Under the ADA a service dog is an animal that is specifically task trained to mitigate one or more of its handler's disabilities. The dog must have impeccable basic behavior as well as two or more trained tasks, or functions. The dog must not be a public nuisance and it must be under the handler's control at all times. A service dog is allowed to go anywhere that the general public is able to go with a few exceptions (See the "Rights" section below). Service dogs are also allowed to fly in the cabin of an airplane with their handlers and are given special accommodation in no-pet housing. It's important to also note that service dogs are not considered pets under the ADA but rather medical equipment, much like a wheelchair or a cane. Please note that online registries and certifications are not required under the ADA and are sometimes used incorrectly. A pet dog cannot become a service dog by simply becoming certified online. A lot of training is required and they must have a minimum of two (2) specifically trained tasks that mitigate their handler's disability.
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) - Many people confuse Service Dogs with Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Dogs. A Service Dog is different than an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) in that an ESA's primary job is to provide emotional support for people with certain types of emotional and psychological disabilities. But that is it's only job - emotional support. While it's helpful for an ESA to have good basic behavior and commands mastered, it is not required under the ADA. It is not task trained and it does not have public access rights. It is, however, allowed special housing accommodations in no-pet housing and it is allowed to fly in the cabin of an airplane. An emotional support animal only provides support for one person - its owner.
Therapy Dogs - A Therapy Dog is a dog is different from a service dog and an ESA in that it provides Fur Therapy to many different people out in the community by simply being friendly and allowing people to pet them. Therapy dogs are not allowed public access rights, housing rights, or any other accommodations. However, many places such as hospitals and schools make exceptions to their no pets policy to allow Therapy Dogs in their facilities for special occasions to support those who would benefit from interacting with a dog.
Who can have a service dog?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, any person with a disability that substantially limits one or more major life activity (working, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, communicating, caring for ones self, etc.) would be qualified for a specifically task trained service animal. The term disability in regards to the ADA is that of a legal definition rather than a medical definition. It's important to note that although you may have a medical disability you may not qualify as disabled under the ADA.
What rights are given to service dogs and their handlers?
The ADA protects the rights of service dogs and their handlers in many ways. Service dogs cannot be refused entrance into any place that the general public would be allowed admittance. Places such as religious institutions and individuals homes may legally refuse entrance to a service dog as they are not considered a public establishment. Another exception to this rule would be places that are considered to be a sterile environment (operating room, burn unit, etc.) and an area that is preparing food such as a the kitchen or a restaurant.
A service dog handler may not be charged any extra fees because of their service dog. Businesses also may not treat customers with service dogs any differently than those without. The only time in which a business can legally ask a service dog team to leave the premises is if a service dog is endangering other patrons or if the service dog is no longer under the handler's control.
Where can one obtain a service dog?
In the ADA there is nothing that states a service dog must be certified by a specific program. This means potential service dog handlers are free to do what is called owner training where the handler trains the dog themselves or with the help of a private trainer. Canine Coaching Institute suggests that the handler have previous dog training/handling experience should they decide to go this route as the dog should be held to a high standard of behavior and etiquette and they must have two (2) specifically trained tasks to mitigate the handler's disability. Another option for those interested in obtaining a service dog is to receive a program dog. This means that a program, like Canine Coaching Institute, trains the dog for the handler to meet the handlers specific needs and then places the dog with them after training. This is a great option for individuals who do not have much dog training experience or who cannot, for whatever reason, train the dog themselves. This also provides the handler with a support network if ever any questions, issues, or problems arise.
What is involved in getting a service dog?
The decision to team up with a service dog is not one to be taken lightly. It is a decision that will drastically affect every area of your life. It can be quite an adjustment to make. Should you decide to owner train we suggest finding a service dog trainer near you to help you pick a dog that has the right temperament and qualities to become a service dog as not all dogs are capable. If you feel a program dog is the route to take, there are some great programs out there but we would suggest getting as much information on the program and logistics of it as possible before pursuing it. If you decide that Canine Coaching Institute is where you'd like to start, please contact us and we would be happy to help any way we can. Our application can also be found on our website.
FAQ for Business Owners and Landlords
When can I deny entrance to a service dog team?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 protects the rights of service dogs and their handlers when going into any place that the general public is allowed to go, the only exceptions being religious institutions, individuals homes, public kitchens, and any place that is considered a sterile environment such as a burn unit or an operating room. There are, however, certain instances where a business owner may ask a service dog to leave the premises. If the dog is out of the handlers control (urinating, damaging property, barking uncontrollably, etc.) or if the dog is placing another person in harms way the business owner has the right to ask the handler to remove the dog. If the dog damages something in your facilities the business owner has the right to charge the hander for damages incurred. This does not include things such as general cleaning just because an animal was there.
What questions can I ask a service dog handler?
The ADA protects individuals with service dogs and their privacy in that there are only two questions that a business may ask a service dog hander. Those two questions are:
1. Is this a service dog?
2. What tasks does the service animal perform?
It is illegal to ask any further questions regarding the handler's disability, the specific tasks the dog performs (as this may reveal in more detail the specifics of the handler's disability(s) ), or to question the legitimacy of the dog. The two questions above are the only legal inquiries a business may make. Some service dog handlers do carry identification and are registered through an organization but many are not. Identification of legitimacy or registration is not required under the ADA and it is illegal for a business to request it.
What can I expect from a service dog team?
Legitimate service dog teams should be respectful and ready to answer the two questions above without hesitation. Most teams practice exactly how to answer the questions and are prepared to give an answer when asked. Service dogs should be "seen and not heard" (though some service dogs actually do bark to alert but this is the exception) and should be well behaved and under the handler's control at all times. Service dogs should not cause a disturbance and they should not damage any property or relieve themselves indoors. Service dogs are typically well groomed and should not leave excessive dirt, mud, hair, etc. behind.
Can I charge extra for the inconvenience?
Under the ADA it is illegal for a business owner or landlord to charge extra fees for the "inconvenience" of having a service dog on your premises.
Do I have to rent to a service dog team?
It is illegal under the ADA to discriminate against a service dog team when renting out property as long as the accommodations needed are considered to be reasonable. This means that as long as the accommodations needed do not put a marginal burden on the landlord, a service dog should be admitted and allowed to live in a home that is being rented out.
Do I have to accommodate a service dog for my employee?
As long as the accommodations needed for a service team to work in your place of business are considered to be reasonable you cannot, under the ADA, legally discriminate against hiring a service dog team or allowing a current employee to bring their service dog to work as long as the job position they hold does not involve working in a public kitchen, going into individuals homes or private clubs/churches, or working in a sterile environment such as an operating room.
At Canine Coaching Institute, LLC we are force, pain, fear and dominance free which means that we do not use tools or methods that inflict physical or psychological pain or discomfort on a dog. Instead we focus on positive reinforcement of desired behaviors using rewards such as treats, praise and toys. This lays a foundation for trust between the handler and the dog and will help promote a spirit of cooperation in the relationship. We offer private in-home training, group classes, minor to moderate behavioral training and specialty training such as therapy and service dog training. We pride ourselves in being flexible trainers that can find ways to work with practically any type of dog.