Service Dog FAQ

What Is a Service Dog?
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Service Dog FAQ

Is an Emotional Assistance Dog (ESA animal) a Service Dog?

NO! The law that allows a trained service dog to accompany a person with a disability is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

An emotional support animal is an animal (typically a dog or cat though this can include other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. It does not matter if a person has a note from a doctor that states that the person has a disability and needs to have the animal for emotional support. An emotional support animal currently only applies to housing and flying and an ESA requires no specific training to assist their owner or partner.

If you have a disability and require assistance with tasks to mitigate your disability then consider training a service animal to support you while being aware of all of the laws and requirements that go with a service animal.

what is a service dog
Does Pawssible train Service Dogs?

No. Pawssible provides education and resources to individuals, businesses, and the community around the topic of Service Animals.

How long does it take to train a service dog?

On average 18-24 months.

Does a service dog have to be trained by a professional?

No. There are no current requirements that service dogs are trained by an organization or professional. They can be owner trained as long as they meet all the basic obedience requirements and can perform tasks that mitigate the individual’s disability.

Can any dog be trained to be a Service Dog?

The list of possible tasks a service dog can be trained to do is quite extensive.  Here is a good list of 100+ examples of service dog tasks. 

While there are no breed restrictions for service dogs, service dogs must perform tasks that mitigate the individual with the disability for which they were trained for. Pawssible has put together a Temperament Test to encourage individuals to test a dog prior to beginning training as a service animal.

What is a Service Dog?

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are working animals, not pets. 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.

Can cats or other animals be a Service Animal?

No. Currently, only dogs and miniature horses are recognized under the law as service animals.

What is the difference between a Service Dog and an Assistance Animal?

Assistance Dog is the more common international term for what the United States refers to as a Service Dog. Both terms are covered under the ADA law and can be used interchangably.

Does a Service Animal have to wear a vest?

No. There are no current laws that require a service dog to wear a vest, collar, or any other identifying information. Additionally, no proof of certification or documentation proving that it is a service animal is required.

What are the 2 questions you can ask an individual with a Service Animal?

(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? 

(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Does a Service Animal have to wear a leash?

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.

Do I have to take my Service Dog everywhere?

Not necessarily as even service dogs need time off and rest days. That being said you may not leave a service dog unattended in a hotel room or dorm room alone as the law specifically states that the service animal must remain under the handler’s control at all times while in public and both hotels and dorms are considered in public. Since these accommodations are accessible to others for cleaning or other purposes we do not recommend leaving a service animal alone in these situations for any period of time.

If a dog is barking and is a Service Dog, must a business allow it access?

You may ask the individual to leave and take the dog out of your establishment if:

(1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it OR (2) the dog is not housebroken.

When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence. Keep in mind though that some service dogs are trained to bark to alert when their handler is experiencing a medical emergency.

Does a restaurant or buffet have to allow a Service Animal?

Yes. The are only 3 places that the law recognizes a service animal may not go is in an operating room, a burn unit, or a commercial kitchen.

Can I charge a person with a Service Dog more since I will have to clean hair?

No. You may not charge an individual with a service animal a cleaning fee. It is illegal to charge a pet fee or otherwise unless that animal had an accident or in some other way damaged your property but just dog hair is not a reason to charge an additional fee or not provide services.

What if there is an allergy to dogs?

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.

The airline I'm traveling with requires I bring documentation for my Service Dog. Is this legal?

The Air Carrier Access Act covers any air travel law to do with service animals. Under current law, only ESA’s and Psychiatric Service Animals are required to have documentation, however, please check their website for the latest regulations. DISCLAIMER: The ACAA is different than ADA law which governs all service animals in the United States. This only applies to flying with a service animal.

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