What is a service dog?

The American Disability Act defines a service dog as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals emotional support dog certificate into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

Business are not permitted to ask individuals with disabilities to remove their service animal from the premises unless:

  • the animal is out of control and the animal’s owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie); or
  • the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

Individuals with disabilities may be asked:

  • if an animal is a service animal; and/or
  • what tasks the animal has been trained to perform

Accordingly, Individuals with disabilities often choose to voluntarily identify their service animals in an online registry and carry physical identifiers such as ID cards, and certifications

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