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How to Register a Dog as a Service Dog in Illinois

How to Register a Dog as a Service Dog in Illinois

If you’ve ever wondered about the crucial role service dogs play in the lives of people grappling with physical and mental health disabilities, then the state of Illinois is a prime example. The state offers solid legal protections and rights for service dog handlers.

Service dogs in the Prairie State have VIP access. Public places that usually raise the bar to animals? They’re welcome. Homes and apartments where pets are generally persona non grata? They’ve got an open invitation. And when it comes to catching a flight, they can hop aboard without costing their owners a dime.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of owning a service dog in Illinois.

Who can have a service dog in Illinois?

Service dogs aren’t pets but invaluable partners to individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as someone:

“who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

To qualify, the handler must have a physical or mental health disability and should train the dog to perform a task that assists with their disability.

These talented canines can guide the visually impaired, offer deep pressure therapy for those dealing with psychiatric disabilities, or lend a helping paw to wheelchair users. Dogs aiding those with mental or intellectual disabilities are often termed psychiatric service dogs.

A service dog with its handler in a park in Illinois
A person with a disability that limits one or more major life activities may qualify for a service dog in Illinois.

Navigating service dog registration in Illinois

Is it mandatory? In Illinois, there’s no rule requiring service dog registration. But many handlers opt to register their dogs in voluntary databases to get ID cards.

What’s the perk? Handlers often use accessories like vests, ID cards, and certificates to signal their dog’s status. It helps underscore that your dog isn’t just a pet, but a highly trained service dog. This discourages unnecessary questions about the dog’s presence in pet-restricted areas and prevents disruptions while the dog is on the clock.

However, these accessories can’t be mistaken for official service dog verification. No one can demand these items as a condition of access. They’re for the handler’s convenience.

The real deal: If the need for the service dog isn’t immediately apparent, third parties in Illinois may ask two questions:

  • Is the dog a service dog required due to a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

An Illinois service dog handler who can adequately answer these questions can access public spaces without flashing any documentation.

Note that while you don’t need any documentation to enter public areas or housing with a service dog, air travel is a bit different. If you want to board a plane with your service dog, you will need to complete the DOT’s special form for service dog travel

For those interested in registering their service dog and securing an ID card, Service Dog Certifications (SDC) offers a database and service dog accessories. Here are the steps to register a service dog with SDC in Illinois:

  1. Confirm you’re a service dog owner

    Verify that you have a fully trained service dog.

  2. Input the service dog and owner’s names

    This information goes into the service dog registration database.

  3. Provide your email address

    This is where your digital identification card and registration info will be sent.

  4. Upload a recent service dog photo

    The image will appear on the ID card and in the database.

  5. Choose optional accessories

    Consider additional service dog identification cards, a collar tag, a paper certificate, a vest, etc.

Certified Service Dog Registration

Training your service dog in Illinois

A service dog must be expertly trained to perform the tasks needed. In addition, the dog must be well-behaved and under control in public.

Here are the three general paths for training a service dog:

  1. Adopt a dog from a service dog trainer: Opt for a dog already trained for the tasks you need. Just note it can be extremely pricey.
  2. Hire a professional trainer: Select your preferred pooch and leave the training to a pro.
  3. Go DIY: Handlers can train their service dogs solo. It’s more labor-intensive but can strengthen the handler-dog bond. Be sure you’ve got the skills and know-how before choosing this route.
Service Dog Tasks (Infographic)

Illinois state laws you should know

While federal laws protect service dogs and their handlers’ rights, Illinois law adds another layer of support via the Illinois Service Animal Access Act (720 ILCS 670). This statute gives service dog handlers broad public access rights. 

Falsely presenting a pet as a service animal under the Illinois White Cane Law (775 ILCS 30) is a no-go in Illinois. Handlers’ honesty is vital in maintaining trust and legitimacy in the service dog community.

Service dog news in Illinois

In one recent service dog case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office took action against a restaurant in Chicago that violated the rights of a woman and her service dog. The restaurant seated the woman in the back, segregating her from other patrons. 

Under the terms of a settlement agreement, the restaurant had to pay $15,000 to the victim and $2,500 to the US government. The restaurant staff was also ordered to undergo training on accommodating people with disabilities and service dogs. 

This case highlights the importance of businesses understanding service dog rights. Failing to comply with ADA and Illinois state laws can result in serious legal consequences. 

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