How Are Service Dogs Impacting Golf?

Disability research and care have come a long way in recent decades. Much of that research has found huge benefits in service animals.

It is important to remember that disabilities can be clearly apparent or more discrete. The ADA defines someone with a disability as, “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity”. Luckily, service animals can help alleviate some of those struggles.

One of golf’s greatest gifts is the ability for almost anyone to play it. The style and pace of play has inspired many organizations to make the sport even more accessible.

From the California Eagle’s program to the Wounded Warrior Project, golf is flushed with a desire to incorporate anyone and everyone. Service animals are simply another method to help with this goal.

The introduction of service animals has raised some backlash in the golfing community. Some may feel that people take advantage of this opportunity to bring their pets around with them. Therefore, it is important to understand what a service animal is.

The ADA defines a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability”.

The ADA makes it clear that “Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either” (State laws may differ from the Federal law so it is important to check with your state and local government for more exact specifications).

There are specific laws for companies and establishments on how they are required to act towards service animals. Helping dogs can largely be defined under one of three categories. The first is the previously mentioned ADA-certified service animal. The second is an emotional support animal, which is a medically prescribed companion for therapeutic companionship. Lastly, there is a therapy dog, which includes any animal that is being used as an animal-assisted form of treatment. 

Now for golfers, service animals can help in a wide variety of ways. They can help you locate a ball and even provide psychological and social assistance. How a service animal provides assistance is entirely dependent on what the disability is, but the abilities of these animals can be astounding.

One legally blind man is even using his guide dog to help him navigate a golf course!

It is always difficult to try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The struggles people endure often go unseen. Service animals offer the rare ability to alleviate some of the symptoms for those suffering from disabilities. It can help them get back on the golf course, experiencing the outdoors, and performing a physical sport. 

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