By Courtmey Hibler
Service animals can be seen around Youngstown State University and they are more than just an adorable, fluffy companion for their handler.
A service animal is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Some disabilities include being confined to a wheelchair, visually and hearing impaired, those dependent on their medications and more.
Service animals are not defined as pets, but as working animals.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, animals whose sole purpose is to provide comfort or emotional support are not service animals.
Some service animals are dogs, cats and even miniature horses.
Sally Frederick, a freshman social work major, trained and owns a service dog named Ripley, who is used for medical alerts.
“She is the only reason I’m able to attend school,” Frederick said.
Before Frederick owned Ripley, she did countless research on service animals including how to obtain and train them.
With the information she learned, Frederick wrote a book titled, “To Train a Service Dog: Ripley’s Story.”
“I put everything I had learned into my book, so others who need a service dog can learn the basics,” she said.
Frederick said she plans on expanding the first book she wrote after she is finished with school.
“I want it to be about traversing college with a service animal,” she added.
YSU has had service animals on campus in the past, but Frederick is one of the few students who currently possess a service animal.
Gina McGranahan, assistant director for disability services, said all accommodations are based on the student’s disability and are decided on a case-by-case basis.
“It is recommended that the student registers with the Disability Services office, but it’s not required,” she said.
If a service animal were to cause an issue, YSU has the ability to exclude that certain animal.
These issues can include the service animal posing a direct threat to the safety or health of others, causing physical damage to the property of others, posing an undue financial and administrative burden or resulting in a fundamental alteration of the university’s program(s).
“A service animal must be under the control of their handler at all times and if there are serious issues, the student would need to get additional training for their animal,” McGranahan said.
When it comes to the handler and their service animal, it is crucial to not interact with the animal while he or she is working.
“It stresses the dog out because they are taught not to be touched while working,” Frederick said. “Always ask the handler before you make an interaction.”
Esmeralda Pabon, a freshman biological science major, said it’s unacceptable when people attempt to do this and it should be addressed.
“Maybe some flyers could be posted that inform people on service animals,” she said. “This would hopefully educate people so they don’t do the same thing over and over again without truly knowing how harmful it is.”
Frederick said training a service dog isn’t difficult, but more time consuming.
She is starting to train another dog for her mother, although it will take a significant amount of work due to underlying issues.
“It is a huge undertaking, but with patience and time I feel like anyone is able to train a dog,” she said. “It’s all worth it in the end if it means helping yourself out in the long run.”