ABC News, Tampa Bay recently highlighted a news story “Service dog welcomes litter of puppies while waiting to board flight at Tampa International Airport”, Service dog gives birth while waiting for a flight. In my work as a veterinarian, I understand the importance of having a service dog. These animals assist people with a disability in their daily functions.
In short, this article highlights a feel good story of a service dog named Eleanor Rigby giving birth in the airport while her handler is waiting for their flight. The Tampa fire and rescue were called to help assist the female dog deliver 8 puppies.
Hearing about this story, as a veterinarian, I have concerns….
Why is this female service dog not spayed?
Did the handler know this service dog was pregnant?
Did the handler know the gestation time frame for her service dog? If yes, why was she flying so close to parturition?
Can this working dog do her job as a service dog heavily pregnant?
Can this working dog do her job as a service dog in active labor?
Who is advocating for the health and welfare of this working dog?
I could go on and on with my questions, I need answers!! As a medical healthcare professional, I am not here to pass judgement, I am here to provide education and guidance, so better decisions can be made for the handler and their working animal.
With this news story, I see the need for better collaboration between the prescribing physician of the service dog and a veterinarian. I see the need for additional education for the handler. I see a working animal that needs a veterinarian as its advocate.
At Assistance Animals Consulting, we are veterinarians, recognized experts uniquely qualified to serve the community by providing resources for education, behavioral understanding, and guidance regarding working animals. Our veterinarians are here to support you.
For Eleanor Rigby and her handler, in collaborating with Assistance Animals Consulting we would have created a mutually beneficial healthcare plan by providing the following services:
Collaboration with prescribing physician to provide a multidisciplinary approach to manage the handler’s specific healthcare needs for when her service dog would be unable to work.
Educational timeline of veterinary rechecks for health and welfare of pregnant working dog and puppies.
Educational timeline of when a working dog should stop and return back to work.
Evaluation of Eleanor Rigby prior to releasing her back to work after pregnancy leave.
Advocacy for Eleanor Rigby and her general care as a working service dog.
Assistance Animals Consulting, we collaborate, evaluate, educate and advocate for successful human animal partnerships. As veterinarians it is our responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of service animals are protected. We want to be part of your multidisciplinary approach when using an assistance animal. Contact us to learn how we can help.
~Dr. Rhesa Houston