At NSAR, a common question we are asked is how to make your dog a service dog. The process is a simple, actually. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is any dog that helps someone with a disability. There are many physical, psychiatric, and intellectual conditions that may qualify you as disabled and an even longer list of tasks your dog may be easily trained to help you with. Click to view the conditions and tasks.
Don’t miss out on the legal benefits of registering your pet as a service dog:
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Service animals are dogs that are trained to perform tasks and to do work to ease their handlers’ disabilities. They work as part of a team with their disabled partners to help their handler achieve safety and independence. Hearing dogs help alert deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to important sounds, mobility dogs assist individuals who use wheelchairs, walking devices, and who have balance issues, and guide dogs help blind and visually impaired individuals navigate their environments. Medical alert dogs signal the onset of a medical issue, such as a seizure or low blood sugar, alert the handler to the presence of allergens, and other functions.
Service dogs can be any breed and any size. It is very common to see very small breeds trained as alert and medical assistance dogs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places such as restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels. Additional laws such as the Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act, the Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Act, and the Federal Rehabilitation Act protect the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in a wide variety of circumstances under which the ADA may not be applicable.
A Psychiatric Service Dog is simply a service dog for a person with a psychiatric impairment, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These dogs are individually trained in obedience, performing tasks, and working in distracting public environments to mitigate their handler’s psychiatric disability. Their function is not to provide emotional support, but to perform tasks which help their partner function in ordinary ways non-disabled persons take for granted.
To qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you’ll need a prescription from a licensed mental health professional (therapist) that you need a dog to assist you a major life task. Click here to find out more about psychiatric service dogs and the kinds of tasks they perform for their disabled handlers.
There are many disabilities that may qualify you to have a service dog. The most familiar examples are a blind person’s need for a seeing-eye dog or a hearing-impaired person’s need for an alert dog. There are MANY other common examples, including a person with balance issues (occasional dizziness, etc.) and his/her need for a dog to stabilize its handler, or a person with PTSD who benefits from a psychiatric service dog to provide medication reminders and lay across its handler to provide deep pressure therapy during panic attacks. See a comprehensive list of disabilities that might qualify you as disabled.
Yes, you can train your own dog. There are no requirements for who trains your dog. The only requirement is that your dog is trained to help you perform a major life task that you have difficulty performing or can’t perform yourself. Many people train their own pets or have a local trainer help them with the training.
No, you don’t need a prescription or letter from a physician. Supporting documentation isn’t legally required, and except for housing and flying on a commercial airline with your service dog, it is illegal for any public entity (store employees, security guards, etc.) to even ask you for it.
Yes. According to the Air Carrier Access Act 49 U.S.C. 41705 and Dept of Transportation 14 C.F.R. Part 382, your service dog must be allowed to accompany you in the cabin of an aircraft for free. Each airline has guidelines for travelling with a service dog, but your dog must be allowed to accompany you in the cabin without a pet fee.
Yes. The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the rights of people with disabilities to keep service dogs, even when a landlord’s policy explicitly prohibits pets.
Because service animals are not “pets” but are considered to be more like assistive aids such as wheelchairs, the law requires the landlord to make an exception to its “no pet” policy so that you can fully use and enjoy where you live. A landlord can’t legally deny you because you have a service animal. And they can’t charge you any kind of pet fee or deposit.
You can take your service dog into any place a person would normally be able to go. That means restaurants, grocery stores, malls, theatres, buses, taxis, trains, airplanes, motels, government buildings, parks, amusement parks, churches, zoos, etc. These public and private entities may NOT charge you a fee because of your service animal, either, or seat you and your dog away from other patrons to intentionally separate you.
To minimize embarrassing confrontations and questions when in public with your service dog, it is recommended to carry an ID card and have your service dog wear a service vest. Purchase these items in a kit for convenience.
Yes. Registering your dog as a service dog is important and offers you many benefits, although it is not required by law. Anytime you are in public with your dog, your registration, ID cards, and a service vest will eliminate embarrassing questions and confrontations. That’s because these items legitimize your dog as a service dog when in public.
Here’s how to register your dog as a service dog for free: Registration is included for free with any kit purchase. Simply click the following link and choose the service dog kit that is best for your needs. Then add your dog’s information, finally uploading a picture of your dog. Once you’ve done this, your dog will be registered in the National Service Animal Registry database: Register my dog now!
The NSAR Public Access Test will show you what general obedience skills your dog should have as a service dog. The skills aren’t required to be a service dog, but these should be goals to help make sure your dog is manageable and well-behaved in public. NSAR Public Access Test