Registration Requirements: Service Dog – Certification
Any dog lover will tell you that the benefits of sharing your life with a canine companion are far too numerous to name. For people afflicted with certain disabilities and conditions, those benefits reach even further. Thanks to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, service dogs are so much more than just pets. These faithful companions provide the support needed by many individuals to live independently. From seeing eye dogs that are trained to guide the blind, dogs that can detect seizures before they strike and warn their owners, and canines that can sense their handlers’ blood sugar levels to highly trained dogs that help their owners perform numerous day-to-day tasks and those that aid soldiers who have returned from war, there is no limit to the types of roles these incredible dogs can fill.
How exactly does one go about registering a service dog? Let’s take a closer look at service dog registration requirements.
- Understand what a service dog is and what it does.
- Train the dog to provide a service for the handler/owner.
- Register your dog with a reputable organization.
- Get your service dog ID card and vest.
- Know your rights.
What Is a Service Dog?
A service dog is a dog that has been specifically trained to perform certain tasks or do work for someone with a disability. Some of the most common tasks including guiding the blind, alerting deaf people, protecting someone who is having a seizure, pulling a wheelchair, and reminding someone to take prescribed medications. Under the ADA, in order for a dog to qualify as a service animal, it must undergo extensive training to meet the specific needs of a person who is disabled. They are classified as working animals rather than pets, and they are afforded several protections under the law.
Training is what distinguishes a pet from a service animal. Whether you have your dog professionally trained or choose to do the training yourself, you can register him or her as a service dog upon completion. The United States does not have guidelines in place for how much time you need to spend training a service dog, however, international standards recommend roughly 120 over the course of six months. Many dogs spend one to two years in training, and at least 30 hours should be spent training in public to help the dog learn how to work in distracting situations.
Once you feel that the dog has been thoroughly trained, you need to put him to the test. The Public Access Test provides evaluation criteria for service dogs. In order to pass, the service animal must not show aggressive behavior or beg for food or affection while being tested. The animal must also remain calm and avoid hyperactivity while in public and respond to basic obedience cues.
Registration and Equipment
In the United States, service dog registration is not required by law. However, registering your dog makes it much easier to ensure that your rights will be respected by businesses, landlords, etc. Registering your service dog online is easy and takes just a few minutes. Simply enter your name, your dog’s name, your email address and the type of service your dog performs.
Once your dog has been registered, it is a good idea to invest in certain equipment. While service dog identification is not required by law in the US, carrying a service dog ID card for your service animal could help you avoid some sticky situations. Service dog vests are also a good idea as they clearly show that your dog is working.
Service Dog Rights
Trained service dogs are afforded several rights under the ADA. They are allowed to enter public places where pets are not allowed, such as restaurants, malls, and hotels. Service dogs are also permitted to accompany their handlers on airplanes. Businesses may ask if a dog is a service dog and what tasks the dog performs. They may not, however, ask about the handler’s disability, require special identification for the dog or refuse admittance. Businesses that prepare or serve food must allow service dogs in public areas. The ADA supersedes local and state health codes.
If a service animal is out of the owner’s control and posting a direct threat to the safety and health of others, the business owner does reserve the right to ask the owner to remove the animal from the premises.
Once a service dog has been properly trained, registration is easy. Service dogs are largely self-regulated in the United States, and while federal law protects them and their owners, the requirements are much less rigid than many people would imagine. While identification and vests are not required by federal law, these things are recommended because they may make dealing with the public easier when you have a service animal.