Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Not Listed

Committee Chair

Harry N. Boone, Jr.

Committee Co-Chair

Cindy Beacham

Committee Member

Cindy Beacham

Committee Member

Katie Baker Jones

Committee Member

Joy Saab

Committee Member

Craig Nelson


The purpose of this study was to capture the essence of the working public’s experiences with, and perceptions of service dogs. The population for the study was the working public of Kentucky, who through their employment, have experienced first-hand the phenomenon. A phenomenological framework informed the research design. In-depth, unstructured interviews were conducted to obtain data. Interview transcriptions were analyzed according to suggestions from Moustakas (1994) and Hycner (1985) regarding phenomenological research. The results of this research study naturally formed into five themes. Findings showed prevalent misunderstandings, confusion and lack of knowledge regarding service dogs, including how to identify a service dog, how to differentiate service dogs from other dogs, uniform and certification or registration expectations, legislation, and the labels used to describe different assistance dogs. Additionally, findings showed exposure to dogs in general, and training procedures, could impact one’s perceptions of, and level of comfort around service dogs. Furthermore, participants identified misrepresentation of a service dog as a primary issue around this topic. Participants placed value in standardization of service dog uniforms and identification processes, as well as the need for increased educational programs across social groups. Based on these findings, recommendations for future research were made to further establish an understanding of the public’s perceptions of assistance animals and assistance dog legislation. Recommendations were also made for adaptations and educational opportunities for various social groups. Increased research and education are necessary catalysts for change and further understanding of how to successfully incorporate service dogs into our communities.