Service Animal Laws
Service Animal Laws
Did you know that only dogs and miniature horses are recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? This Federal law has been put into place to protect the rights of those individuals with a disability and their need for a service dog. These specially trained animals are not pets, but are there to help the person with specific tasks that they cannot do for themselves. For this reason, service dogs are allowed into all public areas without exception.
Service Animal Laws By State
Service Animals are federally protected and have full access rights in all 50 states. A California Service Dog has the same rights as a Texas Service Dog or even a Florida Service Dog.
Each state may also has several different laws put into place to protect both the service dog and the handler. These laws include;
- 1). Animal Accommodation Laws – this law prevents the discrimination towards the service dog in all public areas, including housing and public transportation. This law also states that no additional fees can be charged to the disabled individual for having a service dog.
- 2). Criminal Interference Laws – most of the states protect the service animal from criminal interference, theft, and assault. Some states like California charge up to a $10,000 fine and/or a one-year imprisonment for intentionally causing harm to a service dog. Other states view any willful interference with a service dog as a misdemeanor offense. The only states that do not appear to have this law in place are Alabama, Alaska, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, and West Virginia.
- 3). Licensing Laws – approximately half the states have waived the licensing fee when it comes to service animals. However, some states may require proof that the service dog is needed or even an affidavit before this law will be in effect.
- 4). Disabled Pedestrian Laws – also known as the “White Cane Law,” this is put into place to protect the service dog and individual when crossing streets and intersections. This law requires all drivers to use reasonable precautions before proceeding as may be necessary to avoid injury to a person and the service dog.
- 5). Service Animal Misrepresentation Laws – 18 states consider it a misdemeanor crime to fraudulently represent the need for a service dog. This includes those individuals using a service dog vest, orange leash or harness on an animal other than one that has been defined as a service dog in that state.
Because laws may vary from state-to-state, it’s always best to look into your city’s requirements concerning a service dog.
Service Dog Training
Since a service dog is a working animal, the training it has is extensive. In fact, it can take up to 2 years to fully train a dog for service. However, there are no federal guidelines on how long it takes to train a service dog and some dogs can be trained in a few weeks or months depending on their temperament, intelligence, and age.
Two important areas the service dog is trained in are public access and the disability-related task(s).
- 1). Public access training ensures the dog is well behaved and always under its handler’s control. Examples of public access training the canine has are;
- – No barking
- – No lunging
- – No begging for food
- – No jumping on strangers
- – A service dog’s attention and focus must always be on its handler and not its surroundings or the activities going on in the area.
- 2). The second part of the service dog’s job is to be trained in the specific disability-related task. This can include;
- – Getting medication from medical bag
- – Picking up dropped items for handler such as wallet or keys
- – Alerting the handler to a drop in blood sugar or of an oncoming seizure
- – Calling emergency services
- – Opening doors or drawers
Should My Service Dog Wear a Vest?
Although it is not required by law for your service dog to wear a vest, it’s is recommended. Service dog vests alert the public to your need for this animal. This reduces the hassle you may encounter with owners/managers of public places, such as restaurants and movie theaters.
The service dog vest also tells the general public to not interact with your dog because its focus needs to be on you. This is especially important if your disability is not obvious such as those who suffer from seizures, to migraines, or anxiety/depression.
Does My Service Dog Need a Letter of Certification?
As long as your disability falls under the ADA list, and your dog is performing a task for yourself, you do not need a letter of certification for your service dog. However, you may want to register your dog with Service Dog Certifications for convenience and security.
Service dog agencies provide the handler with a custom identification card and certificate that will comes with a number of benefits. In addition, your dog will also be listed in the national databank of service dogs for third party verification.
Do I need a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal?
As we defined earlier, a service dog must be able to perform a task that the individual cannot do for themselves and that individual must have a disability that is listed by the ADA. Some people may not fall within these parameters. In these cases, an emotional support animal may be recommended.
The emotional support animal does not require any specialized training but is purely there to offer unconditional support, love, and companionship to those that suffer from an emotional or mental disability.
The ESA can be of any species and are still allowed some rights under Federal law. Emotional support animals now have to be accepted into “no pets” policy rental homes/apartments and also into the cabin of an aircraft at no additional cost to the handler.
Unlike a service dog, emotional support animals are required to have an ESA letter from a licensed therapist.
Service Dog Benefits
Service dogs serve those individuals that need them the most. If you have a disability ask your healthcare professional if a service dog may be a benefit to you. Don’t stop living a normal, active life if a service dog can be that extra helping paw you need.