Legitimate Service Dog Certification
Fight Service Dog Fraud – Defend Your Rights as a Service Dog Handler
Dogs are a man’s or woman’s best friend. We have trained them for generations to help us hunt, farm, and raise livestock. Now that most of us do not have farms or hunt for food, our dogs are here to support us in different ways.
You can have a legitimate certified Service Dog even if you are not blind or wheelchair-bound. If you suffer from a disability, you are legally qualified to have a service dog. Below are the steps to legitimately certify your service dog.
Step #1 – Train Your Dog, No Shaming Allowed
Admitting to yourself that you could benefit from having a service dog can be the hardest step. Facing your own disability and admitting you need support can make you feel weak. This is not true. Standing up for yourself and seeking self-care is an essential part of growing and healing.
Training your dog to perform tasks for your disability is the first step. To learn more about how to make your dog a service dog, read this post.
Once you have trained your service dog, remember to travel with your certified Service Dog with confidence and be proud of your accomplishment. Training your dog to provide a service for you will create a stronger bond between you and your furry companion.
Step #2 – Legal Education, Understanding Service Dog Laws
Service Dog rights are clearly defined by the ADA. However, there are still a few facts that people commonly get wrong.
Fact or Fiction? #1 – Service Dogs require a doctor’s note.
FICTION… – Service Dogs do NOT require a doctor’s note.
Fact or fiction? #2 – Service Dogs cannot be Pitbulls or large dogs such as Dobermans or Great Danes. Only Golden Retrievers can be service dogs.
FICTION… – There are no breed, weight, or age requirements for Service Dogs. As long as the dog is well trained and can perform a task that aids in their handler’s disability, they can be considered a service dog.
Fact or Fiction? #3 – Landlords cannot charge a pet deposit for a service dog or deny them housing access.
FACT! – Service dogs have public access rights to all public places including housing. A Service Dog is NOT a pet and is categorized as a medical tool.
Step #3 – Practice, Practice, Practice
One of the most nervous parts of having a Service Dog is traveling with them in public. Training your Service Dog at home can be much easier since you are in a comfortable environment and your Service Dog has fewer distractions. Below are tips on how to practice training with your service dog.
Tip #1 – Train your service dog at home
Making sure you and your service dog are speaking the same language is key. Remember, your dog does not actually understand English. They associate the sound you are making with the task that they understand you would like them to perform. Making sure you and your service dog are communicating clearly is the first step to having a strong relationship.
Tip#2 – Train your service dog at a park
After you and your service dog are speaking the same language, it is important to start practicing and training in public places that allow for dogs, such as a park. Parks are excellent places to train your service dog since this space allows for dogs, there are plenty of distractions for your dog to overcome, and it is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon!
Tip #3 – Train your service dog at public places that are service dog-friendly
Although every place in the US is required to grant access to service dogs, some places will refuse to follow the law. Once you are confident in traveling with your service dog, we recommend standing up for your rights. We will discuss this in more depth later in this post. However, when you are first training your service dog, we recommend only exposing yourself to kind and safe environments.
A good way to practice traveling with your service dog is to call a restaurant with an open patio. Inform them you are traveling with your service dog and request that they reserve a table in the corner for you. You can have your service dog practice sitting under the table and waiting patiently for you. They will experience various distractions such as food and people wanting to pet them. Make sure you keep control of your service dog so both of you can gain confidence.
Step #4 – Legitimate Service Dog Certification
The ADA only allows employees and others to ask you two questions regarding your service dog.
Question #1 – Is that a service dog? Places can only ask you this question if it is not clear that your dog is a service dog. If your Service Dog is wearing a service dog vest, they should not need to ask you this question.
Question #2 – What task does your service dog provide for you. You can inform them the specific task your Service Dog provides for you and show them your Legitimate Service Dog Certification. They are not allowed to ask you to show them the task or ask specifically about your disability.
Step #5 – Advocacy for Service Dog Rights
Every service dog handler should become a Service Dog Rights Advocate. Too often we have Service Dog handlers accusing others of not being “legitimate” service dog handlers. This is discrimination and self-hate. Please understand that people are fighting disabilities that you may not be aware of. They have challenges in their lives that make having a Service Dog a bright light for them. Shining doubt on other Service Dog handlers is not right and we advocate against such emotional cruelty. Please be kind to others.