Service dogs are of the utmost importance to their owners. In addition to assisting with daily activities and routines, these trained animals help their mentally or physically disabled handlers navigate dangerous situations. They can open doors, alert other people of danger, guide their owners away from danger, retrieve objects, get help, and more. If you have a condition that prevents you from performing daily activities, you may benefit from having a service dog. However, the laws surrounding this matter are very particular, and you should familiarize yourself with the doctor’s note for service dog template.
What Is a Doctor’s Note for Service Dog?
A doctor’s note for a service dog is a formal written confirmation from a certified healthcare professional that you need to be accompanied by a service dog. This note can help your service dog gain admission everywhere, including in places with a no-pets policy. In fact, it is one of the key documents that prove you legally own a service dog and can bring it with you anywhere.
Essential Elements of a Service Dog Doctor’s Note
No two doctor’s notes for a service dog are alike because circumstances differ from handler to handler. However, a typical document of this kind will contain the following key elements:
- Title – Usually a hospital letterhead; this section confirms the validity of the note. It may contain the hospital’s name, address, and business information or a title like Certification of Medical Record.
- Doctor’s Details – This part includes the name of the hospital, the doctor’s name, address, specialization, and professional licenses.
- Contact Details – The issuing doctor provides their contact details in case someone needs to verify that the note is legitimate.
- Date – This is the date when the note was written.
- Doctor’s Message – This is the most important part of the note and includes a message from the doctor about your condition (no specifics) and an affirmation that you need a service dog.
- Signature – A doctor’s note is only valid when signed by the doctor.
Service Dog Vs. Emotional Support Dog
You may not qualify for a service dog if you are not legally disabled. Some conditions, while disabling, may not require the physical support offered by a service dog. In these cases, where companionship and emotional support are more important, you may be better off with an emotional support dog.
While often confused to mean the same thing, emotional support dogs and service dogs are different. The former is trained to provide companionship and some physical assistance to people with emotional or mental disabilities. Other differences between the two include the following:
- Service dogs are not just companions or pets. They are working animals, physically trained to assist their owners. On the other hand, emotional support dogs offer comfort to their owners. They don’t receive any specialized training on performing specific tasks.
- You don’t need a doctor’s note to bring your service dog with you to places. They are generally admitted everywhere, including in places with no-pets policies. However, you may need a note for an emotional support dog, especially in places like planes.
How to Talk to Your Doctor about a Service Dog
You need to have a legally-recognized disability to qualify for a service dog. Sometimes, however, even differently-abled people may not be eligible. This is why a conversation with your doctor about whether or not you meet the criteria is important.
Broaching the subject of a service dog as a part of your treatment can seem daunting. You may worry that they will say no. To prepare, it is advisable to do some research about service dogs and how they can help with your particular condition. Come up with several talking points about how your disability affects your daily life and how exactly a service dog could help you overcome these problems.
Once your argument is ready, call your doctor to set up an appointment and tell them beforehand that you would like to discuss the possibility of getting a service animal. This will give them time to also look into the matter and do their own research.
During the meeting, listen carefully to your doctor, take notes, and ask questions. Your doctor may say no. Don’t give up; you can revisit the topic after more research. Remember, getting a service dog is a long process that could take up to 2 years.
You may be eligible for a service dog if you have a mental, emotional, or physical disability and a disability-related need for the dog. Simply put, the dog must be able to perform tasks, work, or provide services that alleviate the physical or emotional aspects of a legally-defined disability. Common disabilities that could qualify you for a service dog include osteoporosis, epilepsy, autism, multiple sclerosis, paralysis, partial and complete deafness, and partial and complete blindness
Some organizations in Florida, such as Southeastern Guide Dogs, provide free service dogs and service dog training. These organizations are run by volunteers and cater to a wide range of people, including veterans living with PTSD. To qualify, you will need to register.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes anxiety disorders like PTSD, phobias, panic disorders, and OCD as disabilities. This means you can qualify for a service dog for anxiety, more specifically, a psychiatric service dog (PSD).
Service dogs must be able to remain stable in different environments. They should be non-reactive and gentle and able to remain dutiful, quiet, and focused on their owner. Consequently, a dog may not qualify to become a service dog if it:
ᐅ Is aggressive
ᐅ Has hearing or vision problems
ᐅ Is too big or too small
ᐅ Suffers from a genetic illness
ᐅ Has structural problems or imbalances
ᐅ Is timid
ᐅ Is too reactive
ᐅ Is aggressive
ᐅ Is obese or overweight
Unless you qualify for a free service dog program, the National Service Animal Registry estimates that you should expect to use at least $17,000 on a service dog. This amount can go as high as $40,000.
The high cost of owning a service dog can be attributed to the fact that they require a lot more training than regular dogs. The extensive care and training combined with spaying or neutering, vaccinations, and adoption costs can really drive up the fee.
Service dogs generally learn common commands like “Come,” “Stand,” “Down,” and “Sit,” as well as others designed to help them provide mobility assistance. These include “Touch/Here,” “Heel/Side,” “Tug,” and “Get It.” Other commands may be targeted toward the owner’s specific needs.
Service dogs are trained to provide companionship, comfort, guidance, and mobility to their owners. Because this is their work, treating them like pets can distract them and endanger their owner’s safety.
Trainers use a test consisting of multiple behavioral components to select service dogs. The test checks for specific behavioral and physical qualities that would make a dog a good assistant.
No. The ADA prohibits employees at a business from requesting documentation for a service dog. This means you don’t have to provide a doctor’s note or any such documentation for conditions protected under the ADA.
If you believe a service dog will alleviate your symptoms, help you go about your daily activities, and improve your quality of life, you should broach the subject with your healthcare provider. They can then provide you with a doctor’s note for a service dog template for any time questions arise about your furry helper. Remember, you don’t have to explain to anyone exactly why you need a service dog.