help speed things along.
Before you arrive, limit water and exercise your assistance animal
Most likely, it will be a long time before you'll find a good place for your Service Animal to relieve themselves again. Note: If you need to leave the secure boarding area to relieve your animal, you must undergo the full screening process again. Inform the Security Officer upon your return to the security checkpoint and she/him will move you to the front of the screening line to expedite the screening process.

You and your Service Dog must remain courteous and professional at all times
The experience others may have with you and your Service Dog may be the first and only they will ever have. It is up to you to leave them with an excellent impression. While it is your privilege under the law to be accompanied by your Service or Assistance Dog, you still need to be respectful of others who may be uncomfortable around animals. Keep your Service Dog under control at all times to avoid becoming the center of attention. Do not play with or show off your Service Dog in the airport or during your flight. Remember, how you and your Service Dog act directly affects other Service and Assistance Dog teams.

Arrive at the airport early and let security know that your Service Dog is not a pet
Inform the Security Officer that the animal accompanying you is a Service Animal and not a pet. This will provide you with an opportunity to move to the front of the screening line since the Security Officer may need to spend more time with you. Again, carrying appropriate identification such as cards or documentation, presence of a harness or markings on the harness, or other credible assurance of the passenger using the animal for their disability is required. At no time during the screening process should you be required to be separated from your Service Animal.

What tasks does your animal perform to help you with your disability?
What makes a Service Dog different from a pet are the specific physical tasks the animal can perform to help someone manage their disability. While it is inappropriate for someone to ask you about your disability, they may ask what tasks your dog is trained to perform. If you have a Psychiatric Service Dog it helps to have letter from a physician in addition to any other identification materials you may have. Remember, misrepresenting an animal as a Service or Assistance Dog isn't only unethical, it's against the law.

Be polite and accommodating of the Security Officers
Being polite and friendly with the Security Officers will go a long way to making your admission quicker. Remember, they have a stressful job and treating them with respect will make things easier. Security Officers have been trained how to treat Assistance Animals and their handlers. They know not to communicate, distract, interact, play, feed, or pet Service Animals. They are also trained to handle

You must assist with the inspection process by controlling the Service Animal while the Security Officer conducts the inspection. You must maintain control of your animal in a manner that ensures the animal cannot harm the Security Officer.

Proceeding through Security
Advise the Security Officer how you and your dog can best achieve screening when going through the metal detector as a team (i.e., whether walking together or with the Service Dog walking in front of or behind you). If the walk through metal detector alarms in the situation where you and your Service Dog have walked together, both you and the dog must undergo additional screening.

If the walk through metal detector alarms on either you or your Service Dog individually (because you walked through separately), additional screening must be conducted on whoever alarmed the walk through metal detector. If your Service Dog alarms the walk through metal detector, the Security Officer will ask your permission and assistance before they touch you Service Dog and its belongings. The Security Officer will then perform a physical inspection of your dog and its belongings (collar, harness, leash, backpack, vest, etc.) The belongings will not be removed from your dog at any time.

Check in at the gate
After you've gone through security, check in at the counter at the gate. Let the flight attendants know that you have an Assistance Animal. If this is your first time flying with your Assistance Animal on this airline, ask them what you need to do. Most likely you will be allowed to board the aircraft first.

Boarding the airplane
Once you've passed through the skybridge to the aircraft, the flight attendants on board will guide you to your seat. Most airlines require your Assistance Animal to use the space at your feet. Small dry treats for your animal will help them feel more comfortable. Avoid bringing water onto the plane for your dog.

Consider using Pet Airways
Depending on your disability, you may not need your animal with you in the airport and airplane, though you will when you land at your destination. Some disabled individuals choose to book their Service Animals on a special flights with airlines like Pet Airways.

Happy Thanksgiving and safe traveling!
We want to wish all of you a warm and happy Thanksgiving holiday! You can always refer others to confirm your registration here with your 10 digit code. Safe traveling!