About Service Animals
How does the ADA define service animals, where they can go, and how they assist people with disabilities.
Service animals are:
- Any breed and any size of dog
- Trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability
Service animals are not:
- Required to be certified or go through a professional training program
- Required to wear a vest or other ID that indicates they’re a service dog
- Emotional support or comfort dogs, because providing emotional support or comfort is not a task related to a person’s disability
What is the difference between emotional support animals and service animals?
If the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, it is not a service animal under the ADA. But if the dog is trained to perform a task related to a person’s disability, it is a service animal under the ADA. For example, 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, the dog is a service animal.
Examples of Service Animal Tasks
- A person who uses a wheelchair may have a dog that is trained to retrieve objects for them.
- A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to perform a task to remind them to take their medication.
- A person with PTSD may have a dog that is trained to lick their hand to alert them to an oncoming panic attack.
- A person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.
Where Service Animals Can Go
Generally, service animals are allowed to be with their person, even in places that don’t allow pets. For example, service dogs can go into:
The ADA also applies to certain types of housing, including:
- Housing at public and private universities
- Public housing programs run by the state, county, and city governments
- Emergency shelters
Learn More About the ADA and Service Animals
The following technical assistance documents provide more helpful information about service animals:
The ADA explains what businesses and state/local governments must do to make sure that they do not discriminate against a member of the public with a disability who uses a service animal.
Generally, businesses and non-profits that are open to the public, as well as state/local governments, must allow service animals to go most places where the public can go. This is true even if they have a “no pets” policy. Read more on the ADA website.
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