Psychiatric Service Dog Registration
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a type of service dog that assists people with mental health disabilities. Owners of psychiatric service dogs enjoy special legal rights under federal laws. PSD handlers are allowed to take their dogs into places open to the public such as stores, restaurants, beaches, hotels and airports. PSDs are also allowed to fly with their owners inside the cabin, without any charge.
Psychiatric service dogs are sometimes confused with emotional support animals but they are not the same and have very different legal rights. The primary difference is that psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform tasks that enable their handler to function in everyday life or protect their handler from harm. An emotional support animal on the other hand provides comfort just through its companionship and does not require any specialized training.
Psychiatric Service Dog Registration
If you are a PSD handler, you can register your psychiatric service dog in our database. Registering your PSD with Service Dog Certifications provides you with 24 hour access to the Service Dog Registration database. Your psychiatric service dog identification card will have your Psychiatric Service Dog Registration ID listed so that third parties can verify your registration at any time and from anywhere.
It is important to note that certificates, registrations and ID cards are accessories used by PSD handlers to help signal to members of the public that their PSD is a trained service animal that is on duty. These items by themselves do not establish or convey any legal rights under the ADA or other assistance animal laws. Like vests and harnesses, they are just routinely used tools that help PSD owners manage interactions with the public.
The following are some frequently asked questions about psychiatric service dogs:
1). What is someone allowed to ask me in order to verify that my dog is a psychiatric service dog?
Psychiatric service dogs commonly serve individuals who have invisible psychiatric disabilities such as severe depression, PTSD, phobias and anxiety disorders. Many PSD owners feel self-conscious because their disability is not visually obvious and worry that people may doubt the genuineness of their need for a service animal.
Owners of service dogs that provide an obvious service (such as pulling a wheelchair or helping a sight impaired person walk) are automatically protected against intrusive questioning. The reason for that is because under the ADA, staff at a public establishment are prohibited from making any inquiries regarding a handler’s disability or what service a dog is trained to do if the answer is apparent.
If it’s not obvious what service the service dog provides, which is frequently the case with psychiatric service dogs, then staff members are only allowed to ask two questions:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Note that if you are flying with your PSD, airlines are permitted under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules to ask for documentation. The exact requirements vary from airline to airline, and you should always check ahead of booking to see what your airline’s policies are.
2). Can someone ask me additional questions about my disability or psychiatric service dog?
If you have answered the two questions above, staff members are prohibited under the ADA from making further inquiries about your disability. Individuals with psychiatric conditions that require PSDs have a right to confidentiality when it comes to sensitive information about their mental and emotional health. Staff members also cannot ask a disabled person to have their PSD demonstrate the task it has been trained to perform. No one has the right to inappropriately interrogate you about your psychiatric condition if you have otherwise satisfied the ADA test.
3). Can I fly with my psychiatric service dog?
Yes, under the DOT’s rules, airlines must recognize and accommodate psychiatric service dogs. PSDs are allowed to accompany their handlers in the plane cabin, as long as they can fit in the passenger foot space. Airlines have different requirements and procedures for accepting PSDs, so it’s best to check with your airline before booking a trip to see what their policies are. Keep in mind that the DOT’s rules are different from the ADA in that they allow airlines to ask for documented proof that an animal is a psychiatric service dog.
4). Do I need an ID card, certificate, harness or vest for my psychiatric service dog?
Unlike emotional support animals, there are no documentation requirements for psychiatric service dogs (but note that airlines may require form submissions in order to fly with a PSD). However, many PSD and service dog owners utilize identification cards, badges, harnesses, vests, registrations, certificates and tags to help them demonstrate that their dog is a trained service animal.
The ADA does not mandate any of these items in order for a service dog handler to be accommodated in a public venue and they do not, by themselves, confer legal service animal status. These accessories are instead frequently used by psychiatric service dog owners to help signal to members of the public that their service dog is on duty. PSD owners may be particularly sensitive about intrusive inquiries from the public because their disability is not readily apparent.
These tools can help PSD owners maintain their privacy and dissuade people from making uninvited and inappropriate inquiries about their mental health or the validity of their psychiatric service animal. They can also help ward off strangers and children who try to approach psychiatric service animals without realizing that it is inappropriate to do so while they are working. Many PSD handlers suffer from anxiety and phobias, so they are especially wary of strangers interacting with their PSD when in public.
PSD handlers should be aware however that no one can mandate these documents and accessories as a condition to accommodating their psychiatric service dog. These accessories merely play a helpful role in distinguishing their PSD needed for specific health reasons from a normal pet. Remember, a legitimate PSD owner without these accessories is still fully protected under the ADA.
5). What tasks do psychiatric service dogs perform?
Psychiatric service dog are employed to help with a wide variety of tasks. They assist people suffering from debilitating psychiatric conditions such as depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders and phobias. Psychiatric service dogs also help people with autism.
The tasks a psychiatric service dog can perform include the following:
- Providing tactile stimulation for someone experiencing a psychotic episode or panic attack.
- Reminding the handler to take their daily medication.
- Creating a safe space for the handler by acting as a buffer in crowded areas.
- Calming the handler with touch when the handler is experiencing distress.
- Waking up the handler to stop them from oversleeping.
- Helping to reorient and ground the handler when experiencing a PTSD episode.
- Reminding the handler to complete essential activities.
- Alerting the handler when the handler begins to engage in anxious or distressed indicators like shaking.
- Preventing the handler from scratching themselves.
- Using pressure tactics and eye contact to calm the handler.
In addition to performing specific tasks, PSDs like emotional support animals usually provide general comfort through their companionship as well. Most PSD owners find the bond they form with their psychiatric service dog to be invaluable for their mental health, even when their PSD is not engaged in performing the specific task it has been trained to do.
6). How do I train a psychiatric service dog?
A PSD can be trained by a professional or on your own. There is no universally adopted standard for training, but there are many organizations that have their own guidelines and standards for service dog training. If you are not experienced with training a service dog, it can be helpful to reach out to these organizations or seek the help of a professional trainer.
A psychiatric service dog is not a service animal until it has fully completed its training. Thus, a puppy that is in training for example is not yet categorized as a full-fledged psychiatric service dog. In addition to being able to competently and consistently perform the tasks relating to the handler’s disability, psychiatric service dogs should also be able to pass a public access test.
There are various standards for the public access test, but generally speaking they test to ensure that a psychiatric service dog can reliably accompany their handler and work in public areas. The PSD must be able to focus on its tasks even in hectic environments with lots of stimuli and distractions. Other public access skills a PSD should be adept at include being composed and well-behaved around people in public, not being distracted by sudden intrusions, being able to suppress sniffing and food begging instincts and maintaining concentration on the handler’s needs during stressful situations.