What is a “Service Dog”?
The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is part of federal law, and under it, individuals with disabilities are allowed to have a service dog. Also referred to as service animals, these working dogs can help in a variety of ways. According to the ADA, the description of a service animal is as follows:
Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability.
The ADA clarifies that service dogs are distinct from pets and emotional support animals. Individuals with service dogs have specific permissions that do not apply to those with pets or emotional support animals.
Organizations like Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) that train service dogs can be accredited by Assistance Dogs International. ECAD’s accreditation signifies that we meet industry standards, such as humane training methods and compliance with legal regulations.
Disabilities that Service Dogs Can Help With
If you’re wondering whether a service dog could help you, know that service dogs can help individuals with many different disabilities. At ECAD, we have placed 300+ service dogs, who assist their individuals with over 60 different disabilities. The list of disabilities service dogs can assist with includes:
- Sensory (Hearing loss, blindness, etc.)
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson's Disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Friedreich's Ataxia
- Cerebral Palsy
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Tasks Service Dogs Can Perform
Because service dogs are trained to help individuals with a wide range of disabilities, they can provide many types of assistance. A service dog may be trained to:
- Pull a wheelchair
- Help navigate for the visually impaired
- Assist in retaining balance and stability ("Vertigo Service Dogs")
- Alert others to a medical crisis
- Provide assistance in a medical crisis
- Bring items like medication or phone
Where Can Service Dogs Go? How Are They Identified?
Individuals with service dogs cannot be refused residence due to their service dog, even if the building has a “no pets” policy. Additionally, individuals with service dogs are allowed to bring their service dogs on airplanes and should not be charged additional fees to do so.
Especially in these situations, it is important that a service dog is able to be distinguished as such. Commonly, service dogs are differentiated from a pet or emotional support dog through an ID card or special vest. A landlord or airline may ask if the dog is a service dog and even what tasks the dog is able to help with. However, an individual with a service dog is not required to explain the nature of their disability in these situations, even if they are asked.