Service Animal FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Scroll down the page to get answers to these questions.

How can I get a service dog/animal?
How can I make my dog a service animal so I can take him/her everywhere I go?
How can I get my service dog/animal certified/registered?
How much does a service dog cost?
Can I train my own dog to be a service animal?
How do I find out what my state's laws are regarding service animals?
How do I find out what federal laws apply to service animals?
What should I do if I am discriminated against because I have a service animal?
I was denied access with my service dog/animal. What can I do?
How can I get my service dog/animal allowed in housing?
I want to get a service dog/animal for my child. Is this possible?
How does a dog/animal qualify to become a psychiatric service dog/animal?
Can my service dog/animal ride in the airplane cabin with me? What is required?
How can I identify if an animal is a service animal and not just a pet?
What can I do if my service animal is injured by another animal or by a person?
I need legal help.  How do I find it?
Where can I get a vest for my service animal?
How do I find a veterinarian who understands my animal's work-related needs?
Where can I get help if my service animal has to retire or dies?
How do I become a service dog trainer?
How do I become a puppy raiser for, or donate an animal to, a service dog training organization?

How can I get a service animal/dog?

There are a variety of ways you can go about getting a service animal.  Some organizations raise, train and place service animals, while others solely train the animal for you or assist you in training the animal yourself. Although Pet Partners does not train or place service dogs, we do maintain an extensive online directory of trainers.  This directory of Service Dog Trainer Directory is a great place to start your research. This directory is not a complete list of every service dog trainer or training program, nor is it a guarantee of quality. The entry for each trainer or program includes information of what kind of dogs they train (e.g., guide, hearing, mobility, etc.) and what services they offer (e.g., train for multiple disabilities, train own animal, train handler, test and provide ID, etc.).

We also suggest you read our section on Service Animal Consumer Considerations. You must be an educated consumer when looking for a service dog.

How can I make my dog a service animal so I can take him/her everywhere I go?

The most frequent question posed to our Service Dog Resources representatives is, “How can I make my dog a service dog so that I can take him/her everywhere I go?” 

 The only way that a dog can be recognized as a true “service animal” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is when the following conditions are met:

  • The owner or handler has a documented disability as defined under the ADA, “….a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”.
  • The dog (or miniature horse) must be trained to perform a task or tasks that alleviate that disability.  The mere presence of the animal (for example, “s/he gives me a reason to get up every morning”) does not qualify a dog as a service animal.
  • The dog (or miniature horse) must not alter the environment for others.  This means that s/he must be kept on a leash and under the control of the handler at all times in public, must not show signs of aggression, must be kept quiet and clean.
Unfortunately, there is considerable lack of knowledge among the public regarding the rights of the disabled.  Many people believe that without a “Service Dog” vest or tag, a dog cannot be a legitimate service animal—and there are several unethical companies that profit by this ignorance.  They sell these forms of identification without requiring proper proof of the level of training  a dog has had, nor medical documentation of a person’s disability.

How can I get my service animal/dog certified/registered?

The ADA does not require service animals to be "certified". This type of assessment and identification is not a legal requirement under the ADA and other federal non-discrimination laws, but is preferred by some handlers. Some service dog trainers and programs evaluate the dogs they train and provide the handlers with some type of identification card.

Some trainers will test dogs they have not trained and provide the owner with identification cards. Refer to our directory of Service Animal Trainers and Training Programs and look for those that provide the service "Test and Provide ID."

Note: Pet Partners' directory of service animal trainers and training programs is not a complete list of every service dog trainer or training program, nor is it a guarantee of quality. Some areas provide a special license for service dogs. The animal licensing department in your state or county should be able to tell you the requirements for getting a special service dog tag.

How much does a service animal cost?

Trainer and acquisition fees may range from no cost to thousands of dollars. Each service animal trainer or training program sets their own fees. Some people choose to look for sponsorship for their service animal from local organizations such as businesses, churches, and civic groups. By helping sponsor a service animal, local organizations give back to their community, much like sponsoring a youth sports team. The Assistance Dog United Campaign (ADUC) raises funds in support of the assistance dog community. ADUC accepts voucher applications for new assistance dog partnerships. Vouchers are issued once a year and the decision of to whom to give the vouchers is based on disability and financial needs. Contact ADUC at  info@assistancedogunitedcampaign.org.

Can I train my own dog to be a service animal?

One of the big challenges for people training service dogs is getting the dog adequately trained for public access. Not all dogs have the temperament to handle the stress of working in public. Remember that you must meet the ADA definition of having a "disability" and, to be considered a service dog, your dog must be trained to perform tasks directly related to your disability.

The Minimum Standards for Service Dogs documents the recommended characteristics and minimum set of skills required of all service dogs. The Minimum Standards also address the health and safety of the public, handler, and dog.

Refer to our directory of Service Animal Trainers and Training Programs and look under Services Provided for "Train Handler." These trainers and programs will help you train your own dog to be a service dog, if it is appropriate. Trainers and programs that do not list this service will not train your own dog.

Teamwork, A Dog Training Manual for People with Physical Disabilities, Book One: Basic Obedience and Teamwork II, A Dog Training Manual for People with Physical Disabilities (Service Exercises) (both available from Dogwise.com) are books written for people with disabilities to teach them to train their own dog to perform service dog mobility skills. Teamwork, Book One teaches basic commands such as down, down stay, wait, and leave it. Teamwork II goes into skills such as retrieve, under, brace, light pull, and others. You may also contact Dogwise.com at (800) 776-2665.

Assistance Dogs International has developed a Public Access Test that reflects what they feel a service dog team should know to be safe in public.

How do I find out what my state's laws are regarding service animals?

Laws vary from state to state. Some are in compliance with federal laws, and some are not. Many have been recently revised or are in the process of revision. Find out the current provisions of state laws by contacting your state Attorney General's office. Since the language in state laws varies, you might have to explain that you want the laws that apply to service dogs - guide dogs, hearing dogs, etc. Specify if you need laws that apply to particular situations, such as housing, transportation, etc. When state or local laws conflict with federal laws, the law that provides greater protection for the person with the disability is the law that takes precedence.

How do I find out what federal laws apply to service animals?

Please refer to the Denied Access, Now What? page.

What should I do if I am discriminated against because I have a service animal?

 

If you think you have been unreasonably prevented from accessing a business' goods and services or feel you have been otherwise discriminated against because you have a disability and are accompanied by a service animal, you can refer to the Denied Accees, Now What? page for information on how to document and present your complaint to the service provider. In addition, you can file complaints with appropriate state and federal agencies. If you think a state law has been violated, you can file a complaint with the enforcement agency for that law. Often this is the state Human Rights Commission; you can find out the enforcement agency by contacting your state Attorney General's office. Formal complaints about violations of federal laws can be filed with the federal agency responsible for enforcing the applicable law and with the state agency that enforces nondiscrimination laws (often the Human Rights Commission).

I was denied access with my service dog/animal. What can I do?

CLICK HERE to be provided with a full overview of how to overcome being denied access with your service animal. The following is a list of places where you can get additional help:

  • Access to public places with a service dog and other rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
    Department of Justice at (800) 514-0301; TTY (800) 514-0383; www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm
  • Housing with a Service Animal:
    Department of Housing and Urban Development at (202) 708-1112; TTY (202) 708-1455; www.hud.gov
  • Traveling with a Service Animal:
    Department of Transportation at (202) 366-4000; www.dot.gov
  • Bringing your Service Animal to Work:
    Job Accommodation Network, a free service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the Department of Labor, at (800) 526-7234; janweb.icdi.wvu.edu
  • Assistance Dogs International's Guide to Assistance Dog Laws (2005) Santa Rosa, CA
    Assistance Dogs International; 144 pages; visit www.adionline.org
  • State laws that apply to people with service dogs:
    Contact your State Attorney General's office and request that they direct you to the appropriate state agency. 

How can I get my service dog/animal allowed in housing?

Landlords, tenants and owners in multifamily housing, housing management associations and realtors often have questions about service animals in housing that traditionally has had no-pet policies. In many areas, despite federal and some state laws that protect people with disabilities to have service animals in housing, confusion about rights and obligations persist. This can lead to discrimination.

The Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act is the law that most often helps to provide the guidance necessary to answer the questions that arise about service animals in housing. This article is not legal advice, but is informal technical assistance to help answer some of the most frequently asked housing questions. Advice about individual circumstances and about the legal interpretation of the Fair Housing Act can be obtained from the local Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office. How the Fair Housing Act Protects Individuals with Disabilities with Regard to Service Animals.

Click the following link for more information about Service Animals in Housing.

I want to get a service dog/animal for my child. Is this possible?

Some service dog trainers will train a service dog for children under 18 year old.  Trainers usually will train a dog for a child based on a certain age or the maturity of the child.  Pet Partners' directory of Service Animal Trainers and Training Programs will indicate under Services provided if a trainer will consider placing a service dog with a child.

Note: Pet Partners' directory of service animal trainers and training programs is not a complete list of every service dog trainer or training program, nor is it a guarantee of quality. Some areas provide a special license for service dogs. The animal licensing department in your state or county should be able to tell you the requirements for getting a special service dog tag.

How does an dog/animal qualify to become a psychiatric service animal?

The Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990, (ADA), defines service animal as: "any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."   The ADA defines a disability as: "a mental or physical condition which substantially limits a major life activity such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working."

To be considered a service animal, the animalsmust be trained to perform tasks directly related to the person's disability. “Comforting" or "giving love", although clinically proven to be beneficial for people, would not be acknowledged as a trained "task" by the Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA.  Examples of trained tasks performed by psychiatric service dogs can be found at www.iaadp.org/psd_tasks.html.

Can my service dog/animal ride in the airplane cabin with me? What is required?

Service dogs are allowed to ride in the airplane cabin with their handler. CLICK HERE to go to the 'Traveling with your Service Animal' articles on our website.

For more information contact the Department of Transportation at (202) 366-4000; www.dot.gov.

How can I identify if an animal is a service animal and not just a pet?

The simple answer is to ask the handler, “Is this a service dog?” You may also ask what tasks the dog has been trained to do for the handler. A service dog can be any breed or size.

There is no Federal requirement that the dog wear any special gear or identification. Also, there is no requirement that the handler carry any certification papers showing that the dog has been trained as a service dog. You may not ask the person about the nature or extent of his or her disability.

For more information, read Service Animal Basics

What can I do if my service animal is injured by another animal or by a person?

Federal laws do not address injury to service animals, but some states and localities have such laws. Additionally, many states and localities have laws about the humane treatment of animals. To find out if your situation is covered by existing law, contact your State Attorney General's office. The law will identify the agency that enforces the law and any recourse you may have under the law.


I need legal help. How do I find it?

You can get legal referrals from your local or state Bar Association. Other sources for referrals include:
people you know whose opinions you trust. state's Protection and Advocacy agency. disability advocacy agencies. legal clinics or legal aid programs, often connected with law school. Specify the type of situation you are dealing with so you can locate an attorney with expertise in that area. Consult an attorney for guidance regarding whether you have additional legal options.

Where can I get a vest for my service animal?

Download our directory of Service Animal Product Suppliers. Product suppliers help people with service dogs obtain necessary equipment and supplies. Please contact the supplier directly for prices and other information.

How do I find a veterinarian who understands my animals's work-related needs?

It will be important for the veterinarian to be able to address not only your service animal's needs, but also your disability-related needs as they affect the accessibility of his or her services. When you interview potential care providers, discuss how your animal works for you. If you have any ADA needs (accessible parking, alternately formatted materials, etc.), make sure they are available.


Where can I get help if my service animal has to retire, or dies?

Pet Partners has information about dealing with this type of loss. Information about Pet Loss and Bereavement, including the bibliography, a list of counselors, support groups and hotlines that are available to help people through the transition of separating from a service animal, are available on this web site. Additional articles are available on our Service Animal Articles & Resources page.

How do I become a service dog trainer?


If you are looking for training to be a service dog trainer, you might consider the following resources:

  • Bergin University of Canine Studies in Rohnert Park, CA. They have classes to become an assistance dog trainer. (Some people use the term "service dogs" and others use the term "assistance dog".) Bergin University grants Associate Degrees in Assistance Dog Education and MS Degrees in Canine Studies. Their contact information is:

    Web site: www.berginu.edu
    Email: info@berginu.org
    Phone: (707) 545-3647
  • East Coast Assistance Dogs operates a state-of-the art training facility in partnership with The Children’s Village of Dobbs Ferry, NY, where regularly scheduled Train-the-Trainer programs for adults interested in assistance dog careers take place. Their contact information is:

    Web site: www.ecad1.org
    Email: ecad1@aol.com
    Phone: 914-693-0600, ext. 1952 or 1953
  • NEADS (National Education of Assistance Dog Services, Inc.) gives one session each per year for learning how to train mobility and hearing service dogs. Their contact information is:

    Web site: www.neads.org
    Email: neadsdogs@aol.com
    Phone: (978) 422-9064

Another approach to becoming a service dog trainer is to contact service dog training organizations, and ask if they have an apprenticeship program. Refer to the Service Animal Trainer Directory and training programs and look for those that provide the service "Apprenticeship” in the Services Provided Section. These trainers and programs will have apprenticeship programs. Note: Pet Partners has a list of service dog trainers and training programs that asked to be listed on our web site. This list is not a complete list of every service dog trainer or training program, nor is it a guarantee of quality.

How do I become a puppy raiser or donate an animal to a service animal training organization?

Donors and puppy raisers (people who house and socialize a young dog before it receives specialized training) can follow the same guidelines as people who are evaluating trainers (See How Do I Know If The Trainer or Organization is Legitimate?).  To find out more contact a service animal trainernear you.


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