Ultimate Inclusivity: Service Dogs at Sporting Events

When it comes to sporting events, we have come leaps and bounds in the last few decades to ensure that those who are at a disadvantage can still participate fairly. Whether it be physical, visual, or intellectual impairments, it’s important everyone has the opportunity to participate.

Events like the Paralympics give the best of the best a chance to go out there and break records and earn medals. But lots of the people who compete live their lives with a service dog by their side. Where are they during these races? And why aren’t they participating by their owner’s side?

What Are Service Dogs?

Source: akc.org

For people with disabilities, some daily tasks can be challenging, if not dangerous. That means in some aspects of a disabled person’s life, they can need help getting around. But it’s not always another person who does that.

You’ve heard of the phrase ‘dogs are a man’s best friend’, but in these instances, they’re even more than that. A service dog is specially trained to a specific person’s requirements and can help them participate in regular life relatively independently.

And the best thing? If you already have a dog, you can train them for your needs! Find out more about how to make my dog a service dog.

Are Service Dogs Allowed To Participate in Sporting Events?

But what about helping in sporting events? The answer is… potentially. The ADA does not classify service animals as pets because they are a requirement for their owner for them to live their life. That means they have certain rights. For example, they are allowed in places where non-service animals would not be.

So, when it comes to sports and the dogs actually taking part with their owners, there is a case to allow it. The ADA has thought of that. While service animals are allowed in public spaces, organizations are not required to make ‘fundamental alterations’ to accommodate them.

In sporting terms, that means that while having a service dog at a marathon might be perfectly reasonable, having one for a triathlon is probably not because it would change the setup of the sport and also present potential dangers to other participants.

Benefits of Having Service Dogs at Sporting Events

Source: sadlersports.com

Sporting events can be exhilarating experiences that bring together fans from all walks of life. However, for people with disabilities, attending these events can be challenging due to physical barriers, sensory overload, and other factors. This is where service dogs can make a huge difference.

Service dogs are trained to assist people with disabilities in a variety of ways. They can help with mobility, balance, retrieving dropped items, opening doors, and more. When it comes to sporting events, service dogs can provide additional benefits that make the experience more accessible and enjoyable for people with disabilities.

One of the most important benefits of service dogs at sporting events is emotional support. Sporting events can be overwhelming, with loud noises, bright lights, and large crowds. Service dogs provide a calming presence and can help their handlers feel more comfortable and relaxed. This can make a big difference in allowing people with disabilities to participate fully in the event and enjoy the experience.

Service dogs also provide a sense of independence for their handlers. People with disabilities often rely on caregivers or family members to assist them with everyday tasks. With a service dog, however, they can have a greater sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency, which can help them feel more empowered and confident.

Moreover, service dogs can also provide practical assistance at sporting events. For example, they can help their handlers navigate through crowds, find their seats, and locate restrooms or concession stands.

Best Practices for Accommodating Service Dogs at Sporting Events

Source: usserviceanimals.org

While the inclusion of service dogs at sporting events can provide numerous benefits for people with disabilities, it is essential to follow some best practices to ensure a safe and comfortable experience for all involved.

  1. Clear Guidelines: Organizations should provide clear guidelines for attendees regarding the use of service dogs at sporting events. These guidelines should outline the rules and regulations for bringing service dogs, including their behavior and the areas where they are allowed.
  2. Trained Staff: Staff and volunteers should be trained on how to interact with service dogs and their handlers. They should understand that service dogs are working animals and should not be petted or distracted while they are performing their duties.
  3. Accommodation: Sporting event organizers should accommodate service dogs and their handlers by providing designated relief areas and water stations for the dogs. They should also provide seating areas that accommodate service dogs and their handlers, allowing them to sit together comfortably.
  4. Accessibility: Sporting venues should be designed with accessibility in mind, ensuring that service dogs and their handlers can navigate through the venue safely and comfortably. This includes providing accessible entrances, elevators, and restrooms.
  5. Communication: Effective communication is key to ensuring a successful experience for service dogs and their handlers at sporting events. Organizers should communicate with service dog handlers to understand their specific needs and requirements to make the necessary accommodations.

Helping Every Step of the Way – Literally

Source: shrm.org

Ultimately, it’s good news if you’re a person with a service dog! And there have been incredible stories of service dogs participating in sports, for example, at the New York Half Marathon where a visually impaired man ran with three service dogs by his side.

For the Good of the People and of the Dogs!

If you have a service dog, leaving them behind for certain parts of your life might be a little nerve-wracking and a bit sad, especially if you’re leaving them behind to do an activity they love – like running!

That’s why it’s so exciting – and essential – to know that you might not have to! If you participate in sports and want to use the aid of your dog along the way, talk to those at the organization because you might be in luck!

Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with foreignspolicyi.org from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]gmai.com