Bridging Access: Expanding Service Dog Integration in Japan and the United States

Saegusa-Beecroft, Emi
Takayanagi, Tomoko
Machi, Junji B.
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"Bridging Access: Expanding Service Dog Integration in Japan and the United States"

Emi Saegusa-Beecroft, M.D., Ph.D.1,2
Tomoko Takayanagi, M.D., Ph.D.3
Junji B. Machi, M.D., Ph.D., FACS1,2

1. Office of Global Health and International Medicine, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai’i
2. Department of Surgery, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai’i
3. Chairperson, Japan Service Dog Association, Kanagawa, Japan

This comparative study highlights disparities in service animal integration for individuals with disabilities, in Japan and the United States.

To advocate for a policy reform to enhance inclusivity of service animals in Japan.

A comparative analysis was conducted, focusing on legislation, service dog team statistics, and the operational practices of service dog organizations in both countries.

In Japan, only 58 mobility service dogs exist for fewer than 0.4% of an estimated 15,000 potential beneficiaries. Conversely, the U.S. supports fewer than 1% of 61 million adults with disabilities, with 7,911 service dog teams.
In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) advocates for a wide range of disabilities, allowing service animals, including those for physical, PTSD, autism, epilepsy, and mental illnesses, provided they perform specific tasks.
This contrasts with Japan's limited recognition, which, despite the “Act on Assistance Dogs for Physically Disabled Persons,” acknowledges only Guide Dogs, Mobility Service Dogs, and Hearing Dogs as Assistance Dogs.
Amidst this disparity, the Japan Service Dog Association (JSDA) and "Cynthia's Hill” mobility service dog training facility, one of just ten in Japan, signify progress. JSDA's recent Assistance Dogs International accreditation and emphasis on personalized training regimens, along with Cynthia's Hill's rigorous matching and aftercare, confront the challenges of low public awareness and the substantial cost; approximately $21,000 USD in Japan versus over $40,000 USD in the U.S., per service dog.

The study calls for a global dialogue for reevaluating Japan's policies to parallel the more inclusive ADA standards of the U.S. Promoting understanding and acceptance of assistance dogs aims to build an empathetic, inclusive, and equitable society. By aligning policies with the intricate needs of people living with disabilities, the goal is to integrate assistance dogs fully into public life, enhancing independence and dignity for all.

[Desired Impact]
To catalyze policy advancements in Japan towards a more inclusive service dog system, mirroring the ADA's broader recognition of disabilities, thereby ensuring service dogs are accessible to all who need them, enhancing the quality of life for people living with disabilities globally.

[Key Words]
Service dogs, disability inclusivity policy, cross-cultural analysis (Japan - U.S.).

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