Providing Real Training for Real Dogs for Real Life
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.
To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.
Service dogs play an essential role in the lives of many individuals with disabilities. Federal law grants certain rights and protections to people with disabilities who use guide dogs or service dogs.
Different laws govern the use of service animals in different contexts. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the use of service dogs in public places.
The ADA guarantees people with disabilities who use service dogs equal access to public places such as restaurants, hospitals, hotels, theaters, shops, and government buildings. This means that these places must allow service dogs, and the ADA requires them to modify their practices to accommodate the dogs.
For a more definitive explanation of ADA rules, laws and practices. The US Department of Justice provides an overview guide with Federal Civil Rights laws to ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities.
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
■ Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.
Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from that State’s attorney general’s office.
■ When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed.
Staff may ask two questions:
(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and
(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.
Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
■ Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
■ A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless:
(1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or
(2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
Service Dog Fraud
Under California Penal Code 365.7, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly and fraudulently represent yourself, verbally or in writing, to be the owner or trainer of a Guide dog, Signal dog, or Service dog when the dog is not a Service dog.
“Psychiatric Service Dogs” are Service Dogs that provide assistance to people with psychiatric disabilities, such as severe depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Examples of work or tasks that psychiatric service dogs perform include:
Many individuals—both with and without disabilities—derive emotional support and comfort from dogs and other animals that are not specially trained to perform specific tasks directly related to a psychiatric disability.
The ADA considers such “emotional support animals” (ESA) to be distinct from psychiatric service dogs, and treats them differently. The ADA does not grant emotional support dog owners the same right of access to public places that it gives to individuals who use psychiatric service dogs.
ESAs are not covered under the ADA and other similar laws that apply specifically to service animals. However, under the FHAA and comparable state laws, ESAs may be allowed to accompany individuals in housing as “reasonable accommodations” or “reasonable modifications” for the individual’s disability. ESAs, unlike service animals, are not limited to dogs.
The provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship is not the type of “work or tasks” considered in the ADA’s definition of service animal.
Housing discrimination against persons with disabilities is prohibited both under federal law and under comparable California laws. Landlords and homeowners’ associations must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are exceptions to rules or policies necessary in order to allow persons with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling as compared to persons without disabilities.
In the context of housing, the federal government uses a more inclusive definition of what types of animals must be allowed in housing as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act. The broader term used in housing is “assistance animal.” An assistance animal is “an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of the person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a persons’ disability.” This means that, in addition to service animals, emotional support animals and animals that provide some type of disability-related assistance are permitted as a reasonable accommodation in housing.
There is no requirement that the animal be specially trained or certified; however, the animal must provide a disability-related benefit to the individual with a disability.
Therapy dogs provide care , comfort, and support to First Responders, Hospital patients and staff, worksites, residential facilities and during crisis situations. Therapy dogs should be considered and treated as a working dogs as they require extensive training. Although Therapy dogs are well trained they are not Service Dogs and do not enjoy the exemptions for entry to locations as Service Dogs or Emotional Support Dogs under ADA .
Most legitimate Therapy Dog Organizations will conduct their own certification and have insurance. There are several Statewide and National organizations that have a standardized criteria for Therapy Dogs.
Facilities Dogs are essentially Therapy Dogs with a more specific mission. Facility dogs are utilized by law Enforcement, Fire Departments, District Attorney's Offices, and Victim's Advocates. Facility Dogs are present when the use of the dog is beneficial when interviewing victims or witness of crimes. They also may be present in the Court proceedings as advocate for a person testifying. Most States require that the organization utilizing the dog meet a minimum criteria of training.
Although Facilities Dogs are well trained they are not Service Dogs and do not enjoy the exemptions for entry to locations as Service Dogs or Emotional Support Dogs under ADA .
A Service Dog vest may assist in the identification of your dog as a Service Dog. But is not required. It may relieve some stress about being challenged, however court cases have held that you may still be asked if the dog is a Service Dog even while wearing a vest.
Consumers should be aware that there is no "certification or registration" requirement and that although you may purchase these services and accouterments on the internet is does not mean that the dog is a true Service dog. Identification cards have no bearing and may be taken as evidence if you do not have true service dog as defined by State and Federal law. This also applies to "letters from a Doctor".
Attempting to pass your dog as a Service Dogs is against the law in many States.
There are more than a few people that purport their dog to be a Emotional Support Animal while traveling with the intent to fraudulently avoid paying for the travel of a pet or the requirement of having the animal travel as baggage. There are those who will fraudulently issue letters of accommodation to declare that the animal is required for your emotional support
They will ask minimal questions and then charge you for a letter.
This is fraud and may cause more scrutiny and hardship for those that have a true need for the ESD or Service Dog.