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What Is The Definition Of A Service Dog?

The official definition of a service dog is that it’s an animal trained to do particular tasks for a person with a physical or mental disability. These tasks must be connected to how the person is able to function. The service dog works to compound, support and assist these activities or mitigate the person’s impairment. The ADA only allows dogs and miniature horses to become service animals.

Why train a service dog?

Training of a service dog might be facilitated by an expert through a program for service dogs. However, enlisting in professional programs is not a requirement. The individual with the disability can actually train his dog himself or herself.

Apart from making a disabled person’s life easier, it’s important for service dogs to get the proper training so that the animals can have access in public properties. Under the stipulations of the ADA, trained service dogs can be with their owners inside restaurants, hospitals, airplanes, hotels and other establishments. Service animals must be allowed access to wherever their handlers are allowed access.

Service dogs are not exempt from following human rules when visiting establishments with their handler. If a service dog causes a disturbance or creates any damages, a business or airline or any other establishment is allowed to ask the handler to remove their service dog from the establishment.

What are Service Dogs?

Service dogs may also be referred to as:

  • Therapy or psychiatric dogs that help those suffering from psychological impairment or other emotional difficulties. These dogs can be found at hospitals or retirement homes
  • Guide dogs or signal dogs that help people with physical and mental disability. A blind person, for instance, will need a service dog for his mobility. A person suffering from neurological disability, such as someone with PTSD, might need a signal dog to warn him or the people around him of triggers before these happen.

Service dogs are considered more than pets because of these specific and important tasks they perform for their handlers on a daily basis. Any breed of dog can become a service dog, but the distinction is not acknowledged for other animals, whether they are domestic or wild. This means cats, birds, monkeys, or any other animals are not allowed to be designated as a service animal.

Below is the official definition of service dogs from the Americans With Disabilites Act: “A service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.”

Registering Service Dogs

Registration of a service dog is not necessary or required by law. Although it is not required, it may be beneficial for a service dog handler to register their dog in order to maintain their privacy. By showing their identification card when questioned about their service dog, the handler can avoid divulging private medical information to complete strangers. Since many people do not understand the rights of service dogs, having an identification card is a personal preference for handlers.

Yorkie Service Dog Registration

About the Author: The writing team at Service Dog Certifications is made up of folks who really know their stuff when it comes to disability laws and assistance animals. Many of our writers and editors have service dogs themselves and share insights from their own experiences. All of us have a passion for disability rights and animals.


  1. Pete H. Dillon says: August 23, 2019
    • Mary says: June 7, 2021
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  2. susan smith says: February 18, 2020
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  3. J Hunter says: May 17, 2021

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