Media > Newsletters > Civil Rights Reporter > October 2013 > Brandeis Points to Service Animals’ Move into the Mainstream
Civil Rights Reporter
Brandeis Points to Service Animals’ Move into the Mainstream
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission have been fighting for the rights of disabled Ohioans to have assistance animals since the mid-1990s. Ohio’s efforts, along with those of other progressive states such as New York and California, have led to service animals becoming more commonplace in today’s society.
The introduction of Brandeis the Service Dog on PBS’ popular Sesame Street program a year ago this month demonstrates just how mainstream service animals have become since first being introduced to assist disabled individuals after World War I.
Brandeis is a yellow Labrador retriever modeled after a real service animal by the name of Hercules, who was raised and trained by Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions, which provides service dogs for disabled individuals free of charge, put Hercules through an extensive 18-month training course in which he learned to open doors, turn off lights, and pick up items.
Brandeis’ debut on Sesame Street in October 2012 coincided with National Disabilities Awareness Month and National Blindness Awareness Month. He assists Lillana, a character who is mobility impaired and uses a wheelchair. After much training, Brandeis was given his service dog vest, which bears the message, “Please don’t pet me. I’m working.” He is named for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who served on the court from 1916 to 1939 and had a sweet tooth for animal crackers.
Service animals aren’t just limited to dogs these days. Monkeys, cats, and even miniature horses also assist disabled individuals.
Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled provides trained service monkeys to individuals with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments. The animals are proficient in all sorts of daily activities, including fetching and setting up a drink of water, scratching itches, repositioning arms and feet after muscle spasms, turning on and off lights, loading DVDs or CDs, repositioning reading glasses, and turning the pages of a book.
Likewise, the Guide Horse Foundation provides miniature service horses as a safe, cost-effective, and reliable mobility alternative for visually impaired people. Trained miniature service horses demonstrate excellent judgment, have great vision, and are not easily distracted by crowds and people.
Some cats and dogs can be trained to detect seizures or panic attacks before they occur and to alert their owners of an impending seizure or provide comfort before a panic attack sets in. Tactile contact with a service cat has been shown to lower blood pressure and lessen or prevent an attack. Service cats also are known for their intelligence and good memories, allowing them to be trained to alert a deaf person when a doorbell rings, a fire alarm sounds, or a baby cries.
READ MORE ARTICLES