Author Topic: My psychiatrist just added "service animal" to my ESA dog's description  (Read 533 times)

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Offline islandcat6

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My psych has updated my ESA dog to include service animal as well. He has determined that after 8 years she has become so attuned to my moods and reactions  (that I don't always recognize), depressive disorders and severe anxiety that she can now detect (without training) a possible seizure from happening. I've known this for a long time, she has her ways of making me double check my meds. Some of them I don't take on a regular schedule but as needed in more severe situations. I was just wondering if anyone else has had a doctor do this? He does meet with me and my ESA regularly. She comes to my appts with me so he also knows her very well and how we interact. It's not just a companion/pet bond.

Offline missythewriter

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Service dogs are determined by training, not prescription or bond. Those are bonuses. If you want your ESA to become a service dog, he/she will first be a service dog in training. You need to train him to behave in public and have a trained alert to your seizures. Natural alerts do not count as tasks--and in order for a dog to be a service dog who goes in public, he needs to have trained tasks. Natural alert is not trained, so it's not a task. If you can shape the alert to have him let you know when you are about to have a seizure by nosing your leg, pawing your hand, etc. etc., that is a trained task.

I would suggest you speak with a trainer who is experienced in service dog training about public access (which not all dogs are cut out for) and task training, which your dog can still do if he doesn't perform well enough in public. He would be an at-home service dog, and not have public access rights, but still perform well and be helpful from home.

Offline Kirsten

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Unfortunately, your psychiatrist doesn't understand what a service animal is.  By law, it is a dog that is individually trained to do something to mitigate their human partner's disability.  Something the dog does naturally does not make them a service animal regardless of how useful it is.

Do medical professionals sometimes fail to understand the legal requirements of a service animal?  Sure.  Their areas of expertise are medicine, not law.  For legal advice, you should consult a qualified attorney or the US Department of Justice, which regulates the Americans with Disabilities Act as it pertains to service animals in places of business.

The difference between an ESA and a service dog isn't the quality of the bond or a medical professional's opinion or prescription, but what the animal is individually trained to do.

Quote from: 28 CFR 36.104
Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individualīs disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animalīs presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

I've bolded the relavent portion of the legal definition above.

And here is the current guidance from the DOJ:  https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm  You might want to share that with your psychiatrist so he or she can educate themselves about the legal requirements of claiming an animal as a service animal.  Depending on how and where such a claim is made (and therefore precisely which laws are in effect) making such a claim incorrectly or falsely can result in loss of benefits such as SSDI, SSI, foodstamps, or other federal programs, fines, and/or jail time.  So it would therefore not be in your doctor's patients' best interests to be misinformed about what makes a dog a service dog.

A doctor can not and in fact should not declare a dog to be either an ESA or a SD because that is not their area of expertise.  The doctor's role in this is to determine whether or not their patient is disabled and in some cases whether or not they might benefit from the companionship or emotional support of an ESA or from the assistance of a trained dog.  If the medical professional tries to stake their professional reputation on an individual animal actually being one or the other, they create a liability for themselves should that animal ever be accused of injuring someone.  We've seen that happen too, where a doctor was sued when a patient's ESA bit someone because the doctor represented the animal as being an ESA instead of representing the patient as being disabled and in need of an ESA.  The doctor had more money, making him an attractive target for the liability claim and he opened himself up to it by offering his professional opinion on whether or not the animal was an ESA.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 09:47:30 PM by Kirsten »
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Offline islandcat6

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Thanks for the quick response Kirsten. That's exactly why I asked if anyone has had a doctor do that. I am disabled and it was determined 10 years ago that an ESA would be beneficial for me. I had a lab at that time, but lost her 2 years later. My chi has been my ESA for 8 years already, so when I went in to get my updated letter ( I make sure that I have a current one every year) he had SA/ESA attached with a paragraph stating that it is medically necessary to have her with me whenever it is possible. Not beneficial, but necessary. The only difference in our conversations has been that my dog becomes agitated and barks and nips at my face when I have had a seizure (twice)...she was doing this before the attacks came on. I have had only one episode since and I took my meds as soon as she started barking at me. It was my understanding as well that a SA had to be professionally trained, which is why I asked. I'll make sure I clarify with him in the morning and go over all of this with him. Thanks for the info and answering so quickly

Offline ccunnin3

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Islandcat, by law service dogs do not have to be professionally trained, but they do have to be intentionally trained. Owner-trainers exist who train their own dog to be a service dog.
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Offline islandcat6

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Thank you everyone for your input. I talked with both my m.d. and my psych this morning and asked for a new letter excluding the SA part. My psych insisted on leaving in the part that says she should be with me at all times possible and that she is medically necessary for my disability and treatment. Kind of an obtuse statement, but I'm not arguing. He did remove the service animal designation since she has had no specific training for sensing my seizures. I told him that I thought it would only cause confusion and that the letter should be sufficient as with all of the previous ones I've had no issues. Thanks again for the great information and responses  :smile:

Offline Kirsten

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Are you into sailing by any chance?  I'm looking at your username and thinking catamaran.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline islandcat6

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Lol...no, my name is Cat and I lived on Washington Island for many years. I do know that there is a pretty famous group of catamarans called the Island Cat - numbers 1- 6 that are owned by someone in the keys :smile:

Offline SandyStern

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IslandCat:
I have no right to ask this of you, and please feel free to reject it out of hand, but if you feel comfortable, I wonder if you would consider explaining public access to your psych.  If he was so insistent with you that you be able to have your dog with you at all times, he probably tells other clients the same thing, and they will likely present their pets as service dogs and demand access rights.  It can cause real problems.  Not all dogs behave well around other dogs or in stressful situations. My dog and I have narrowly avoided attacks by dogs that should not have been in stores or other non-dog venues. One dog attack can ruin a $50,000 service dog.

As I said, don't do anything that doesn't feel comfortable to you. I mention it because my hair catches fire when I hear about these well intentioned clinicians who don't know enough and innocently set the stage for very bad results.

Sandy


Offline Kirsten

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Ah.  Well I've got sailboats on the brain these days.  Welcome aboard, Cat!
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline islandcat6

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Re: My psychiatrist just added "service animal" to my ESA dog's description
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2017, 04:54:46 PM »
SandyStern,
I've been with him for over 10 years so I wouldn't hesitate to talk to him about it. I know he doesn't prescribe too many ESAs (we take them with us to all of our appts) and haven't seen very many in the office over the years. I haven't seen any SAs at all, which is why I asked the question here. This is the first time the subject has come up and I was surprised.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: My psychiatrist just added "service animal" to my ESA dog's description
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2017, 05:34:32 PM »
For his own sake he needs to be very careful on the wording.  If he says an individual dog actually IS an ESA or SD, he's opening himself up for liability should that dog be accused of biting.  We've seen it happen fairly recently with a cardiologist who just casually dashed off a note and then the dog bit someone and now he's the one being sued because he has more money than his client, which makes him an attractive target.

He should stick only to his area of expertise, which is the condition of his client/patient and whether they are disabled or substantially limited in one or more major life activities and whether, in his professional opinion that client would benefit from either an ESA or SD (in mitigating their disability).  That's all that can be required paperworkwise from a medical professional.  The rest is assertions of the dog's owner as to whether it has received training or actually benefits them.

There are mental health professionals starting to shy away from writing ESA or PSD letters, which limits their clients ability to get housing and to travel.  They're doing this because they're getting stung or learning of other professionals getting stung.  I figure making sure they know how to protect themselves from unnecessary liability increases the likelihood they will continue to support clients who would benefit by writing letters about their clients and that's why I'm specifically interested in encouraging him to write these letters carefully to protect himself so he can continue to help in this way.

Also, I've had both of Cole and Tardis accused of things they didn't actually do.  Cole was accused of jumping up on a buffet (never even remotely close) and Tardis was accused of biting (again, never even remotely close to doing that).  So even if he knows the dog and believes the dog is utterly safe, he's not gaining anything for his client by wording it about the dog but he is putting himself at risk.  So it's not a good idea.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2017, 05:36:58 PM by Kirsten »
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Suse

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Re: My psychiatrist just added "service animal" to my ESA dog's description
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2017, 09:26:56 PM »
Hi IslandCat... you keep saying SA.  I don't even know what that is.  Is it an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?   It can't be a Service Dog because that is SD.  If your Dr is prescribing SA's he is really confused.

And I really agree with the others. If he is doing so he is opening himself up to liability.

Offline Punktestern

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Re: My psychiatrist just added "service animal" to my ESA dog's description
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2017, 09:44:59 PM »
Hi IslandCat... you keep saying SA.  I don't even know what that is.  Is it an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?   It can't be a Service Dog because that is SD.  If your Dr is prescribing SA's he is really confused.

And I really agree with the others. If he is doing so he is opening himself up to liability.

From above, it's very probable that they mean Service Animal. Which is fine, dogs are animals too. ;- )

(From above posts)

"asked for a new letter excluding the SA part."

"My psych has updated my ESA dog to include service animal as well. "

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Offline Kirsten

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Re: My psychiatrist just added "service animal" to my ESA dog's description
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2017, 10:42:49 PM »
Legally in the US the correct term is still "service animal."  Once upon a time there was some sense in making a distinction between "service animal" and "service dog" but in the US, at least under Titles II and III of the ADA at the present time, these terms are completely interchangeable.

In terms of housing and flying though it is still possible to have a service animal that is not a dog.  For example, I know a few people with migraine or seizure alert cats.  They don't have public access with them but they still qualify as service animals under the FHAct and ACAA.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest