The week of Aug. 1-7 is International Assistance Dog Week.

The week acts as a way to celebrate the hardworking and dedicated assistance dogs that help individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations. Assistance dogs help people with disabilities perform important, everyday life activities and for many, their assistance animals have completely transformed their quality of life.

I'm sure many of us have pet dogs of our own. We understand the companionship they provide and the impact they have on our lives. Assistance dogs take companionship a step further, and act as an avenue to a more accessible life for people with disabilities. These dogs are so much more than what might meet the eye. They are caretakers, supporters, aides, and best friends.

Yet, assistance animals are not always given the acknowledgment and understanding they deserve. Housing complaints based on disability are the most common type of complaint received by fair housing agencies. While the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act allow for assistance animals, landlords sometimes fail to accommodate an individual and their assistance dog, (i.e., refusing to rent to individuals with assistance animals, charging them pet fees, etc.)

Hear from HOPE Executive Director Evelyn Sanguinetti, of Wheaton, on her thoughts on assistance animals: "Assistance animals are invaluable and provide real health benefits for people with disabilities. We see it every day with the clients we advocate for at HOPE."

The next time you see an assistance animal in your apartment building, the grocery store or public transportation, take some time to see them for what they truly are. Their fierce loyalty and dedication is admirable and inspiring.

Happy International Assistance Dog Week. May we be the people our dogs think we are. See assistancedogweek.org for more information.

Beth LeCroy

AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate with HOPE Fair Housing Center