Posts Tagged ‘legitimate service dog’

Trying to determine if a dog is a service dog can feel like a game of Twenty Questions, but there’s only really two questions a business owner is allowed to ask: 

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

As cryptic and frustrating as that sounds, these parameters are present for good reasons. They protect the personal privacy of the service dog’s handler. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights and privacy of individuals with disabilities, thus also protecting the right of a service dog to perform their task. In short, owners of service dogs have federal rights. Because of these federal protections, the public should be aware of the appropriate way to verify a service dog. 

What is a Service Dog? 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is trained to complete a task directly relating to their owner’s disability. A service dog is not a pet but a way for a disabled person to overcome their disability. Because service dogs affect their owners’ health and welfare, they’re allowed into areas where pets aren’t typically welcome. Some examples of service dog tasks are:

Alert people with hearing impairments. Identify impending seizures. Help people with mobility problems.  What Can You Ask a Service Dog Owner? 

As stated prior, there are two questions a business can ask a service dog owner when trying to verify a service dog:

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Though other questions may seem relevant, they can be considered intrusive and discriminatory. Here are a few examples of questions that may seem pertinent but infringe on privacy or are discriminatory. 

What kind of disability do you have?  Can your dog demonstrate what it does for you?  Do you have documents to prove that your dog is a service dog?  Why does that dog need to be with you in here?  Would you be okay without the dog with you? 

The ADA laws do not require service dogs to be registered, certified, or wear identifying gear such as a vest or ID tag. Therefore, asking for identification or documentation would not establish whether a dog is a service dog. 

To verify a service dog, there are only two questions allowed. Asking about the owner’s disability infringes on their privacy. Where is a Service Dog Allowed? 

Federal laws allow a service dog to go wherever their owner goes. This includes hotels, stores, movies, restaurants, airlines, and anywhere else typically accessible to the public. For example, service dogs can live with their owners in “no-pets allowed” housing due to the federal Fair Housing Act. Service dogs can also travel with their owners in the cabin of airplanes because of the Air Carrier Access Act. These federal laws also exempt service dog owners from any fees for housing, lodging, and travel typically applied to pets. 

When Can You Ask a Service Dog to Leave? 

Almost all service dogs are well-behaved and exceptionally trained, but they’re not always perfect. There are instances when service dogs may be removed from the area. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations states that there are two reasons a service dog can be asked to leave the premises: 

If the service dog’s owner is not able to command the dog, and the dog is out of control.  If the service dog isn’t properly housebroken or if the dog urinates or defecates in an inappropriate area. 

If a service dog does not behave appropriately in public and is required to leave the area for any of the above reasons, the dog’s owner must be allowed to remain without the dog. If the service dog damages property, the business may charge the service dog owner for cleaning after the fact. Surcharges that usually apply to pets don’t apply to a service dog. Additionally, businesses can’t segregate service dogs and their owners from the rest of their patrons. 

A real service dog is always under its owner’s control and does not deviate from its tasks. Misrepresentation of Service Dogs

Although there is no federal law that penalizes fraudulent service dog owners, many states have laws against the misrepresentation of a service dog. Nevertheless, people still attempt to pass their pets as service dogs. Service dogs undergo hundreds of hours of training.

Well-trained service dogs are usually not disruptive, unruly, or aggressive. When interacting with the public, service dogs remain focused on their work. They receive training to avoid interactions with others unless necessary because distractions can be dangerous for their owners.

Service dogs do noble and vital work for people who have disabilities. It’s essential to verify service dogs correctly, to adhere to federal laws, and to respect the work that they do. 

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.

You have rights when it comes to owning a legitimate service dog.

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.