All About Service Animals

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National Service Animal Registry

What Is A Service Animal?
Service animals are dogs (and in some cases, miniature horses) trained to perform major life tasks to assist people with physical or severe psychiatric impairments/disabilities. Service animals are sometimes referred to as assistance animals, assist animals, support animals, or helper animals depending on the country and the animal's function.

How To Qualify for A Service Dog
For a person to legally qualify to have a service dog, he/she must have a physical impairment (or severe psychiatric impairment) that substantially limits his/her ability to perform at least one major life activity without assistance. There are no limitations with respect to the kinds of impairments/disabilties this applies to.

What Is a Physical Impairment?
A physical impairment is any medical disorder, condition, disfigurement or loss affecting one of the body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.

Some Examples of a Physical Impairment
Examples of conditions that are impairments: AIDS, and its symptoms; Alcoholism; Asthma; Blindness or other visual impairments; Cancer; Cerebral palsy; Depression; Diabetes, Epilepsy; Hearing or speech impairments; Heart Disease; Migraine Headaches; Multiple sclerosis; Muscular dystrophy; Orthopedic impairments; Paralysis; complications from Pregnancy; Thyroid gland disorders; Tuberculosis; loss of body parts.

What is NOT an Impairment?
Certain temporary, non-chronic impairments of short duration with little or no residual effects usually are not disabilities. Likewise, environmental conditions and alternative lifestyles are not protected. A person currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs is not considered an individual with a disability. This refers both to the illegal use of unlawful drugs such as cocaine, as well as illegal use of prescription drugs.

Examples of conditions that are NOT impairments: The common cold or the flu, a sprained joint, minor and non-chronic gastrointestinal disorders, a broken bone that is expected to heal completely, compulsive gambling, pregnancy, old age, lack of education, poor judgment, or bisexuality or homosexuality.

What Are Major Life Activities?
These consist of functions such as caring for yourself, (including bathing, dressing, shaving, preparing a meal, and going to the restroom), performing manual tasks, eating, sleeping, standing, walking, lifting, reaching, bending, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working.

As a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, major life activities now also include the operation of any major bodily function, including, but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive (procreation) functions.

Major life activities do NOT include the following:

  • Caring for others
  • Driving
  • Ability to have a relationship
  • Grocery shopping

Do You Need A Letter From A Doctor to Qualify?
It isn't necessary to possess a letter from a physician that states you are disabled and require a trained service dog, but if someone legally challenges a person claiming to be disabled, proof of the disability will be necessary at that point. What you must be prepared to do when in public is confirm you are disabled and provide credible verbal evidence of what your service dog is trained to do.

What Are Your Protections and Rights?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), 42 U.S.C. 12101, prohibits discrimination on the basis of "disability" in several critical areas. Those areas include:

  • State and local government services
  • Places of public accommodation
  • Employment
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation

That means you are entitled by federal law to be accompanied by your service dog anywhere a non-disabled person could go.

Flying With A Service Dog
If you are disabled and have a trained service dog, you have the right to be accompanied by your service dog in the cabin of an aircraft and not be charged a fee. There are some limitations and exceptions that can be made at the discretion of airline personnel, however. For example, the animal must be able to stay on the floor between your knees and the seat in front of you. If the dog is too large or the plane to crowded, they can require you to crate the dog. Click here for more information.

Qualify For No Pet (Including Limited Size/Species/Breed) Housing
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 requires property managers and landlords to make a reasonable accommodation (a change in the rules) to permit a disabled handler to have a service dog and not be charged a pet or other fee. That means if they have a "cats only" policy, they must accept your service dog. If they have a policy that allows dogs weighing no more than 30 lbs. and your service dog weighs 75 lbs., they must make a change in the rules to accommodate you. If they accept all dogs, except pit bulls, and you have a pit bull, they must allow your pit bull to reside with you. Click here for detailed information

What Kinds of Facilities are Places of Public Accommodation?
A "place of public accommodation" includes almost every type of operation which is open for business or which comes in contact with the general public. Specifically, it includes any commercial facility, operated by a private entity (not the government), whose operations fall within at least one of 12 different categories. A disabled person is protected by law to be accompanied by a service dog in the following areas:

  1. Places of lodging.
    Examples: An inn, a hotel, a motel.
  2. Establishments serving food or drink.
    Examples: A restaurant, a bar.
  3. Places of exhibition or entertainment.
    Examples: A movie house, a theater, a concert hall, a stadium.
  4. Places of public gathering.
    Examples: An auditorium, a convention center, a lecture hall.
  5. Sales or rental establishments.
    Examples: A bakery, a grocery store, a clothing store, a hardware store, a shopping center, bookstores, video rental stores, car rental places, pet stores, jewelry stores.
  6. Service establishments.
    Examples: A laundromat or dry cleaner; a bank, a barber shop, a travel service, a shoe repair shop, a funeral parlor, a gas station, a lawyer's or doctor's office, a pharmacy, an insurance office, a hospital.
  7. Stations for public transportation.
    Examples: A terminal, a depot, or other station for transportation by bus, train, or airplane.
  8. Places of public display or collection.
    Examples: A museum, a library, a gallery.
  9. Places of recreation.
    Examples: A park, a zoo, an amusement park.
  10. Places of education.
    Examples: A nursery or pre-school, an elementary, secondary, undergraduate or postgraduate private school.
  11. Social service center establishments.
    Examples: A day care center, a senior citizen center, a homeless shelter, a food bank, an adoption agency, substance abuse treatment centers, rape crisis centers, halfway houses.
  12. Places of exercise or recreation.
    Examples: A gym, a health spa, a bowling alley, a golf course.

Note: A public accommodation cannot refuse to serve you because its insurance coverage or rates are conditioned on the absence of persons with disabilities.

Private Clubs and Religious Organizations Are Not Considered Public Accommodations
Title III of the ADA does not apply to:

  • Private clubs, not open to the public
  • Religious organizations and places of worship

Why Register Your Service Dog?
Registration is not federally mandated or compulsory, but voluntary. The importance of registering your service dog, however, is that it not only legitimizes your dog (making him/her look official), but eliminates nearly all the hassles and confrontation you'll encounter without it. This is why National Service Animal Registry exists: To make life easier and less problematic for the disabled! Several members of the NSAR staff group are disabled and can attest to how much easier it has been to take their animals in public after they were registered and attired appropriately.

How To Register Your Service Dog?
To find out more about or begin to register your service dog, click here. We guarantee your life will be enhanced, as a result!

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National Service Animal Registry provides information on laws and legal topics related to Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals and is designed for informational purposes only, and, while believed to be accurate, is provided strictly "as is," without warranty of any kind. This website does not provide legal advice and the information presented is not intended as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified attorney. NSAR Corporation, its agents, affiliates, or employees will not be liable for any damages, direct or indirect, or lost profits arising out of your use of information provided at this site, or information provided at any other site that can be accessed from this site.