Frequently Asked Questions

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) defines a service animal as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Any breed of dog can be a service dog. The most commonly used breeds are labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, poodles and mixes of the three. These breeds have the highest chance of successfully completing training because of their intelligence, biddability and stable temperaments.
Service Dogs are generally allowed anywhere that the general public is allowed. This includes, but is not limited to,  restaurants, the zoo, hospitals, hotels, a pool deck, the gym and housing. Some exceptions are: Service Animals can be excluded when their presence will fundamentally alter  the nature of a business. Service Animals can be excluded from sterile environments (if the public is allowed in street clothes it isn’t a sterile environment). Service Animals may be excluded from places of worship unless state or local laws state otherwise.
Businesses are not allowed to require any proof for Service Dogs. Under Federal Law, they can ask two questions: 1) if it is a service animal and 2) what tasks is it trained to perform. Housing, employers, and airlines may require a doctor’s note stating that you are disabled and are prescribed a Service Dog.
There are 3 types of service dogs: Medical Alert/Response (this includes dogs that assist with allergies, seizures, POTS, autism etc), Psychiatric (this includes dogs that assist with PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc), and Mobility. 
The length of a Service Dog’s working life depends on the dog’s breed, expected longevity, general health and what type of work they generally do. Some are able to work until they’re 11-12 years old. Others may need to retire as early as 5-6 years. 
While there are behavioral clues that may provide hints as to a Service Dog’s status, the only individual capable of truly determining whether a Service Dog is legitimate is a judge.

Please visit our more in-depth article addressing the issue of Fake vs Real Service Dogs.

No, a hotel cannot charge you any extra fees for your Service Dog. The ADA Frequently Asked Questions specifically states that service animals are considered medical equipment therefore you can’t be charged an extra pet fee. However, in the event your service dog causes any actual damage to the room you would be liable for the damages.
In order to qualify for a Service Dog, you must be considered disabled according to the ADA: having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. This can best be determined by discussing it with the doctor treating your possibly disabling conditions.

After determining that you are disabled, you need to decide if a dog can be trained to do tasks or work to mitigate your disability. Dogs are only capable of learning and performing certain behaviors and not all disabilities lend themselves to being mitigated by a dog.

If BOTH of the above conditions apply to you, then YES, you do qualify for a Service Dog.

There is no legitimate registry or certification process for service dogs in the United States. There are websites and products out there that claim to register your dog but there is no federally recognized registry and these are most often scams. The Department of Justice has specifically addressed this issue in their Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA
In the United States, Federal Law allows for dogs and miniature horses. However, some states do recognize other animals.
Yes! It’s extremely important for service dogs to have time to let loose and act like a dog. In fact, a lot of handlers even get their dogs into sports, like agility or flyball, to have fun together.
Service Dogs are dogs that are trained to do specific things (tasks or work) to mitigate their handler’s disability, and are covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), FHA (Fair Housing Act), and ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act). ESAs (Emotional Support Animals) are animals that provide comfort to people with psychiatric disabilities and are covered by the FHA and ACAA. ESAs are not required to have any special training and do not have public access rights. Therapy Dogs are dogs that are trained to visit nursing homes and hospitals to provide comfort to patients; they are not covered under the ADA, FHA, or ACAA.

Please read our in-depth article addressing the differences between ESAs, SDs and Therapy Dogs.

An ESA (Emotional Support Animal) is an animal that provides comfort for their handler, simply by being present. Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained to do specific tasks to mitigate their handler’s psychiatric disability (comfort is not considered a task under the ADA).
Federal Law (ADA) does not cover SDiTs (Service Dogs in Training). However, some states do allow for SDiT’s to accompany their handler/trainer into public places so check your state’s laws.
Absolutely! The DOJ has specifically indicated that disabled individuals have the right to train their own Service Animal.

This decision should not be made lightly though. Owner-training a Service Dog is very difficult, expensive and time consuming when done properly. Be sure to do the necessary research and have the support and resources in place before attempting to owner train.

It generally takes approximately 18-24 months to fully train a Service Dog.

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