Psychiatric service dogs are an excellent tool for mental health professionals to help clients manage their disability or symptoms of a mental health condition. They can also help their handlers get through each day and get more enjoyment out of life.
Individuals who enjoy attending games and sporting events may be concerned about running into trouble if they try to bring their psychiatric service dogs into the venue. To put your mind at ease, we have put together everything you should know to have the support you need and enjoy yourself at your favorite team's next game!
What Is A Psychiatric Service Dog?
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a service animal covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that has completed extensive training to help people with mental health conditions like major depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks related to their handler's mental health disorders or physical disabilities. For example, a psychiatric service dog who has a handler with anxiety is prepared to recognize when they are about to experience anxiety or have a panic attack. The service dog will then try to get their owner to a safe place. Having good control over their senses is essential in a crowded space like a ballgame because of the excessive stimulation.
What Qualifies Someone for a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Individuals who qualify for a psychiatric service dog have a mental health disorder, a psychiatric disability, or an emotional illness that results in needing a PSD for their well-being and daily life.
Mental illnesses, emotional disorders, and psychiatric disabilities can substantially limit an individual's quality of life. The assistance of an emotional support animal or psychiatric service dog can be highly beneficial to individuals with disabilities. Although emotional support animals provide comfort through their presence and companionship, service dogs can be individually trained to perform tasks specific to a person's disability.
These mental health disorders can include but are not limited to:
- Anxiety disorders and anxiety attacks
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Panic disorders and panic attacks
- Social phobias
How Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Help Their Owners?
A psychiatric service dog can sense when a panic attack is about to happen. Depending on their training, the service animal may be able to apply pressure therapy or do specific tasks such as retrieving medication their owner could not otherwise get themselves. Their duties are directly related to assisting their owner.
Psychiatric service dogs can also provide balance assistance if their owner has a condition such as epilepsy (common seizures) or has trouble standing on their own once panic attacks or anxiety attacks happen.
Emotional support animals, such as emotional support dogs, are not identified as service dogs under the ADA, as they are not specifically trained to perform tasks relating to their handler. Instead, emotional support animals are similar to therapy dogs, as they offer companionship and emotional support after a hard time, such as during or after an anxiety attack.
ADA Protections For Psychiatric Service Dogs
Because these service dogs are specially trained to provide psychiatric assistance and support directly related to their handlers' disabilities, they have protections under U.S. federal law. However, it is also best to contact local government agencies to see if specific laws exist in your city or state.
Arguably, the most important of these protections is the right to bring your service dog into public establishments that would otherwise be inaccessible to dogs due to "no pets" rules. Federal law allows people who rely on these dogs in their daily lives to access nearly all public places. The ADA distinguishes registered psychiatric service dogs (and other service animals) from emotional support animals. In contrast to service animals, ESAs are not automatically entitled to enter public establishments such as sports arenas.
The Right to Privacy for Psychiatric Service Dog Owners
Another right that disabled Americans have under the ADA is the right not to disclose the specifics of their disability. If you want to visit an establishment, the establishment's employees cannot ask you what disability you have or command your service dog to do something to prove that it is, in fact, a service dog. You also don't have to show them your letter recommending you for a service dog.
There are two specific questions an employee can ask regarding you and your service animal:
- Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task is the dog trained to perform?
You can also refer to the Fair Housing Act for the housing rights to which both psychiatric service dog owners and ESA owners are entitled.
Are Psychiatric Service Dogs Allowed At Sporting Events?
The short answer is yes. You can bring psychiatric service dogs to sporting events if they have been specially trained to perform specific tasks for their owners.
However, if your psychiatric service dog causes a disturbance, acts aggressively, or displays destructive behaviors, staff members have the right to ask you to leave. Your dog can enter and remain in the venue if it behaves appropriately and helps you with whatever you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does My Dog Need To Have A Vest On?
No, you are not required to put anything on your dog that identifies it as a service animal. However, a vest may help you avoid any problems with entering, accessing, and moving around in venues such as sports arenas. A vest can also be effective if your service dog approaches a stranger for help, which could happen if you have a panic or anxiety attack or need further assistance.
Do I Have To Share My Disability To Bring My PSD In Public?
The Americans with Disabilities Act explicitly protects your right to keep private what disability you have that requires you to rely on a psychiatric service animal. At the most, others can ask if you need a service dog because of a psychiatric disability, a mental impairment, or for emotional support. They legally aren't allowed to ask to see any certification or inquire about the nature of your disability.
You have the right to take part in typical life activities such as enjoying a sporting event with a loved one. You have the right to privacy about your disability, even if you bring your psychiatric service dog to a public place.
Can A Business Refuse To Allow My Psychiatric Service Dog Inside?
It depends. If your service dog behaves appropriately, businesses cannot refuse to allow your service dog inside. However, venues have the right to deny entry if your service dog is barking, growling, or acting aggressively towards other people or other animals.
Ensure your assistance animal is fully trained to minimize the likelihood of a business or other venue having a legitimate reason to deny entry to your psychiatric service dog. This training can be done individually or by a professional trainer.
In addition to behavior management, training ensures your psychiatric service dog can perform specific tasks relating to your disability. These tasks can vary from tactile stimulation needed to remove you from a high-stress situation to providing emotional support with anxiety or panic disorders. Remember, although business owners and employees cannot deny you entry into a venue with your service dog, they can ask about the nature of your service dog's tasks.
How To Train a Psychiatric Service Dog
Under the ADA, people with a disability are allowed to independently train psychiatric service dogs or emotional support animals. Some organizations provide these services for psychiatric service dogs, but they may come at a cost. If you are unsure whether you can successfully train your psychiatric service dog on your own, these organizations may be a helpful resource.
You should invest in training for tasks that support your disability, as well as obedience training and socialization – especially if you enjoy going to sporting events and other public gatherings. Training is essential to avoid causing a disturbance and for your safety.
Psychiatric service dogs need to be able to tune out the noises, sights, and smells of a large gathering and focus on attending to your needs. If your assistance animal is not adequately trained, you may not be able to move about in public freely. It could also affect your ability to find housing.
Remember, psychiatric service dogs are animals that provide psychiatric support. Psychiatric service dogs are not pets – they are service dogs trained to aid people living with psychiatric disabilities.
Make sure your psychiatric service dog has the training and good behavior to go into any environment and focus on supporting you and your needs. If so, you should be able to take them to any sporting event you want to attend.