Everything you need to know about companion and service dogs – Part 2

For Americans with disabilities, currently estimated to be approximately 53 million, service dogs have become more than the name implies; they have become constant and caring companions. As defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990), a “service dog” (adapted from the term “service animal”) is a dog that “is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” They are not considered pets.

However, there are other dogs (companion dogs, therapy dogs, social/therapy dogs), which the ADA considers to be pets, not service dogs. Even though they are owned by people with disabilities, they are not trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability as defined by the ADA; they provide comfort and companionship. As such, these dogs are not allowed access to public places.


The history of dogs being used to aid people who were blind goes back to 1929. Dorothy Harrison Eustis, a woman from Philadelphia who was living in Switzerland around World War II was training German Shepherds for use by the Swiss Army and other metropolitan police units in Europe. It wasn’t until she noticed how the Germans were training the dogs for use by blinded veterans of World War I that she realized how valuable the trained dogs could be for disabled persons. She wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post (November 5, 1927) entitled, “The Seeing Eye.”

Morris Frank, a blind man living in Tennessee, heard about her article and wrote to her requesting that she show him how to train a dog to help him and other blind people become more independent. He was flown to Switzerland and Ms. Eustis trained a dog named Buddy to work with Mr. Frank, which he then took back with him to the United States. Mr. Frank and Buddy traveled across the United States successfully showing everyone how Buddy could help him maneuver through all kinds of traffic situations.

Ms. Eustis returned to the United States and in February of 1929, the first training classes were held in Nashville, Tennessee. Ms. Eustis subsequently established The Seeing Eye in 1931 in Morristown, New Jersey, which is the current location of their only campus. There are no other branches. The breeding programs began in 1941, using German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. It wasn’t until 1990, when the final version of the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law that a definition was given

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