Service Animals at UF

Jeanny Lavache

Students with disabilities at the University of Florida are able to use their service animals to make everyday tasks easier.

According to the University of Florida’s Environmental Health and Safety website, UF allows the use of trained service animals by individuals with disabilities in all public areas at the university.

“A service animal has to be trained to do a specific task, and the person using it has to be disabled,” said Ken Osfield, ADA compliance officer at the University of Florida.

Under the ADA, service animals are allowed in state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serves the general public.

The only service animals approved by the ADA are dogs and miniature horses.

“In the past we’ve had students who have had monkeys as service animals,” Osfield said. “Primates are probably the most effective service animals you can think of because they can pick up a spoon and feed a person who can’t feed themselves, and a dog or mini horse can’t do that.”

Monkeys were considered service animals until March 15, 2011 when there was a change in guidelines.

A person with a service animal doesn’t have to get approval from anyone as long as the animal is trained to do something.

“Under the federal government there are no requirements for a person who wants to come to the University of Florida with a service animal on terms of getting it approved by anyone,” Osfield said.

Emotional support animals are not considered service animals and are not allowed in UF buildings.

“A service animal in training should have on a vest identifying it as a service animal in training,” Osfield said.

Sara Cork, a 4th- year Phycology major, trains a puppy named Calvin for the Guide Dog Foundation.

“Whenever Calvin is in training he wears his vest so that he knows the difference between working and being a normal puppy,” Cork said.

It is important that a service animal is trained so that they know how to act in public areas.

“The service animal must be under control at all times,” Osfield said. “If the person is unable to get the animal under control then they will be asked to remove the animal.”

According to Cork part of Calvin’s training is learning how to behave in a classroom environment.

“I usually pack a few snacks and chew toys so that he won’t be disruptive in class,” Cork said.

Service animals make life easier for the individuals who rely on them.

“It makes me so proud to train Calvin knowing that he will one day be helping someone who truly needs him,” Cork said.

The Pup Behind the Vest

Jeanny Lavache

Sara Cork is using her love for dogs to give back to her community.

The University of Florida student is the only puppy trainer in Gainesville who works with the Guide Dog Foundation. She manages being a student and a trainer to a puppy named Calvin.

“As a puppy trainer one of my jobs is to socialize Calvin and bring him everywhere with me to expose him to different environments,” said the 4th year psychology major.

Different parts of Calvin’s training include learning a list of commands, being potty trained and traveling with Sara everywhere she goes. Calvin goes everywhere with Sara including classes.

“I usually pack a few snacks and chew toys so that he won’t be disruptive in class,” Sara said.

Although Calvin is a cute puppy, his training restricts him from being pet while he’s wearing his guide dog vest.

“Calvin has to learn the difference between being in vest and being a normal puppy,” Sara said.

There is an extensive application process before becoming a guide dog trainer.

“I had to apply and attend at least two monthly meetings where I socialized with other puppy trainers,” Sara said. “Then I had an in home interview where people from the foundation came to make sure my home was puppy proof.”

According to the Guide Dog Foundation their mission is to improve the quality of life for people who are blind, have low vision or have other special needs.

“The training Calvin is getting now is preparing him to help the person he will later be placed with,” Sara said.

It costs $50,000 to breed, raise and train one assistance dog according to the Guide Dog Foundation website. However, all of the foundation’s services are provided at no charge to individuals. Funding comes from the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations.

“I decided to become a puppy trainer because I felt like God was telling me I needed to do something that wasn’t about me,” Sara said.

After seeking advice from a couple who were also puppy trainers Sara decided that being a puppy trainer was right for her.

Sara will train Calvin for a year and a half. After she is done training him he will be sent to an academy for further training and finally placed with a disabled person.

For Sara the hardest part about being a puppy trainer is knowing that she will eventually have to give Calvin up.

“I know it will be hard but I know he won’t be gone forever and he’ll be changing someone’s life,” Sara said.