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Seizure Response Dogs

What is a seizure dog?

A seizure dog is a dog that has been trained (or has learned) to respond to a seizure in someone who has epilepsy.

Is "seizure dog" the official name?

It is the name that is most often used. There are two types of dogs: 1) dogs that respond to someone who is having a seizure, called "seizure response dog" and 2) dogs that appear to naturally know when a seizure is going to occur "seizure predicting dog" or “seizure alert dog”.

What do seizure dogs do?

A response dog might be trained to bark when a child has a seizure so that family members know what is happening. Or, a seizure dog may put its body in between the seizing individual and the floor to break the fall at the inception of a seizure. Some seizure dogs may even be trained to activate some kind of pre-programmed device such as a pedal that rings an alarm. 

How can someone get a seizure dog?

It depends what your goals are. If you are looking for a seizure response dog, you can discuss what you want the dog to do and work out a plan with a local professional dog trainer.

However, getting a dog with the special skill of recognizing seizures in advance is another matter. Any claims by trainers that they can produce this type of behavior in a dog should be looked at very carefully, especially when the training is expensive. While some people report success, others have been disappointed. More research is needed to better understand what dogs can and cannot do, whether there are differences between breeds, and how best to develop this unique skill.

Can I train my own dog?

If you believe your dog has the disposition to act as a seizure response dog, you may certainly take your pet to a professional trainer to teach them specific things you would like to have them do in the event of a seizure.

Can I have my own dog certified?

If you have your dog professionally trained, some trainers offer a certificate.  Any claims that certification can be purchased, especially through a web site, are generally known in the dog training community as "gimmicks".  There is no need for certification of your service dog.  With no knowledge of your dog, these companies generally print out a form which is not required for public use.  You might choose to purchase a vest to make others aware, but they are not necessary.

How do I purchase a trained seizure dog?

More than likely, you will not need to purchase one.  There are many organizations who are 501 c 3 non-profits whose sole purpose is to provide trained service dogs to those in need at no cost.  They receive grants and donations to provide this service.  Availability of trained dogs will vary from one organization to the next, and some place dogs based on urgency.  Waiting lists can be years long, but it is always smart to complete the application process to "get the ball rolling".  

What can a public establishment ask about my dog?

1.    Is this a service dog necessary for a disability?

2.   What is an example of a task the dog does to mitigate the disability? 

What is my role in taking my seizure dog in public?

By law, any public establishment may ask you to either control a dog’s behavior or leave the premises.  A service dog must be under control at all times, and must not cause a disturbance.  Be careful to insure that your seizure dog is fully trained and well-behaved before introducing it to public property or transportation.

What is a Landlord's role if a tenant states they have a service animal?

 

  1. If the individual has a dog, with a harness, and appears to be blind or deaf, it is not proper to ask questions about any disability and the person should be treated as if there was no dog there. The animal is still required to be properly vaccinated and the owner is required to obey all leash laws. If the animal later becomes unruly or a threat to health and safety, the animal can be removed and reimbursement for damages can be sought.
  2. If the individual appears blind or deaf, and has a miniature horse, the animal can be refused if the rental house cannot reasonably accommodate the animal.
  3. If the individual has no apparent disability but has an animal, it can be inquired what kind of services the animal provides. It is also proper to inquire as to the person’s disability, and if the animal has training.[60] Documentation from the person’s health care provider can be requested. If there is no response to reasonable requests, then an accommodation is generally not necessary.[61] On the other hand, attempts to stonewall or purposely frustrate the applicant in an attempt to make her go away can constitute violation of federal law.[62] Training requirements and proof of training are the gray areas of this debate, so this decision should be made with care. It is also advisable to issue a temporary waiver while a court determination is sought as to whether the accommodation is proper.[63] If the animal is obviously a pet and the person says that the animal has no special training but helps them cope with an ailment, it is probably safe in Tennessee to require a pet deposit or refuse to allow the pet in a rental unit.

Source:  Tennessee Bar Association http://www.tba.org/journal/pet-or-pro

What is the tenant's role when seeking to bring a service animal into a rental?

 

  • Enroll the animal into some sort of formal training and get documentation.
  1. Obtain some sort of specialized training to deal with a documented affliction. This specialized training may not be as formal or as in depth as the formal training. For instance, self-training the animal to circle the owner to keep her at some distance from others can be specialized training.[64] On the other hand, anecdotes about how the animal assists the owner will not suffice.
  2. Obtain a letter from a doctor identifying the specific disability or affliction and specific ways a therapy animal will help.
  3. When renting, offer that the animal is a therapy animal, as opposed to just a pet, and offer whatever documentation is available.
  4. If the landlord still requires a deposit, there may be a claim under the Fair Housing Act.

Source:  Tennessee Bar Association http://www.tba.org/journal/pet-or-pro

 

 

Please connect with Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee if you have any questions at all.