What is a Service Dog?
The ADA defines a service dog as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Under the ADA, State and local governments, private businesses and non-profits that serve the public have a general requirement to allow service dogs to accompany their handlers in all areas where the public is permitted.
So can you bring your service dog on a plane with you?
Yes, duly trained and registered service dogs may fly with you pursuant to the rules of the ADA. If you are wondering if you can bring an emotional support animal on a plane with you, the answer is, it depends. Prior to 2021, emotional support animals were permitted to fly, but as a result of amendments to the Air Carrier Act, only service dogs have a statutory right to fly in the cabin.
What are the Requirements to Register a Service Dog.
We’ve distilled the requirements of how your dog can become a service dog into 3 simple steps:
- Identify the right service dog for your disability
- Ensure proper training
- Registering and certifying your service dog
Step 1: Identify the right service dog for your disability
While any dog breed is eligible to be a service dog, certain breeds have characteristics and instincts that allow them to excel at specific tasks. Whether you have a Golden Retriever, a Poodle or a Pomeranian, all dogs are suitable for service work. For example, Collies are hyper intelligent and are often trained to help detect oncoming seizures in epileptic patients. Even Pit Bulls can be service dogs.
Be sure to consider additional characteristics when determining what breed is right for you. While Great Danes are known for their gentle nature and ability to assist individuals with anxiety disorders, they are extremely large, and may not be the best breed for those in tight spaces. Additionally, certain breeds like German Shepherds and Labradors make great all around service dogs, but they do require significant exercise and are not ideal for those with a stationary lifestyle.
Whichever dog you choose, be sure to consider the pros and cons and consider how the characteristics of the dog line up with your lifestyle and disability
Step 2: Ensure Proper Training
This is the most important step in having your dog become a service dog. Training and temperament are the key aspects and markers of a service dog. The ADA does not issue or require any formal training certifications. This aspect of the process is completely self-regulated by the community.
The most critical component of service dog training is teaching your dog to perform the specific task that it is being trained to assist you with. These tasks can be detecting oncoming seizures, reminding you to take medication or providing physical stimulation during anxiety episodes/attacks.
If you are unsure how to go about training your dog, consider signing up for online training or reach out to a professional training service. Training a service dog is no simple task, and must not be taken lightly.
At the end of the day, if your dog is trained to perform a specific task and maintains an appropriate temperament in public, your dog can be considered a service dog, and you have rights afforded to you under the ADA.
Step 3: Register a service dog in the united states and certification
Let’s be clear, there is no official registry for service dogs in the United States and service dog certificates are not a formal requirement. Any service dog registry claiming to be government operated or sanctioned is simply false information. Business operators and government officials cannot legally require proof of registration, training or licensing as a condition to enter their establishment where the public is permitted.
The only two questions that are permissible for you to be asked about your service dog are:
- Is the animal required because of a disability?
- What task has the animal been trained to perform?
Once you confirm the above, businesses must make reasonable accommodations. The ADA does not recognize physical markers such as service dog vests either. Unfortunately, many businesses that interact with the public are unfamiliar with the laws surrounding service animals and insist on receiving physical proof of service dog registration.
As a matter of convenience and to ensure proper access as intended by the ADA, many service dog handlers choose to voluntarily register their dogs as service dogs and carry a digital ID card and/or certificate with them. This can prevent uncomfortable situations or confusion when interacting with staff at public establishments.