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How Can I Get My Dog to Be a Registered Service Dog?

Service Dog Registration - ServiceDogCertifications

Interested in registering your dog to be a service dog? You may be surprised by what that actually entails. In this article, we’ll explore how you can register a service dog, as well as the reasons why you should or shouldn’t spend the money to do it. 

The big picture: A service dog is a type of legally recognized assistance animal that is trained to perform specific tasks for people with physical or mental health impairments. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. These tasks include opening doors, retrieving items, responding to an emergency situation, guiding the handler through busy crowds or traffic, and providing pressure therapy during mental health crises. 

Psychiatric service: Service dogs that help with mental, intellectual, sensory, or psychiatric health conditions are called psychiatric service dogs. For example, there are service dogs trained to help people with debilitating depression or at risk of panic attacks. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

Below is a quick summary of how to register your Service Dog:

  1. Step 1 – Confirm you have a qualifying disability

    To own a service dog, you must have a physical or mental health impairment that substantially limits a major life activity like the ability to work, socialize, or go to school. This is the ADA (federal standard). CA standard is less strict, “disability is a mental or physical impairment that limits a significant life activity”. A licensed healthcare professional can assess your condition and, for psychiatric issues, write a PSD letter.

  2. Step 2 – Train your service dog

    A service dog must be individually trained to perform a task or job related to your disability. Here is a link to various tasks a service dog can perform.

  3. Step 3 – Take a public access test

    A service dog must also be trained to perform its duties in public environments. Service dogs have public access rights, so they are expected to be well-behaved and under their handler’s control at all times. Service dog owners can test whether their dog is ready by taking a public access test.

  4. Step 4 – Register your service dog

    After you have qualified for a service dog, you can choose to register your dog on a registry like Service Dog Certifications. You are not required to register your service dog but many handlers choose to do so for certain benefits. Most handlers prefer having identifiers like a service dog identification card, tags, or vests to clearly signal their dog is an assistance animal to avoid unnecessary confrontations.

How to register your service dog - 4 steps - infographic

Registering your Service Dog

Although it is not a legal requirement, registering your Service Dog can help eliminate the confusion in public places that don’t allow dogs. You can do this through a private organization like Service Dog Certifications. Although not legally required, you can also obtain a letter from your doctor stating your disability and a health certificate from your canine’s veterinarian stating they are in good health. Owners of psychiatric service dogs, for example, frequently obtain PSD letters to document their condition. 

Why you should register your service dog. Registering your service dog enters your service dog into a searchable database. Organizations like Service Dog Certifications can issue an ID card linked to this record. 

Registrations, certifications, ID cards, tags, and vests all fall under the category of service dog paraphernalia. Service dog handlers use these tools to visibly signal that their dog is on duty and avoid unpleasant interactions with people who may not be aware.

In addition, while third parties are not allowed to demand documents like ID cards and certificates, service dog handlers can attest that people do so anyway. Whether at a store, an airport, a library, or a restaurant, service dog handlers are frequently harassed for service dog identification documents. Rather than engage in a lengthy legal conversation with every passerby, service dog handlers opt to simply have these documents handy for convenience. 

Obtaining a registration ID for your service dog is a painless way to peacefully go about your day in public while minimizing intrusive inquiries. 

Service Dog Registrations - ServiceDogCertifications

Why you shouldn’t register your service dog. You should not register your service dog if you have not yet fully qualified for a service dog. For example, if you have not yet confirmed you have a qualifying disability or fully trained your service dog, you cannot register your service dog.

You should not register your service dog solely if you think it’s legally required. There are many good reasons to register your service dog, but it is not mandatory for owning a service dog. 

Finally, you should absolutely never register a service dog as a shortcut. A service dog handler is always responsible for verbally self-certifying that their dog is fully qualified as a service animal, and registration cannot get around that responsibility.

Traveling with your Service Dog in busy public places

Public access: The main reason service dog handlers use registries, certifications, ID cards, tags, and vests is for ease of public access. Service dogs have the right to enter public places normally closed off to pets. with some exceptions. The ADA does not require covered entities to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does it overrule legitimate safety requirements.  If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be prohibited.  In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

Business establishments, public venues, and landlords must accommodate all service dogs without any charge or presentation of documentation. Service dogs also have the right to live in residential buildings that prohibit dogs.

Handlers often choose to meet these demands and to have identifiers, so others don’t question their dogs’ presence or pet their animals while the dogs are working. An ID card or vest can be very helpful in deterring people from inappropriately approaching a service dog. However, all service dog owners should be aware that there is only one ADA-approved way to verify a service dog. Staff at an establishment and landlords can ask two verbal questions if the handler’s disability is not obvious: 1. Is the dog a service dog required for a disability? and 2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Final thoughts

If you are considering registering your service dog, go with an organization like Service Dog Certifications (SDC). We keep a secure database of service dogs for handlers who have chosen to register their dog linked to an ID card. 

SDC is a leading provider to responsible service dog handlers who need accessories like ID cards, tags, and vests to avoid public confrontations and hassle. Service dog handlers nationwide trust Service Dog Certifications when it comes to purchasing their service dog accessories because of their reliability and compliance with service dog standards. 

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About the Author: The writing team at Service Dog Certifications is made up of folks who really know their stuff when it comes to disability laws and assistance animals. Many of our writers and editors have service dogs themselves and share insights from their own experiences. All of us have a passion for disability rights and animals.


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