PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE DOG ASSESSMENT
A Psychiatric Service Dog is defined as a dog that has been trained to perform tasks that assist
individuals with disabilities to lessen the effects of psychiatric episodes. The biggest difference
between an ESA and a PSD is that a PSD must be trained to perform, either on its own initiative
or on command, a specific task that helps with your emotional or psychological issue.
The first thing you need to determine is whether your emotional issues rise to the level of a psychological disability. That is something we can help you with. Our therapists will conduct an assessment to determine if the emotional issues you have can reasonably be diagnosed as a psychiatric disability. Bear in mind that not everyone’s issues constitute a disability. For instance, just getting nervous before a flight might just be considered generalized anxiety, but an inability to get on a plane for fear of flying without your dog could be considered a disability. If the therapist determines that your impairment “substantially limits one or more major life activity” (the definition of disabled in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)) they will write an assessment with that diagnosis.
Once you have this letter you can then turn your attention to your dog. Does your dog meet the standards usually associated with a PSD ( pdf ). Generally speaking your dog must be trained to listen to your commands, behave itself in public and perform the task(s) that are necessary to assist you with your disability ( pdf ) . You can train the dog yourself... there is no requirement that you bring your dog to an expensive service dog training program.
Once you are comfortable that your dog can perform the functions of a PSD you can apply for your PSD identification documents ( here )
Now you may ask yourself why do you need to get a letter from a therapist when no one is going to ask to see it? The answer is quite simple. In the past there has never been a requirement that a disabled person make a written representation that their dog was a service dog. Under the new DOT rules the airlines require passenger who want to travel with their service to dog complete the following form:
The highlighted provisions make it clear that the airlines and the DOT want to discourage passengers from falsely claiming that their dogs are service dogs if they are not. While it is unlikely that anyone will be asked to produce evidence that they need a service dog it is not a bad idea to have a therapist’s letter with you when you travel.
While you are entitled to train your own service dog there is no federal law that allows you to make your own medical diagnosis about having a psychological disability. Having an assessment letter doesn’t make your dog a service dog but it gives you a reason for training it to be one.
If you would like to be Assessed for purposes of determining whether your condition falls within the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) we will be able to provide that service. Should such an assessment be made, the training of the psychiatric service dog will be your sole responsibility. The therapist cannot and will not provide any direction or instruction in that regard.
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