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Can CATS Be Service Animals?

22 April, 2016

Having a cat brings the same positive effects as dogs. These pets can be equally beneficial to a person’s health. Experts have proven that cat owners are less likely to have a health emergency, such as a heart attack, with their feline companion around and cats have also been proven to help alleviate sleeping disorders, high blood pressure and other health problems.

But can cats be trained to work just like service dogs do? Are they extended the same adjustments as service dogs?

The law on service animals has been established for years and recognizes dogs as the most common provider. The provisions in the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) stated: “The term service animal includes individually trained animals that do work or perform tasks for the benefit of individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric, cognitive, and mental disabilities. The term service animal does not include wild animals (including nonhuman primates born in captivity), reptiles, rabbits, farm animals (including a pony, pig, or goat), ferrets, amphibians, and rodents.  Animals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals.”

However, on March 15, 2011, the ADA amended this provision to certify that dogs are the only recognized service animals (see amendments here) so as to prevent confusions from the public. So, where does this leave cats? Why are there people having cats as their service animals?

Can cats be service animals?

No, but cats can qualify as emotional support animals if you have doctor write a letter for an emotional support animal. Emotional support animals can fly in the cabin of an aircraft and can live in “no pets” apartments, but they do not have the same level of access as service animals and cannot be taken everywhere service dogs are allowed. In this case, cats cannot be extended the same acknowledgement as service dogs.

However, certain establishments might be willing to make adjustments and could make exceptions on a case to case basis for cat owners. It’s best to check with management before bringing the cat to their premises to avoid any untoward incidence.

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