The definition of service animals, according to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) website (which is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services), is “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory I.E hearing, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
There are stringent restrictions on what a service animal may be:
The animal must be a dog. Currently, no other animal can be given the designation of “service,” with the exception of miniature horses in special cases.
ESAs and therapy dogs are NOT considered service dogs.
Tasks performed by the dog must be tailored to assist the person’s disability.
A letter from a physician is not enough to transform a therapy animal or ESA into a service dog.
The dog must receive specialized training tailored to assist with disabilities.
Keep in mind that service dogs are not limited to simply being seeing-eye dogs or assisting the physically disabled. For example, the SSigDOG (sensory signal dogs or social signal dog) is trained to help people with autism. Seizure response dogs are trained to alert, protect and get help for their human at the onset of a seizure. These are considered service dogs and are covered under the ADA law.
It should be noted that, service dog or not, if your dog is behaving inappropriately, you both may be asked to leave by representatives of any establishment you visit.
Service dogs are allowed to accompany their humans anywhere in the United States apart from Government and Church owned. Then it is at the discretion of the owners supervisors and commanders of such locations. Church owned is also only at the discretion of the pastor. .
Hospitals, dogs are limited . Only in public areas. Sterile areas such as ICU's the dogs are not permitted.
Again, therapy animals are NOT protected under ADA law. This means that they are not allowed to go anywhere that animals are typically forbidden to enter, such as restaurants, on aircraft and in grocery stores.
Therapy animals are not required to receive specialized training as service dogs are. They can be any type of animal intended to bring comfort to people. Therapy animals are usually trained to work in environments where they will interact with many different people, such as hospitals, mortuaries and schools.
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)
Emotional support animals are similar to therapy dogs in that they don’t need specialized training and they can be any type of animal.
The main difference? They’re usually used by 1 person versus many people. ESAs have 1 key protection that therapy animals don’t have: According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), ESAs are given exceptions when it comes to housing.
In a press release from May 2016, HUD states: “The Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers, including condominium and homeowners associations, grant reasonable accommodations to rules, policies, or practices when such accommodations are necessary to afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing. This includes waiving ‘no pet’ rules to allow emotional support animals.”
The homeowner or landlord should not charge an extra fee for an ESA; however, landlords do have some protections. They’re allowed to charge a security deposit as well as hold you accountable for any damages your animal makes to the home. They can also ask for documentation to verify your disability.
A mobility assistance dog is a service dog trained to assist a physically disabled person who has mobility issues, such as wheelchair dependency or poor balance. Roles include "providing balance and stability" picking up and carrying objects, and (controversially) pulling wheelchairs.
A mobility assistance dog can also be trained to open and close doors, and operate light switches, and can "have a major positive impact on the lives of recipients"] These dogs usually wear a special vest so that the owner can attach a cane-like handle. This allows the dog to guide the owner and assist with their balance.
Some larger-statured dogs with sound joints are trained to pull individuals in wheelchairs, and wear a type of harness specifically designed for pulling. However, wheelchair pulling remains controversial, and Many US programs limit "wheelchair pulling" to short straight distances, most commonly for assistance getting in and out of a crosswalk. One study has found that using the traction provided by the service dog has physical benefits because manual wheelchair users can operate their chairs with less effort
Another type of mobility assistance dog task is that of a "walker dog". They are used for Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis patients, along with other disorders and conditions. These dogs are not canes, and the handler does not put full weight on them. However, the dog can greatly assist a person with their gait and balance while walking. This technique is usually called "counterbalance". It can also be helpful for those with symptoms of proprioceptive sensory loss, such as an inability to walk in a straight line.
As with other types of assistance dogs, in many countries disabled individuals have the right to bring their mobility assistance dogs with them into places where animals are generally not allowed, such as public transportation, restaurants, and hotels. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees this opportunity to disabled individuals for public access situations. If access is denied to a disabled individual, Federal and some State laws have penalties that may be brought against the business denying access.
Guide (seeing eye) Dogs.
These dogs are assistance dogs that have the same rights as service dogs. However they are usually trained by specific organizations who are expert in their field.
Interacting With a Service Dog
Service dogs cannot be denied entry to an establishment. However, an employee is allowed to ask the handler 2 questions:
Is that a service dog?
What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Employees may not ask about a person’s specific disability, nor may they ask for documentation or for the dog to demonstrate their task. The 2 questions are the only questions that are allowed to be asked by law.
Lastly, never interfere with any animal performing their designated duties. You could inadvertently cause serious injury to their handler by distracting the service animal.
The service dog registry online is FAKE it does not register any service animal with any governing body and does not protect any animal or individual from being ejected from public buildings or properties so do not waste your money!
Public Access Test.
Most service dog training organizations conduct a Public Access test. This is a test designed to show that the dog being trained is well behaved enough and has been tyested in most areas of public life such as stores malls and restaurants.
In Dog We Trust will issue our veterans a completed public access certificate of completion of the test, a ID badge and a patch for the service dog vest.