Boo and Riley are more than affectionate, protective family pets. To their owners, the specially trained dogs are a furry layer of security to sniff out peanut products and other life-threatening allergens.
The dogs’ Connecticut owners are among many people nationwide turning to allergy-sniffing service dogs, who accompany their handlers to detect allergens and their residue at school, during social events and in other everyday activities.
As their popularity grows, though, some owners are having mixed success in convincing businesses, schools and those in charge of other public venues that the dogs must be accepted as service animals, just as dogs whose handlers’ disabilities are more readily apparent.
They’re already specifically recognized as medical service dogs in recent updates to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, but some parents are taking it a step further by lobbying their local and state officials to update their regulations, too.
“The dog is just one way we can help our daughter have a more normal life,” said Pam Minicucci of North Haven, whose 7-year-old daughter, Gianna, is constantly accompanied by her allergy-sniffing St. Bernard named Boo.
For more on this story, see the June 16 issue of Navarre Press or subscribe online.