Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are defined as dogs that are trained to assist an individual with a disability by performing specific tasks for that person.
Service dogs work as guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired, or as signal dogs for people who are deaf. They can pull a wheelchair, retrieve items or assist a person who is having a seizure.
In order to get a service dog, or have your dog legally recognized as a service dog, you must get the approval of a licensed healthcare professional. Registering with US Service Animals gives you a certificate that you can use for access to properties, airlines, and other essential spaces. When you sign up, they give you a photo ID, certificate, and an entry into the largest Service Animal and Emotional Support Animal database in the United States.
How to spot a service dog?
- Most service dogs wear a vest, harness, or other gear that distinguishes them from pet dogs (even though they’re not required to)
- Service dogs walk with their owners and are not transported in a bag, cart, or stroller, they’re not performing a task
- Service dogs will not react to other dogs, play, jump up, bark, while they’re working, because they are trained to ignore distractions.
Service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners everywhere
It’s illegal to turn someone away from a public establishment or refuse service because a person is accompanied by a service dog, and owners are not required by law to provide proof of training or certification for their dogs.
Service dogs are not pets
They are working dogs, not pets. They look adorable in their vests and harnesses, but people shouldn’t pet them. Petting, feeding, and talking to service dogs is a distraction that inhibits their ability to do their jobs and it often stresses their owners.
Therapy dogs and emotional support animals don’t have the same privileges as service dogs
An emotional support animal is a pet that has been identified by a clinical professional as an important component of a patient’s treatment. Unlike therapy animals, support animals interact with only one person.
An emotional support animal might provide a sense of safety for an owner with social anxiety or calm someone with a paralyzing fear of flying. These animals are not always dogs and are not required to have special training. It’s the owner’s responsibility to make sure a support animal behaves appropriately.
While service dogs have unlimited access to public accommodations like airplanes, restaurants, hotels, and retail stores, therapy dogs and support animals do not receive the same considerations under the law.
The ADA does not require businesses and public venues to allow access to therapy and support animals, though many choose to do so on a case-by-case basis.