Truly deserving of the moniker, Man’s (and Woman’s) Best Friend, Hearing Dogs alert their owners to everyday sounds that persons with hearing loss cannot hear. The simple act of knowing when someone knocks on the door or approaches, or awareness of various alarms sounding, fosters heightened freedom and self–confidence among persons with hearing loss. Many breeds can be trained as hearing dogs, legally recognized as Assistance or Service Dogs. This status allows the dogs to travel anywhere with their owner.
Hearing dogs generally alert their deaf or hard of hearing owners to sounds that signal danger or a call for attention. In public, this could be a siren, car horns, emergency vehicles or even someone calling to the dog’s owner. At home, the dog can alert owners to fire and smoke alarms, doorbells or a knock at the door, babies crying or even a stove timer.
Identification and Legal Status
Service dogs are generally allowed anywhere that the general public is permitted. In the United States, privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.
This does not mean that your dog can stay if it creates a nuisance. Obviously, if you go into a theater and your dog disrupts the show by continually barking, it is reasonable that you will be asked to take your dog outside.
If you enter a business and are told that you cannot bring your dog inside, you only need to say that you have a disability and that this is your service dog. A business cannot demand that you describe your disability, nor can it demand proof that your dog is “certified” as a service dog.
In addition to the federal law (ADA), there are state laws that provide additional protection to service dogs and the people that they serve. Michigan’s laws regarding hearing dogs can be found at the Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing web site.
For a list of commonly asked questions regarding service animals, published by the Department of Justice, click here: http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm
The following link is to a Business Brief on service animals: http://www.ada.gov/svcanimb.htm
There is a special set of regulations governing airlines, the Airline Carrier Access Act, with an explanation from the U.S. Department of Transportation. For more information on the airline regulations, see http://www.k9man.com/ACAA_federal_rules.htm.
Training hearing dogs takes several months, usually first at a training center for the dog, then in conjunction with its new owner. Each dog must be schooled in obedience, learning basic commands like “heel,” “sit,” “down,” and “stay.” By the time training is finished, dogs often know more than 100 commands. The animals must learn to be pleasant house pets, as well as to carry out their role as a service animal. Another major area in training dogs is socialization, so they can behave properly in public places. Then, of course, the dogs must be trained to recognize and respond to a variety of sounds.
Sources for a Hearing Dog
Finding a hearing dog isn’t difficult. Although, sometimes there is a wait as the demand is high.
- Audio Canis Inc.
Berkeley, MI 48072
- Dogs for the Deaf
10175 Wheeler Road
Central Point, OR 97502
(541) 826–6696 FAX
- Great Lakes Hearing Dog Program
- International Hearing Dog Inc.
5901 E. 89th Avenue
Henderson, CO 80640
(303) 287–3277 V/TTY
(303) 287–3425 Fax
- National Education for Assistance Dog Services Inc.
West Boylston, MA 01583
(506) 835–2526 FAX
- Paws with a Cause
4646 South Division
Wayland, MI 49348
- San Francisco Hearing Dog Program
San Francisco SPCA
2500 16th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103