Dogs at Work

March 27, 2013  

The author learns about Animal Farm Foundation’s service dog program

By Kirstyn Northrop Cobb

I was in the mall the other day when I saw it. A little brindle butt. Could it be, I wondered? And sure enough, it was! A PIT BULL SERVICE DOG! My first thought, I must admit, was “Take THAT, Maryland!” (as this took place in Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, which has a history of pointless BSL legislation). My second thought was: “I must play with that dog!” So I did.

On my way home, I got to thinking about pit bull service dogs. We know that they are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and should not be affected by BSL under federal law. But where do they come from? For answers, I contacted Berniece Clifford with Animal Farm Foundation.

Animal Farm Foundation is a rescue for pit bull dogs, located in upstate New York. They have started a wonderful program where they take pit bull dogs from shelters and train them to be service dogs. This is amazing for so many reasons. First off, this means that shelter dogs can be service dogs, not just dogs bred specifically for this purpose. In addition, this means that more and more pit bulls can become service dogs. And, as previously mentioned, pit bull service dogs are protected against BSL by the ADA. Berniece also sees this as a good way to give back to the community. She also reminds us that all dogs are individuals, and breed does not play a role in a dog’s ability to become a service dog; personality does. Animal Farm Foundation looks for dogs that are good with all people, as well as dogs and cats. The dog’s physical structure also plays a part. It takes 12-18 months for a dog to be trained as a service animal; those that do not make it as service dogs are put up for adoption.

You can learn more about Animal Farm Foundation’s service dog program here.

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