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Disabilities that Qualify you for a Service Dog

04 August, 2019
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If you have a physical, emotional, or even mental disabilities, then you may likely qualify for a service dog. If you believe you qualify for a Service Dog and are ready to begin the progress of making your pet dog into your trusted partner, here is a helpful summary with next steps.

However, finding out what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify for a service dog can be a difficult task. If you’re looking for what qualifies for getting a service dog, three federal laws regulate and help define what qualifies for a service dog.

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1. ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. 

To break down this definition: 

  • The person must have a record and be regarded as having the impairment, which can including having difficulty hearing, seeing, walking, and learning, as well as a loss of physical or mental function
  • Major life activities including activities that are essential to a person’s life, such as performing manual tasks.

2. FHA – Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act doesn’t specify what illnesses qualify for a service dog, but much of how they define service dogs rely on the qualifications of the Americans with Disability Act. While the act itself applies specifically to service animals, the FHA takes some of those qualifications and uses it to a grouping term, “assistance animals.” This includes both service dogs and emotional support animals under the Fair Housing Act.

Disability, according to the FHA, is a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities. The FHA states that for those looking for accommodations for housing, the housing provider must consider if the person seeking to live with the animal have a disability and if the service animal can alleviate the symptoms of that person’s disability. Besides that, the FHA doesn’t expand on what illnesses qualify as a disability.

3. ACAA – Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act, on the other hand, does give more specifics on what qualifies as a disability. For those looking to take their service dogs while traveling, all airlines will accept service dogs without question, and will only not permit service dogs into the cabin of the aircraft if the animal is too heavy, poses a threat to others, cause disruption to the cabin service, or is not allowed in a specific country. One specific qualification for people flying is that their disability is listed underneath the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

List of Mental Disabilities for a Service Dog

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, these are the types of disorders that qualify as a mental disability: 

  • Depression and Depressive Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders & Phobias
  • Bipolar Disorders
  • Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Addiction, Substance-Abuse, and Alcoholism
  • PTSD, Trauma & Stress-Related Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
  • Dissociative and Personality Disorders
  • Autism
  • Neurocognitive and Sleep-Wave Disorders 

However, the manual is more relevant for those who have a psychiatric service animal, emotional support animals or therapy animals. Those with service dogs will not be required to provide documentation or show proof of their disability. However, looking through the manual can help you determine whether a psychiatric service animal, an emotional support animal, or a therapy animal is the right choice for you. 

List of Physical Disabilities for a Service Dog

Service dogs can benefit their owner by providing a physical service or task. Service dogs can assist with a variety of tasks that include opening doors, carrying items, navigating their owner, providing balance, alerting their owners, locating objects, and more.

Physical disabilities that may qualify a person for a service dog:

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Sensory Disabilities (Blind, Deaf, etc.)
  • ALS
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Pain
  • Stroke
  • Paralysis
  • Vertigo
  • And more…

Frequently Asked Questions about the ADA and Qualifying Service Dogs

Your disability is enough to qualify you for a certified service animal. You don’t need to have social security disability, nor do you need to qualify your service animal through a mental health professional because the ADA only allows those asking about you and your service animal two questions: 

  • Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What task is the animal trained to perform?

Because of this, housing providers and staff of businesses cannot inquire about disability, require medical documentation, require a unique identifier for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its abilities.

Your service animal is a service, like a medical assistant, and is not considered to be a pet. Because they are service animals, it gives them the rights to be with you in public spaces. Service animals provide support for you as you live with your disability, so while no regulations are surrounding the training and registration of service animals, keep in mind that service animals are for those with disabilities, and are not just a free pass for you to take your pet anywhere you’d like. The ADA’s regulations are clear not but everyone will be aware of it. Local agencies such as NY’s MTA would recommend registering your Service Dog so you have a Service Dog ID handy in case you are asked.

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