Happy 12th Birthday, FSDS!

Proposed Airline Changes

On Weds, January 22nd the U.S. Dept. of Transportation released proposed amendments for the regulation of service animals on flights.  You can locate this publication here.  They also announced that individuals who wish to provide input or comments may do so by following the instructions located in this document.

Since our inception in February of 2008, the FSDS has advocated for proper training and credentialing, and then for the rights of legitimate teams who meet the standards promulgated by the Dept. of Justice regarding SD teams.  This means that in order to be regarded as a valid team, two criteria must be met:

  1. The individual must be diagnosed with a qualifying disability.
  2. The dog* must be “individually trained to do work or perform tasks” to mitigate this disability.

(* we duly note that an exception that permits miniature horses)

While well-meaning, we contend that the new proposals are inherently flawed.  The cause of this is that the laws in existence provide no method of checks or balances that would ensure that the training has been accomplished.  In fact, at this time, no clear standards have been established.

There are three areas in the new proposal that we have identified as concerning:

  1. “…airlines to require passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to check-in at the airport one hour prior to the travel time required for the general public to ensure sufficient time to process the service animal documentation…”    Since the law does not require a SD team to obtain or carry documentation, privately trained teams that do meet DOJ guidelines are not likely to have documentation.  The proposal also does not specify what types of documentation they are seeking.
  2. “…allow airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s good behavior…”  There is no indication of what criteria are used, whose signature is required (handler or trainer) and what the qualifications shall be for the party attesting to the good behavior.  Simply requiring the handler to sign and state that their dog is a well-behaved service dog is not a plan for success.
  3. Does not include SDITs.  A SDIT enrolled in a comprehensive 18 mth training program is likely to have more training than a dog whose owner has purchased a vest online for and claims to have trained.

DOJ does not specify time requirements for training.  Thus, under current rules, a handler who has only trained for 3 months and reports that their dog is a SD will be given preference over a program trained dog with significantly more training and verification of passing scores on at least two tests.  Thus, excluding those program trained teams who must pass through more rigorous training does nothing to ensure enhanced public safety on air flights.  We believe that SDITs that are able to work safely in the public space must be given equal protection.  Since these dogs acquire the ability to perform vital tasks over the course of their training, excluding a SDIT, once they are deemed appropriate to be in public deprives the handler of the assistance they require to mitigate their disabilities.  Inclusion / exclusion criteria should be based on training, not (s0metimes) subjective labeling.

Proposed changes must be specifically engineered to increase public safety, and as such should be guided by training.  A good part of the problem is that DOJ does not provide guidance on training requirements.  Until such time as minimum training standards are established public safety issues will not be adequately addressed.

We caution readers here that we are not suggesting that handlers may not train their dog.  We simply note that if they choose to do so minimum standards must be established, as the best interests of the public will be served by ensuring that a system is in place to verify that these standards have been met.

If you want to drive a car on public roadways, you must pass standardized written and skills testing.  We advocate for application of the same precedent in order to ensure that the safety of both team members as well as the general public is given priority.

Classroom News

Beginner Class – our happy little tail-waggers are off to a fine start as they work to master basic core tasks such as potty training, “sit”, “down” and “stay”.  A special shout out to all teams for their progress on the following after only their first month of training.

  • Deanna and SDIT Scooby have made incredible progress on “sit”,”down” and “stay”, and also at reinforcing “place”.
  • Student Trainer Keeta and SDIT Dani are doing a great job with their commands of “heel” and “place”.
  • Henry and Solomon made amazing progress on “heel” and at rewarding and reinforcing calm behaviors.  Puppies are known to be energetic, but this team has got it under control!
  • Celia and Caroline turned in a masterful performance with their commands of “sit”, “down”, “stay”, “heel” and “place”.
  • Soyini and Coco did a super job with their commands of “sit”, “down”, “heel”and loose leash walking.
  • Lindsey and Willow have been hard at work on sitting nicely when petting, “sit”,”down”,”sty”, “touch” and “heel”.  Of course they have an advantage as this is the second FSDS dog Lindsey is raising for a military veteran, and she is also an intern in our academy and is working on completing her Jr. Trainer level.
  • Student Trainer Yamil and SDIT Bailey turned in an impressive performance with their skills of “sit”,”down”,”stay” and “look”.  Yamil is a local HS student and is raising Bailey to help a military veteran in need.
  • Tina and SDIT Socorro bow-wowed everyone with their mastery of “sit”, “down”,”stay”, “heel” and “look”.

Great job, everyone!

Advanced Class – this class is hard at work to fine tune skills,acquire new task training and master the art of performing these tasks with public distractions.  Kudos to these teams for the stellar work in the past month. All teams have mastered the skill of getting help in the event of an emergency.   Bruno has become adept at retrieving needed items with public distractions, Dakota has learned to alert family in times of crisis while remaining with his handler, and Samson has learned to brace in order to provide balance and support.

Wellness Tip

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and this month we provide some helpful tips for teams.

  • Provide  your dog with a toothbrush designed for dogs, and change the toothbrush on the first of each month
  • Always use an enzymatic toothpaste designed specifically for dogs
  • Brush your dog’s teeth at least 2-3x/week
  • Inspect the inside of your dog’s mouth periodically to check for sores, broken teeth or any other abnormalities

Failure to address dental health can result in periodontal disease and gingivitis.  Bacteria can travel to the heart and kidneys and result in organ damage that can shorten the lifespan of your dog.  Remember to provide praise and positive reinforcement during dental care to make this a pleasant experience for your dog.

With Sincere Thanks

We wish to express our sincere thanks to the following individuals or groups who have donated to help support our mission in the past month:

  • AZ Disabled Veterans Foundation
  • DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
  • Valerie Schluter

Photo Gallery

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