I get asked this question about once a month, sometimes more from friends or people I meet while traveling. This is why I wanted to dedicate a whole blog to this one simple question.
*DISCLAIMER: This blog is in no way meant to help those with fake service dogs be able to use this information to lie to establishments and get away with bringing their pet dog or emotional support dog into places they are not allowed to.*
Now if you’re reading this I’m sure you are aware that you must have a disability in which a service dog can preform tasks to help you. You’re just doing your due diligence and trying to figure out your legal rights are when it comes to getting a service dog. Please continue to read and I will break down the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) rules for getting a service dog.
Training Requirements for a Service Dog
According to the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) a service dog needs to be trained to preform a task or tasks based on your disability. The ADA doesn’t specify how you need to go about getting a dog. This means you can use a dog you currently have, you can get a dog already trained from a program, or you can do what I did and go to a shelter get a dog to train.
The biggest common sense thing about the dog you plan to train or is trained, is that it cannot be aggressive at all! It must be good with other animals, people, and children. Not only that but the ADA doesn’t specify how you need to train your dog. You can have your dog trained by a trainer, through a program, or train them yourselves. There is no specific guideline on how you train your dog but for it to be considered a service dog it must be trained to preform a task or tasks based on your disability. With that said, your dog needs to be trained further than the commands you can learn at a basic obedience class. While those commands are required to have a well behaved dog you have to go beyond that to have it be considered a service dog.
Here are some basic tasks service dogs can be trained to preform based on the disability
PTSD: Watch owners back in lines, wake up from nightmares, circling owner to get people to back away from them, nudge/jump on/lick owner to wake them up from having an anxiety/panic attack, and more based on the owners needs.
Mobility: Pull owner’s wheel chair, help retrieve items owner cannot get, and more based on the owners needs.
Seizures: Can notify others and owner before a seizure occurs, lay on owner and alert people when owner is having a seizure, call 911 when owner is having a seizure, and more based on the owners needs.
Blind: Guide owner around obstacles, through crowds, stop at curbs and stairs, find/retrieve items for owner, and more based on the owners needs.
Hard of Hearing: Alerts owner when car honks, doorbell rings, phone rings, and more based on the owners needs.
Diabetes: Alerts owner when blood sugar is high or low, carries insulin for owner, can call 911 if owner is unresponsive, and more based on the owners needs.
As you can see there’s many types of service dogs now a days besides the typical “guide dog” and they all preform specific tasks based on the owner’s disability. Which means if you fall under one of those disabilities listed you can train your dog to preform those tasks or more. Please note that there are some disabilities that I did not list that you can get a service dog for. That also goes for some disabilities that people try to use as a service dog but actually fall under the realm of being an emotional support dog and not a service dog. This is why I want to briefly clarify the difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog.
This is a direct quote from the ADA website that states, “Dog’s whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as a service animals under the ADA.” Please understand this and try not to confuse a service dog with an emotional support dog. If you need more clarification, please click this link to my other blog post about knowing the difference (link).
Laws Regarding Identification for Service Dogs.
According to the ADA you do not need any type of identification for your service dog. Meaning it’s not required they wear a vest, need an “ID” or have paperwork.
With that said, however, it’s best to have a vest on your service dog to avoid any hassles. Most restaurants want you to have a vest on your dog so other patrons don’t think they just let in some pet dog in the restaurant. I also find that when I have Indiana’s vest on, while its not online bought and made from my old military uniform, people will usually just ask me if he’s a service dog to clarify and leave it at that.
Also don’t get an “ID” for your service dog. That screams fake service dog and that you paid for everything online. I laugh when some store owners ask me for Indiana’s “ID” because I tell them they have been fooled by a person with a fake service dog and they don’t know ADA guidelines for service dogs. Seriously no training program is going to give you an “ID” for your dog. This is almost as humorous as “registering” your service dog. You don’t need to do that either so please save your money. A person with a real service dog or establishments that know the ADA regulations will just assume you have a fake service dog if you say it’s registered and it has an ID. All those things are online to help fake service dogs seem legit. In my opinion it does the opposite.
As far as paperwork, it’s not required by the ADA. However, if you do go through a trainer or a program to get your dog trained sometimes it’s nice to have a letter stating your dog has been trained as a service dog. Some apartment complexes and airlines will require some proof that the dog is in fact a service dog. While it’s not required by the ADA it’s just nice to cover your bases and get that training paperwork if you can. Also it’s nice to have a doctors note. While it’s very invasive to show your apartment complex or an airline your disability I find it shuts them up with them questioning your legitimacy of needing a service dog since not all disabilities are visible. It just really depends on the apartment complex or if the airline staff thinks your dog is an emotional support dog and not a service dog. For more information about flying with your service dog please check out my blog post that goes more into detail about that (link).
Since service dogs do not require any identification establishment’s can only ask 2 questions.
- Is the dog a service dog?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to preform.
Again they cannot ask for the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require an “ID”, training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate it’s ability to preform the work or task. That’s a direct quote from the ADA website.
Now those are the US laws when it comes to service dogs. In another blog post I will cover requirements needed for service dogs in other countries and what I’ve experienced when traveling abroad with Indiana in Canada since that’s the only place we’ve traveled abroad to currently.
Indiana’s Final Thoughts