What Makes a Service Dog Legal?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Service Animal is defined as a dog that is specifically trained to perform a task (or tasks) for an individual with a disability.
With this definition in mind, a Service Dog is not an ordinary pet or even one that is being used for emotional support (ESA).
A Service Dog is NOT an Emotional Support Animal
There may be some confusion as to the difference between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Animal. As we mentioned earlier, the Service Dog must be specifically trained to perform a task that the person cannot do for themselves.
This includes (but is not limited to);
- Guiding the blind
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Opening doors
- Alerting to an oncoming medical condition
- Reminding the individual to take medications
- Alerting those with hearing impairments
An Emotional Support Animal is defined as any animal that is being used by an individual with a mental or emotional disability for comfort. This can include helping people with social anxieties, PTSD, phobias, anxiety, and depression. Unlike a Service Dog, an ESA is not specifically trained for providing a task(s) for their owner.
Unlike an Emotional Support Animal, Service Dogs are allowed into all areas where the general public has a right to go. This includes restaurants, hotels, theaters, public transportation, libraries, retail outlets, malls, etc.
How Do I Qualify for a Service Dog?
Before you can have a legitimate Service Dog, you must have a disability that requires the assistance of a canine companion. Some disabilities are obvious and therefore will need no explanation for the dog. Other conditions may not be so visible, but that doesn’t mean you are not entitled to having one.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does have a clear definition as to what is considered disabled. If you are unsure, ask your doctor if you may qualify for a Service Dog.
To register your dog and get your service dog ID card, please complete the registration below.
What Makes a Service Dog Legal?
Training of the Service Dog to perform a specific task is key to it being legitimate. According to the ADA, the Service Dog does not need to be professionally trained, meaning the disabled individual may go through this process themselves.
However, be aware that the handler of the dog is 100% responsible for that canine in all situations. The Service Dog must be under your control at all times. It cannot exhibit any unruly behavior such as jumping, begging, wandering off, barking, lunging at people, etc.
The ADA also does not consider a Service Dog in training a full-fledged assistance animal, so it is not yet allowed into those public areas that are normally off limits to dogs.
The Service Dog is also not legally required to wear any identification of its status; however, having a specifically marked vest, harness or badge will make it easier when you are dealing with the general public.
What Questions Can Be Asked of Me?
In situations where your disability may not be obvious, there are only two questions that may be asked of you;
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Note: The staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of your disability.
You and Your Service Dog
If you have a disability and need the help of a Service Dog, know your rights. You are allowed to have this working animal with you in all areas open to the general public. However, your dog must be well behaved and in your control at all times. If your disability is not openly visible, staff members are only legally able to ask you two questions in regards to your Service Dog.
Don’t suffer another minute when a Service Dog may be the answer to getting you back on the road to living a more productive, normal life.