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Is there peer-reviewed research on
Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD)?
PSD are a new type of service dog; therefore,
very little research is available. PSDS will play Want More Information?
a vital role in generating peer-reviewed scien-
tific research on PSD. In the meantime, the
following may aid your understanding of the
value of these dogs: Dedicated To Responsible Psychiatric
Psychiatric Service Dog Society Service Dog Education, Advocacy,
Esnayra, J., Love, C., A Survey of Psychiatric Service Dog
P.O. Box 754
Handlers, 2006, (in preparation). Arlington, VA 22216 Research And Training Facilitation.
Johnson, A., Guard Dogs of Mental Health: Early Observations
Credit Psychiatric Service Dogs With Saving Lives--And
Call For Full Research, BARK Magazine, Summer 2005,
vol. 31: 41-42. (571) 216-1589
Smith, M.J., Esnayra, J., Love, C., Successful Use Of A
Psychiatric Service Dog: A Case Study, J. Psychiatric
Services, 2003, 54(1):110-111.
Becker, M., Morton, D., The Healing Power of Pets, Hype-
rion, New York, 2002, pp.153-155.

Barak, Y., Savorai, O., et al., Animal-Assisted Therapy For
Elderly Schizophrenic Patients: A One-Year Controlled
Trial, Am J Geriatric Psychiatry, 2001, 9(4): 439-442. PSDS Board of Directors
Kingwell, B., Lomdahl, A., Anderson, W.P., Presence of a pet
dog and human cardiovascular responses to mild mental
stress. Clin Auton Res, 2001, 11(5): 313-7. Joan Esnayra, Ph.D., Consumer
Fine, A., eds, Handbook On Animal-Assisted therapy, Aca- Craig Love, Ph.D., Psychologist
demic Press, 2000.
Barker, S.B., Dawson, K.S., The Effects Of Animal-Assisted Mark Smith, M.D., Ph. D. Psychiatrist
Therapy On Anxiety Ratings Of Hospitalized Psychiatric
Patients, J. Psychiatric Services, 1998, 49(6): 797-801. Earl Strimple, D.V.M., Veterinarian
Suzik, H.A., Americans With Disabilities Act Protects Service C. Madison Brewer, J.D., Attorney
Animal Users, J Am Vet Med Assoc, 1998, 212(1): 10-13.
Wilson, C.C., Turner, D.C., eds, Companion animals in
human health, SAGE, 1998.
Eames, E., Eames, T., Interpreting Legal Mandates. Assistance
Dogs In Medical Facilities, Nurs Manage, 1997, 28(6): 49-
Allen, K., Blascovich, J., The Value Of Service Dogs For Psychiatric Service Dog Society
Copyright 2002
People With Severe Ambulatory Disabilities, JAMA,
1996, 275(13): 1001-1006. All Rights Reserved FOR PROVIDERS
What is a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD)? What tasks can PSD be trained to perform?
A dog that is individually trained to do work or
perform tasks for the benefit of an individual ♦ Remind handler to take medication on time
disabled by mental illness. ♦ Turn on lights & search a room for intruders
What is a disability? ♦ Warm handler’s body during a panic attack
♦ Interrupt repetitive behaviors
A disability is a physical or mental impairment
that substantially limits one or more major life ♦ Attend to handler during emotional distress
activities. Having a psychiatric diagnosis does ♦ Accompany handler outside of the home
not necessarily mean your client is disabled ♦ Alert to mania, panic attacks or dissociation
under the law. What matters is that the de- ♦ Interrupt dissociative episodes or flashbacks
gree of impairment is ‘substantial’. As a men-
♦ Hallucination discernment
tal health professional you can help your client What about allergic or phobic persons?
by providing a letter that states she is disabled ♦ Mitigate hyper-vigilance and fear
If the allergic or phobic condition in question, rises to
and that you support her use of a PSD. ♦ Provide a safe grounding presence
the legal definition of a disability, then BOTH the
♦ Mitigate paranoia w/reality testing allergic or phobic person and the client with a PSD
What diagnoses may be assisted by a PSD? must be accommodated at the location. Remember,
Where are PSD allowed to go? very few allergic or phobic conditions are disabilities,
Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizo- under the law. However, it is best to err on the side
phrenia, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disor- PSD are allowed to access public spaces including of safety. Welcome the PSD team and ask the aller-
der, Agoraphobia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disor- but not limited to: restaurants, hospitals, air- gic or phobic person to sit away from the dog.
der and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. planes, doctor’s offices, cabs, zoos, stores, etc.
How may I support my client’s decision to
use a PSD?
Where may PSD be lawfully excluded?
Keep an open mind. Help your client build a support
PSD may be lawfully excluded from private spaces team (e.g., physician, therapist, trainer, peers). Surf
including but not limited to private homes, coun- the internet to educate yourself about PSD. Ask
try clubs, churches, etc. They may also be ex- your client how the dog is being trained to assist her.
cluded from spaces where their presence would If your clinical judgment supports you to do so,
constitute a safety risk (e.g., operating rooms, provide the client with a letter of disability that
research laboratories, constructions sites) or situa- expresses support for her use of a PSD. Join the free
tions in which the animal poses a direct threat to PSDS clinicians’ listserv.