Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets; although they are loved by their owners just as much, if not more, than a non-working beloved fur family member!
The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
Service dogs help with performing a function for a person that is limited by a disability. Mobility issues, visual impairment (blindness), hearing impairment (deafness), seizures, diabetes, PTSD, autism, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), and other physical/mental disabilities.
Service dogs are dogs that have been individually trained to perform a specific task for individuals who have disabilities. The disabilities can vary greatly, and so do the tasks that the service dogs perform.
Service dogs can aid in navigation for people who are hearing- and visually impaired, assist an individual who is having a seizure, calm an individual who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and even dial 911 in the event of an emergency. Many disabled individuals depend on them every day to help them live their everyday lives. Consequently, these animals, when encountered in public, should not be talked to, petted or otherwise diverted from their tasks by well-meaning people. I know it kills me to not talk or reach down to pet a service animal to tell them they are doing a great job but when you think of how that interaction could affect the animal in their line of duty – I stop dead, walk away smiling and offer up a prayer instead for their health and diligence to their owner. Service dogs are under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Service dogs are protected under federal law
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability is entitled to a service dog to help them live their lives normally. The ADA protects disabled individuals by allowing them to bring their service dog with them to most places that the public is permitted, including restaurants, hotels, housing complexes, and even in air travel. Any dog can be a service dog, and service dogs do not have to be professionally-trained. The important thing is that the dog is trained to be a working animal and not a pet.
Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
Identifying service dogs for the public
Service dogs are often identified by wearing a service dog vest or tag, letting the public know that it is a service dog; otherwise, their handlers will find themselves having to explain everywhere that they go that their dog is a service dog. Some businesses, such as airlines, prefer to see an identification card or vest that indicates that the dog is a service dog.
The Americans with Disabilities Act has a specific definition of a disability, and it states essentially that a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.
List of Disabilities
A disability can take many forms, including bodily functions such as those of the neurological, respiratory, digestive, circulatory, and reproductive systems.
Here is a list of some disabilities that individuals may have that may be helped by having a service dog:
- Mobility Issues (Including Paralysis)
- Sensory Issues (Blindness, Hearing Loss, etc.)
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Bone and Skeletal (Such as Osteoporosis, Scoliosis, etc.)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Emotional support dogs help individuals with emotional problems by providing comfort and support. Anxiety, depression, bipolar/mood disorders, panic attacks, and other emotional/psychological conditions. The law protecting this type of animal is the Fair Housing Amendments Act & Air Carrier Access Act. Emotional support dogs are dogs that provide comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions. An emotional support dog is not required to perform any specific tasks for a disability like service dogs are. They are meant solely for emotional stability and unconditional love. They can assist with conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder/mood disorder, panic attacks, fear/phobias, and other psychological and emotional conditions.
Emotional support dogs are protected under federal law
Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), an individual who meets the proper criteria is entitled to an emotional support dog to assist them with their life. The FHAA protects individuals by allowing their emotional support dog to live with them (even when there are no pet policies in place). The ACAA protects individuals by allowing the emotional support dog to fly with them in the cabin of an airplane (without having to pay any additional fees). Any dog can be an emotional support dog, and emotional support dogs do not have to be professionally-trained.
A Medical Recommendation is Required
You are required to have a letter from a doctor or mental health professional recommending that you have an emotional support dog for your condition. You may be asked to present this letter by airline staff when flying or by your landlord when renting a home.
Identifying emotional support dogs for the public
Emotional support dogs are often identified by wearing an emotional support dog vest or tag, letting the public know that it is an emotional support dog; otherwise, their handlers will find themselves having to explain that their dog is an emotional support dog. Some businesses, such as airlines, prefer to see an identification card or vest that indicates that the dog is an emotional support dog.
List of Disabilities
An emotional support dog can assist with various kinds of mental and emotional conditions.
Here is a list of some mental and emotional conditions individuals may have that may be helped by having an emotional support dog:
- Bipolar disorder
- Mood disorder
- Panic attacks
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Suicidal Thoughts/Tendencies
Therapy dogs provide affection and comfort to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. All breeds are accepted. Therapy dogs are dogs that are used to bring comfort and joy to those who are ill or under poor conditions, such as those who have been affected by a natural disaster. Many people are able to connect with dogs and feel the love that they provide, and this has a therapeutic effect on them. Therapy dogs are generally very calm and well-behaved, so that they do not upset or make uncomfortable those around them. They generally do not have any special training and are not trained to perform specific tasks for a disabled individual like a service dog.
A doctor’s letter is not required to have a therapy dog. Since therapy dogs are not covered under any specific federal laws, permission would have to be given from each place that a therapy dog is to be taken. Many places are welcoming to therapy dogs if the dog is trained and obedient, does not pose a threat to others, can benefit those present at the facility, and does not adversely affect the facility’s operations.
As you can see whether they are a service, emotional or therapy dog, these animals provide an important job in many people’s lives. They enrich the lives of those with disabilities and enable them to be contributing members to society. God bless the animals and their role in our lives, they deserve our admiration and respect!
Summary of Basic Information About Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs
Copyright US Service Dogs 2013. All Rights Reserved. | US Service Dogs is not affiliated with the ADA or any government agency.
|Service Dog||Emotional Support Dog|
|General||If you have a disability (a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual) then you are entitled to a service dog to do work or perform tasks for you||If you have a mental or psychiatric condition, you may have an emotional support dog if it is recommended by your doctor/mental health professional.|
|Laws Protecting You||Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)||Fair Housing Amendments Act Air Carrier Access Act|
|Partial List of Disabilities||Mobility issues, visual impairment (blindness), hearing impairment (deafness), seizures, diabetes, PTSD, autism, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS), and other physical/mental disabilities||Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and other emotional/psychological conditions|
|Eligible Breeds/Sizes of Dogs||All breeds and sizes are acceptable||All breeds and sizes are acceptable|