While most people associate assistance animals with guide dogs for the blind or hearing impaired, service animals come in an extremely diverse selection of shapes and sizes that cater to a variety of health conditions.
The second most common type of service animal after guide dogs are mobility assistance dogs. Mobility assistance dogs are trained to open doors, pick up desired objects, turn on lights, operate ATMs, and utilize special harnesses to pull wheelchairs. In addition, larger assistance dogs are also used by Parkinson’s patients as walking braces to maintain balance.
Within the last decade, a new type of service dog has become popular and changed the way we think about at home care. Known as alert dogs, these service pups can detect oncoming seizures or dangerous blood sugar levels in diabetics and alert their humans to preserve their safety, well being and allow for diabetic support.
While most service animals are dogs for the most part, in some special cases, monkeys are actually utilized as service animals and capable partners. Specifically, Capuchin monkeys are trained specifically to assist quadriplegics in a way similar to many assistance dogs. Service Monkeys undergo a rigorous human socialization program as infants in domestic human home settings years before being partnered with a quadriplegic. Capuchin monkeys help around the house with various tasks including food preparation, assisting in hygiene maintenance, operating light switches, opening doors and everything in between. While primarily reserved for quadriplegics, Capuchin service monkeys are being utilized more and more as aids to the blind.
In some rare cases, miniature horses are specially trained to preform the same role as a mobility assistance dog. However, as it can be expected, the use of a miniature ponies is controversial. Horses live notably longer than dogs while being able to preform the same standards of tasks. However, miniature horses are legally classified as livestock and naturally require complex outdoor stabling and significant upkeep for good health, which limits their use immensely. On a practicality level, lying down in public transportation situations, staying in hotel rooms, and travel in general rove difficult to say the least. However, for some people in certain situations, miniature horses make excellent service animals and shouldn’t be discounted.