Saturday, September 24, 2016

Celiac Service Dogs & Gluten-Free Emotional Support Animals

And the difference between the two… 

One thing I’ve learned on a recent trip…is that there’s a HUGE difference between genuine Service Dogs and what’s known as Emotional Support Animals, sometimes referred to as Comfort Animals.  Emotional Support Animals or ESA’s, are a wonderful comfort and support for those who need them.

But an Emotional Support Animal is a pet not a Service Dog; in fact they don’t even need to be dogs at all. They can be any domesticated animal capable of being trained not to be a pest in public areas. To be designated as an Emotional Support Animal, the pet must be prescribed by a licensed Medical Professional for a person who needs the therapeutic support that an ESA can provide.

And then there’s the family pet…not a Service Dog, not an Emotional Support Animal…but a very much loved family pet.  There are tons of SCAMS going around on the internet encouraging people to pay from $50.00-$200.00 so they can register their family pet as an Emotional Service Animal. They then receive bogus paperwork and a vest that the animal can wear while ‘working’.  They’re also told that their family pet now has all the same legal rights as a true Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal. Sadly, it’s all lies :-( And millions of people are being taken advantage of…buy these sham animal registries…and by those who knowingly register their family pet as a fake Service Dog or ESA.

Celiac is a tough disease…don’t let anyone fool you. It takes a determined person to choose to be healthy. Being different is tough…you take a lot of abuse because you go against the norm. It takes a strong person to fight the temptations, to stand up for yourself or your loved ones, to realize you’re important. For many Celiac’s the day to day struggles can be overwhelming. Being excluded or alienated, even challenged by friends and family by a Disease they never asked for can be devastating. For many an Emotional Support Animal is exactly what’s needed to help their humans through the rough spots in life. All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age…even young puppies and kittens, too!  You DO NOT need to register your ESA, simply keep a copy (updated annually) of the letter from your Doctor handy in case you’re asked for it.

It’s important to remember that an ESA has no more rights than a pet. The only legal protections an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has are:
(1) Fly with its human in the cabin of an aircraft without being charged a pet fee.
(2) Qualify for no-pet housing without being charged a pet fee.

No other public or private entity (motels, restaurants, stores, trains, taxis, busses, theatres, parks, beaches, libraries, zoos, etc.) is required to allow an ESA to accompany their human. That means they aren't protected by law in any public place that does not allow pets. It doesn't mean these places won't let them in, it just means that they’re not required to, by law.

Did I mention that Celiac is a tough Disease?  Well, unfortunately it can be a deadly one too. For the vast majority of us with Celiac Disease we know all too well what can happen to us if we slip up, or fall off the wagon temporarily, or get sidetracked by life on occasion. But for a very few who may have a much more complicated version of Celiac those slip-ups can be deadly.  Just the slightest risk of Cross Contact and it can mean an emergency trip to the ER and weeks, if not months, of recovery. For them, having a fully trained Celiac Service Dog can be a life-saving necessity. Stated very simply, Service Dogs spend the first two years of their lives learning how to work in harmony with humans while being trained to do something very un-doglike.  It’s the reason genuine Service Dogs are NOT cheap.  All that hard work and training can cost from $10,000.-$20,000.00 per dog and to their final human partner they’re worth every penny! A Celiac Service Dog is trained to sniff out even the tiniest bit of Wheat, Barley, or Rye across the entire spectrum of all the dangers their Celiac human may encounter. During the final testing process for certification the dog will be evaluated on food items, medicine, and hygiene products such as lotion, toothpaste, and makeup.

There are many types of Service Dogs that include Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Seizure Dogs, Diabetic Alert Dogs, Gluten Detection Dogs, Mobility Dogs just to name a few.  There are even Psychological Support Service Dogs (Autism & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). These are all highly trained working dogs that receive up to 18 months of training and go through many medical exams and temperament testing before being matched up with their human partner.

Service Animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. These are the ONLY animals approved to serve as “service” animals. And these are the ONLY animals allowed to go wherever, whenever their human partners go. When it's not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. 
Staff may ask two questions: 
(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

A Gluten Detection Service Dog is a serious commitment, but one that can be extremely rewarding in the right circumstances.  The entire process takes quite a bit of money (often between $10,000 and $20,000) and up to 18 months initial training time. At the end, you’ll have a dog that’s ready, willing and able to protect you from gluten – but also a living, breathing creature that needs to be taken care of and treated with love and respect in order to do its job.  And don’t forget this dog will be around you all the time (and will be responsible for your well-being) for the next 7-10 years and you will be responsible for keeping up the continuous training for the rest of the dog’s life. In effect you must continuously calibrate the dog's nose to the entire ever-changing array of all the dangers their Celiac human might encounter.

Canine Specialty Training  was originally founded in 1989 and was the very first company to bring Gluten Detection Dogs into the United States.  Susan Bass is the company’s owner and Training Director. She has over 30 years of canine instruction and training experience in diverse canine training disciplines. Erica Gates completed the Dog Obedience Training program at CST and specialized in detection.  Erica has Celiac and now trains the Gluten Detection Service Dogs

Willow Celiac & Allergen Service Dogs  is owned by Dawn Scheu, who is a Professional Dog Trainer with over 10 Years’ experience training Search and Rescue Dogs and has switched to service dogs and continues her education. Dawn also suffers from Refractory Celiac Disease and is partnered with Willow, her Gluten Detection/Mobility Assistance Dog.

Creating New Tails  is located in Hollywood, FL and is owned by Professional Dog Trainer, Jillian Skalky.  Jillian has more than 5 years’ experience training Service Dogs and continues her education. She also suffers from autoimmune diseases herself and has her own Service Dog Rosy.

Nosey Dog Detection Partners  specializes in scent detection training such as nuts, gluten, diabetes, dairy and other allergies. The company’s owner, Kathy Watters, is a Certified Master Dog trainer with specialization in scent detection training. She has over 20 years of experience training and in 2004 received her Master Certification. Kathy knew nothing about gluten when she was asked to take a chance and train the first gluten service dog in the USA.

                  Carolanne LeBlanc
Meeting:  4th Saturday of every month except December
                  Imperial Palms, East Clubhouse
                  101 Imperial Palm Drive
                  Largo, Florida  33771


  1. This text is worth everyone’s attention. How can I find out more? Really great news!!! this information is well worth looking everyone. Good tips.
    Houston Dog Trainers

  2. This is great! My gluten detection dogs name is Echo. You can see him on our website!

  3. I wish to show thanks to you just for bailing me out of this particular trouble.As a result of checking through the the net and meeting techniques that were not productive, I was thinking my life was done.
    Las Vegas Dog Training

  4. Excellent and very exciting site. Love to watch. Keep Rocking.
    emotional support animal letter

  5. One of the best blog posts I've read! Thanks a ton for sharing this!
    united service dog