Service dogs provide invaluable assistance to individuals with disabilities by performing tasks that the person cannot perform for themselves. Service dogs are working animals, not pets. They are individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a person’s disability.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that public entities, such as restaurants, museums, and stores that serve the general public must allow service dogs to accompany their disabled owners into their establishments. This ensures that no one experiences discrimination based on their disabilities, and that every citizen has equal rights to a comfortable living. But how do you make sure you can get all of these benefits?
Do You Qualify as a Service Dog Owner?
The ADA defines a service dog as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The dog must be trained to perform a task that improves the owner’s ability to access places and enjoy life. Examples of work include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving items, or providing physical support and assistance.
You yourself also need to qualify as a service dog owner in order to receive ADA accommodations. You must have a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and you must have a service dog to mitigate the effects of your disability. This means that if you do not have a disability, you cannot be a service dog owner.
Does Your Service Dog Need Training?
In order to be considered a service dog, your dog must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for you. It is not enough for your dog to be able to learn a few basic commands or tricks. You must take the time and effort to train your dog so that it can provide assistance to you.
This means that if you own a dog that was adopted from a shelter, or was born in the shelter and has never been trained, it cannot be considered a service dog. Fortunately, the training doesn’t have to be provided by a professional. In fact, it would be enough to simply train the dog yourself.
Still, until your dog has completed their training, the ADA will not legally consider them as a service dog. So, you should be aware of the fact that your dog will not be considered a service dog until they have completed their training.
Does Your Service Dog Need to be Registered Under the ADA?
Federal law says that public and private entities cannot demand proof that a service dog is licensed or registered.
However, handlers must comply with all laws in the state or locality where their dogs live. This means keeping your dog up to date with necessary vaccinations and other registrations. It is possible that your state or your local government may require your service dog to have some sort of certification to be legally recognized as one.