Applying for and Training Service Animals in Texas

The Capsule Group Inc and Sign Shares, Inc. team enjoyed meeting attendees from across Texas at the Abilities Expo Houston in early August 2019. Sign Shares, Inc. provided sign language interpreting to help make the expo more accessible. While there, CEO and Detective Eva Storey, TPLI met with staff from Service Dogs, Inc.

Specialized Service Animals for a Variety of Needs

Seeing eye dog guiding a person on a conveyor belt.
Most people are aware of guide dogs aiding people who are blind, but there are also service dogs for hearing, mobility, and emotional needs. photo credit: EX22218 – ON/OFF This White Dog…. via photopin (license)

The nonprofit Service Dogs out of Dripping Springs provides a variety of service animals that many people may not be aware exist, including hearing, service, courthouse, first responder facility, and PAWS juvenile offender dogs. Whatever the type of dog, Service Dogs provides free trained dogs and lifetime training for them for qualified applicants. They have been providing free assistance dogs since 1988.

Hearing dogs alert partners to sounds from their environment, such as a baby crying, smoke alarm, and other beeps and buzzes around the home or at work. Service dogs provide motor skills support, such as retrieving objects, opening, closing, and pushing things within their partner’s environment, as well assisting with movement or dressing. Courthouse dogs provide emotional support for children in tense courtroom situations.

According to the organization’s website, one of their programs, PAWS, is “the first and only juvenile offender service dog training program in the country.”

First Responder Facility Dogs work with emergency medical professionals, such as EMTs, paramedics, Emergency Room staff, and others in the hospital setting. The dogs help staff “de-escalate from the traumatic things they see every day,” such as fatalities, accidents, and emergency room happenings.

Seeing Eye Dogs in Texas

While Service Dogs, Inc. provides many types of service animals, they do not provide seeing eye dogs, which are provided by Guide Dogs of Texas. If you’re at least 17 and legally blind, you can call the organization to set up an appointment at (210) 366 4081. No matter which organization’s service animal type you need, expect to wait one to two years to secure a service animal that is trained to your specifications.

Additional Services Provided by Service Dogs, Inc.

Picture of a service dog from the Wisconsin Academy for Graduate Service Dogs.
Service animals are finely trained to devote their attention to work and to have the appropriate temperament for a working animal. The amount of dogs who qualify is limited. photo credit: slambo_42 Friendly service dog via photopin (license)

Service Dogs, Inc. also provides training for professional dog trainers.

Besides assisting people, the organization provides a new start for shelter and rescue dogs, as well as dogs changing careers from other organizations.

If you wish to apply for a Hearing, Mobility or Facility dog, you must be at least 25 years old, have a hearing or mobility disability or represent a facility that provides some of the services listed above, such as at first responder or law and justice programs. The application process may take up to six months, and it may take 10 months to a year before a service animal is placed.

Contact Us to Increase Accessibility and Adaptability

Sign Shares and The Capsule Group is on your side. Contact us regarding interpreting services or advocacy needs.

Advertisements

Department of Justice Addresses Disability Discrimination in Housing

In recent proposed settlements in Wisconsin and Ohio, the U.S. Department of Justice targets disability discrimination against tenants by landlords.

Courtroom gavel on top of document.
The Fair Housing Act is one of many laws protecting people of all abilities. photo credit: My Trusty Gavel via photopin (license)

The Fair Housing Act establishes that housing should be accessible to people of all abilities.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, a Wisconsin landlord and manager allegedly “discriminated against two residents of Applewood Apartments, a mother and daughter living together, and denied them rights by refusing to renew the residents’ lease because of their disabilities; demanding that they develop a ‘plan’ to deal with the daughter’s purported disability-related behavior (she is a person with Down Syndrome); and pressuring them to move.”

Discrimination, according to the press release, allegedly included not taking “prompt action to correct and end disability-related harassment by other tenants,” such as when other tenants made called the daughter “mentally retarded,” and stated “You don’t belong here. . . you belong in an institution,” as well as tenants interfering with their daily life on the premises.

Statue of woman holding scales representing weighing the sides of justice.
The U.S. Department of Justice ensures that Americans are treated fairly under the law. photo credit: Scales of Justice – Frankfurt Version via photopin (license)

According to the press release, terms of the settlement with the landlord are subject to U.S. District Court approval, and would include:

  • paying the complainants $40,000 in damages;
  • maintaining non-discrimination policies;
  • advertising themselves as equal opportunity housing provider; and
  • attending fair housing training.

Another case involves student housing at Kent State University in Ohio, according to a Department of Justice press release.

According to the release, the lawsuit alleges that Kent State University (KSU) “maintained a policy of not allowing students with psychological disabilities to keep emotional support animals in university-operated student housing.”

Picture of nine service animals with service animal vests.
Whether they are for physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities, the right to a service dog is in most cases guaranteed under the law. photo credit: Service Dogs of Hawaii Fi-Do, Training Session, Working Dogs, Job, Group Photo via photopin (license)

A settlement agreement between the department and university must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. If approved, KSU will:

  • pay $100,000 to two former students who allegedly were “denied a reasonable accommodation to keep an emotional support dog in their university-operated apartment;”
  • pay $30,000 to the fair housing organization that advocated on behalf of the students;
  • pay $15,000 to the United States; and
  • adopt a housing policy that allows people with psychological disabilities to “keep animals with them in university housing when such animals provide necessary therapeutic benefits to such students and allowing the animal would not fundamentally alter the nature of the housing.”

The university has also agreed to accommodate similar requests in the future, according to the release.

“This settlement shows the department’s continued and strong commitment to ensuring that students in university housing are afforded the protections of the Fair Housing Act,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division, said in the release.

The settlement demonstrates that on-campus housing has to comply with the Fair Housing Act like other housing providers.

Individuals who believe that they have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov , or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs’ website .