Registering a Service Dog
1. WHAT IS THE CURRENT LAW REGARDING SERVICE DOGS?
Since February 2011 a “Service animal” is any DOG that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability.
2. WHAT DOES THE ADA CONSIDER A DISABILITY TO BE?
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
- A record of such an impairment; or
- Being regarded as having such an impairment
These major life activities may include but are not limited to: taking care of yourself, perform manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
WHAT TYPES OF DOGS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE A GOOD BREED FOR SERVICE DOGS?
ALL BREEDS are eligible to be service dogs. In fact, there are breeds that end up being a good mix, and these are frequently used as service dogs. All I am saying is that the above 3 are the top breeds, the most common ones being used.
WHERE ARE THESE DOGS ALLOWED TO BE?
The ADA has been making amends to the original bylaws for a while now. In general, service dogs are allowed to be where their master is. This includes any and all public places. Some like to discourage against hospitals, but under the law, they are allowed in hospitals.
CAN I TRAIN A SERVICE DOG MYSELF?
Yes, you can absolutely train a service dog yourself. You can register your dog pre-training, during training and after training.
WHAT DO SERVICE DOGS HELP THEIR OWNERS WITH?
- While I do not have time to go over everything, I will enlighten you with a few activities service dogs are involved with.
- Service dogs remind their owners when it’s time to take their medication.
- They are trained to wake their owners for important events/starting their day.
- They are trained to keep unwanted people away.
- Give relief in overwhelming situations.
I WANT A SERVICE DOG FOR PERSONAL PROTECTION, DOES THAT QUALIFY?
No, dogs designated for protection do not qualify as Service Dogs.
CAN A BUSINESS ASK ME TO LEAVE WITH MY SERVICE DOG?
Yes, in limited circumstances. If a disabled handler is not controlling or attending to a misbehaving service animal ( barking, unruly, defecating or urinating in the area) the handler may be legally asked to remove the service dog.
Although hospitals, medical offices, and other healthcare sites must permit the use of a service animal, they may enforce “no pets” policies in certain areas if they can show that permitting service animals in would result in a fundamental alteration or safety hazard to those areas.
Zoo’s may opt to exclude your animal, because zoo animals are exposed to multiple stressors (behavior of visitors, loud noises, etc.) the exclusion of a service animal from an area would have to be supported by actual evidence – not simple perceptions or assumptions.
WHAT CAN A BUSINESS ASK WHEN I’M ACCOMPANIED BY MY SERVICE DOG?
Public entities are allowed to question a disabled handler to verify that they qualify to enter with a service animal.
- You may be asked to verbally confirm that you are disabled and that the dog is your service dog. The business may NOT ask about your disability. Obviously, this is an easy question to answer. For example, “Are you disabled and is this your service dog?“
Second, the handler may be asked what major life task the animal is trained to perform for the handler. The handler should be able to provide credible verbal evidence to this question. If the handler hasn’t rehearsed the answer so it flows smoothly or the answer isn’t credible, then they may be denied. For example, if the handler explains that his dog carries his insulin or candy for him because he is diabetic, that isn’t a credible (major life) task. Why? Because the handler has pockets, can wear a fanny pack, or carry a bag to hold the insulin, etc. The answer must support the need for the service animal, based on the criteria of the ADA.
- EXAMPLE: “What task does your dog perform specific to your disability?“
- SAMPLE ANSWER: “At the onset of a seizure he’s trained to alert my wife or otherwise bring attention to me if I’m in a public setting.“
Finally, a public entity MAY NOT ask for registration or certification documents, ID cards, a letter from a physician, and may not require that a service dog wear a harness or vest with service animal insignia (although most wise handlers will make sure their dog is appropriately attired and easily identified as a service animal).
NOTE: Although businesses are very limited in what they can ask and require by law, that doesn’t mean that every business or its representative actually KNOWS or obeys the law. They may believe they know what they are allowed to ask and request, yet inadvertently break the law. It is paramount that a disabled handler with a service dog actually knows what the law is and be able to articulate it.