Service Dogs

Dogs can be placed in one of four categories; service dogs, emotional support dogs, therapy dogs, and companion dogs. Service Dogs are the only category covered by the ADA.

There are trainers who will help train service dogs for owners. But its important to understand not every dog is suited to be a service dog. No more than every person is suited to be a nurse or engineer. There are also organizations that will charge a fee sometimes refereed to as a “placement fee” for a trained service dog. But buyer beware, there is no guarantee you will get a dog suitable to be a service dog regardless of how impressive the website may be. Please carefully do your own homework. One organization I trust is Service Dogs Inc. located in Dripping Springs Texas.

A good place to start your search is Assistance Dogs International, Inc. (ADI). ADI is a worldwide coalition of non-profit programs that train and place Assistance Dogs. ADI does not train or provide assistance dogs. If you are seeking an assistance dog, please use the programs search to find an assistance dog program that provides assistance dogs in your area, or click here for more information.

What is a service animal?

A. Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability.

Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

A. No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

If someone's dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?

A. It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog's mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

Service dog law in your state


Fraudulent Representation

Any person who knowingly and fraudulently represents himself or herself, through verbal or written notice, to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed/qualified/identified as a guide, signal, or service dog shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 6 months, by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 365.7

ADA Service Animals

Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA


Service Dogs

Guide Dog A dog that guides individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The presence of a dog for protection, personal defense, or comfort does not qualify that dog as a guide dog.

Hearing Dog: A dog that alerts individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to specific sounds.Diabetic (hypoglycemia) Alert Dog: A dog that is trained to alert a diabetic individual to a pronounced drop in blood sugar level. This is a type of service dog.

Seizure Alert Dog: A dog that is trained to alert a person that the onset of a seizure is imminent. This is a type of service dog.

Seizure Response Dog: A dog that is trained to provide comfort and/or a sense of safety to person who is experiencing or has just experienced a seizure. This is a type of service dog.

Service animals assist people with disabilities with: mobility, balance issues, autism, seizure alert or response, high/low blood sugar, and psychiatric disabilities.

Are service-animals-in-training considered service animals under the ADA?

A. No. Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training.

What questions can a covered entity's employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?

A. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific 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 are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person's disability.

Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identifying them as service animals?

A. No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

Can service animals be any breed of dog?

A. Yes.  The ADA does not restrict the type of dog breeds that can be service animals.

What does under control mean?  Do service animals have to be on a leash?  Do they have to be quiet and not bark?

The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal's work or the person's disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

What can my staff do when a service animal is being disruptive?

A. If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises.