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Do You Need a Vest for a Service Dog?

service dog vest

Having a service dog provides an individual with the freedom to do things that a disability or challenge may otherwise not allow them to do. These specially trained canines are more than just companions, they can be the eyes, ears, hands and even medical alert that makes a huge difference in the lives of those who need one.

When we see a person with a dog in a public setting, the service dog is usually wearing a red or blue vest to identify it as a working dog. Why do you need a vest for a service dog? The reasons may surprise you.

Service Dog Regulations

Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA) a service dog is defined as a canine that is specifically and individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. These can include;

  • Guiding the blind
  • Alerting the deaf
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Alerting and protecting those with seizures
  • Alerting those with mental illness to take a medication
  • Calming a person with PTSD or other anxiety issues

These dogs are working animals and are therefore not regarded as an ordinary pet. This means those folks with a service animal will be given access to public places and housing where other animals may not normally be allowed.

A service animal must also be under control at all times with the aid of a harness, tether or leash. If the person is unable to use these devices, then the dog must be under full control by using voice, hand or other means of command.

How Can a Person Get a Service Dog?

In order to be eligible for a service dog, you must first be disabled under the definition of the American Disability Act (or the one applicable in your country). This will be determined by a doctor and put in writing.

The next step is that you will have to know exactly what the tasks are the service dog is going to be performing for you (ie, alerting, guiding, retriever etc.). This is what your dog will be trained to do, usually through an accredited agency that specializes in training and providing service dogs.

In addition, you will have to be willing to wait for your service dog to be trained. This can take up to three years depending on what the dog needs to do.

Lastly, service dogs are costly. These specialized pooches can run upwards of $25,000 if you use a trainer! Remember that you are able to train your own service dog.

Why Identification for Service Dogs is Important

Although it is not required by law, it’s always best to provide a service dog with a vest or other identification stating that it is a working dog. These vests are specially designed with “service dog” printed on them or badges that clearly id them as a working animal. This simply attire allows the handler to freely access those areas that may otherwise be restricted to pets. For example, if you were to try to get a dog through an airport security without the proper service dog vest or badge, it would be a huge hassle.

Service dog vests also stop the general public from making a fuss when a person brings the dog into other public places like restaurants. In addition, this type of identification also alerts people to the fact that the service dog is not just a pet, but is there to aid the individual. Therefore, the animal should never be approached, spoken to or petted without the consent of the handler. Any distraction to the dog could cause harm to the individual that needs the canine to be “on duty.” Register your service dog by clicking the link below.

Service Dog ID Card Banner

Click to Register your Service Dog

Service Dog Rules

You and your service dog have rights and there are rules in place to protect those rights. These include;

  • People can only make minimal inquiries about your disability if it is not obvious. In fact, there are only two questions they can ask; is the dog required for a disability and if so, what task(s) does the dog perform?
  • The service dog cannot be denied access to public areas because of a fear of dogs or an allergy. The person or people who suffer from fear and allergies to dogs must also have provisions made available to them.
  • The working canine can only be removed from a public area due to unruly behavior or it’s not housebroken.
  • Service dogs are allowed in those areas that sell/prepare food
  • The handler cannot be treated differently, secluded to a different area or charged more (as with airlines or hotels) to have their service dog with them.

Service Dogs Are Important

There’s a reason why service dogs have special privileges, rights, and even identification, it’s because these animals perform important tasks each day. Having the aid of a service dog allows the person with a disability to live a normal life.

The next time you see a service dog, remember what you’ve read here today and know these dedicated canines may be that person’s lifeline.


  1. Tim Walcott Sr. says: July 20, 2021
    • Seraphina says: January 22, 2022
  2. Brenda Abalos says: May 14, 2021

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