What do you think of when you think of an emergency? A natural disaster? A car accident? A health scare? Emergencies always require some extra planning for people with disabilities as medications, access and medical needs need to be met. Loss of power can be dangerous for a person with a disability (consider power wheelchairs need to be charged, respirators and ventilators cannot function). Additionally the needs of a service dog or service dog in training also must be factored into planning.
Trainers working with service dogs need to educate their clients to plan ahead for a wide range of emergencies.
On the Road
- The service dog needs to wear appropriate identification. Some type of cape, harness or tag that indicates that the dog is a service dog can also be important in the event of an accident.
- Emergency medical alert systems (e.g. Medical Alert, Life Alert) may allow information about the service animal to be entered into the system.
- Carry basic information about the service dog and contact info for someone who can care for the service dog in a wallet and/or have it entered in the cell phone.
- Current vaccination information should be easily accessed, any special medical need info for the dog as well as the owner of course, and veterinarian contact info.
- In a car, keep a back up leash, extra clean up supplies, some extra treats, water and a water bowl.
- Establish a game plan for care of the service dog and any other pets should the owner need to be hospitalized. Make sure there are alternate caregivers and everyone has all necessarily contact and veterinary information.
- Include notification near a visible window or on the front door that a service animal is working in the home. A basic notice such as “See refrigerator for important information” can help ensure that caregivers for the dog are reached.
- Train the service dog an automatic appropriate response such as a “go to place” when people enter the home.
- Introducing the service dog to local emergency personnel may also be helpful, especially if the likelihood of the handler needing paramedic support is high.
- Consider the service dog in evacuation supplies. Although registration/documentation is not required by Federal law for access, it never hurts to have any documentation you have accessible in the event of an emergency situation when rules may/may not be understood or followed.