New ADA Service Animal Definition

I’ve been using a service dog for over 13 years. During this time, I’ve run into some unhappy situations regarding access and personal privacy. Recently, the DOJ released revised ADA Title II and III regulations, which included a new definition of a service animal that I was elated to see. These regulations should make it easier for businesses to discern whether or not an animal entering with a handler is a service animal and make it easier for organizations and people with disabilities to appropriately train service animals. For example, the regulations answer questions such as

  • Which species can work as service animals?
  • What types of disabilities do service animals help?
  • What types of tasks should a service animal be trained to perform?
  • What behavior is appropriate and inappropriate for a service animal?
  • What questions area businesses permitted to ask a person with a disability who works with a service animal?
  • Are emotional support or comfort animals permitted in public settings under the ADA

as well as many other questions.

To help everyone understand the changes, I’ve included the ADA’s section-by-section analysis and response to public comments. I plan to post my own comments about the changes in the coming weeks. Overall, I was happy with what was implemented but there are still areas where I wish they would have been more stringent.

I urge anyone who works with a service animal, has a family member or friend who works with a service animal, is training a service animal or runs a business to take the time to read both the changes in the regulations and the commentary in their entirety.

For complete information on these revised regulations, see ADA Regs 2010. All sections regarding services animals from the ADA Regs 2010 follow.

36.104 Definitions.

* * * * *

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 handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

§ 36.302 Modifications in policies, practices, or procedures.

(c) * * *

(2) Exceptions. A public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if:

(i) The animal is out of control and the animal´s handler does not take effective action to control it; or

(ii) The animal is not housebroken.

(3) If an animal is properly excluded. If a public accommodation properly excludes a service animal under § 36.302(c)(2), it shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises.

(4) Animal under handler´s control. A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal´s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler´s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).

(5) Care or supervision. A public accommodation is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.

(6) Inquiries. A public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person´s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Generally, a public accommodation may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person´s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability).

(7) Access to areas of a public accommodation. Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a place of public accommodation where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go.

(8) Surcharges. A public accommodation shall not ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

(9) Miniature horses. (i) A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.

(ii) Assessment factors. In determining whether reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures can be made to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, a public accommodation shall consider–

(A) The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can
accommodate these features;

(B) Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse;

(C) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and

(D) Whether the miniature horse´s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.

(iii)Other requirements. Sections 36.302(c)(3) through (c)(8), which apply to service animals, shall also apply to miniature horses.

This section provides a detailed description of the Department´s changes to the title III regulation, the reasoning behind those changes, and responses to public comments received on these topics. The Section-by-Section Analysis follows the order of the title III regulation itself, except that if the Department has not changed a regulatory section, the unchanged section has not been mentioned.

[Only sections regarding service animals are copied below.]

“Service Animal”

Section 36.104 of the 1991 title III regulation defines a “service animal” as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” Section 36.302(c)(1) of the 1991 title III regulation requires that “[g]enerally, a public accommodation shall modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.” Section 36.302(c)(2) of the 1991 title III regulation states that “a public accommodation [is not required] to supervise or care for a service animal.”

The Department has issued guidance and provided technical assistance and publications concerning service animals since the 1991 regulations became effective. In the NPRM, the Department proposed to modify the definition of service animal and asked for public input on several issues related to the service animal provisions of the 1991 title III regulation: whether the Department should clarify the phrase “providing minimal protection” in the definition or remove it; whether there are any circumstances where a service animal “providing minimal protection” would be appropriate or expected; whether certain species should be eliminated from the definition of “service animal,” and, if so, which types of animals should be excluded; whether “common domestic animal” should be part of the definition; and whether a size or weight limitation should be imposed for common domestic animals, even if the animal satisfies the “common domestic animal” part of the NPRM definition.

The Department received extensive comments on these issues, as well as requests to clarify the obligations of public accommodations to accommodate individuals with disabilities who use service animals, and has modified the final rule in response. In the interests of avoiding unnecessary repetition, the Department has elected to discuss the issues raised in the NPRM questions about service animals and the corresponding public comments in the following discussion of the definition of “service animal.”

The Department´s final rule defines “service animal” as “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 handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”

This definition has been designed to clarify a key provision of the ADA. Many covered entities indicated that they are confused regarding their obligations under the ADA with regard to individuals with disabilities who use service animals. Individuals with disabilities who use trained guide or service dogs are concerned that if untrained or unusual animals are termed “service animals,” their own right to use guide or service dogs may become unnecessarily restricted or questioned. Some individuals who are not individuals with disabilities have claimed, whether fraudulently or sincerely (albeit mistakenly), that their animals are service animals covered by the ADA, in order to gain access to hotels, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation. The increasing use of wild, exotic, or unusual species, many of which are untrained, as service animals has also added to the confusion.

Finally, individuals with disabilities who have the legal right under the Fair Housing Act (FHAct) to use certain animals in their homes as a reasonable accommodation to their disabilities have assumed that their animals also qualify under the ADA. This is not necessarily the case, as discussed below.

The Department recognizes the diverse needs and preferences of individuals with disabilities protected under the ADA, and does not wish to unnecessarily impede individual choice. Service animals play an integral role in the lives of many individuals with disabilities, and with the clarification provided by the final rule, individuals with disabilities will continue to be able to use their service animals as they go about their daily activities. The clarification will also help to ensure that the fraudulent or mistaken use of other animals not qualified as service animals under the ADA will be deterred. A more detailed analysis of the elements of the definition and the comments responsive to the service animal provisions of the NPRM follows.

Providing minimal protection. The 1991 title III regulation included language stating that “minimal protection” was a task that could be performed by an individually trained service animal for the benefit of an individual with a disability. In the Department´s “ADA Business Brief on Service Animals” (2002), the Department interpreted the “minimal protection” language within the context of a seizure (i.e., alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure). The Department received many comments in response to the question of whether the “minimal protection” language should be clarified. Many commenters urged the removal of the “minimal protection” language from the service animal definition for two reasons: (1) The phrase can be interpreted to allow any dog that is trained to be aggressive to qualify as a service animal simply by pairing the animal with a person with a disability; and (2) The phrase can be interpreted to allow any untrained pet dog to qualify as a service animal, since many consider the mere presence of a dog to be a crime deterrent, and thus sufficient to meet the minimal protection standard. These commenters argued, and the Department agrees, that these interpretations were not contemplated under the original title III regulation.

While many commenters stated that they believe that the “minimal protection” language should be eliminated, other commenters recommended that the language be clarified, but retained. Commenters favoring clarification of the term suggested that the Department explicitly exclude the function of attack or exclude those animals that are trained solely to be aggressive or protective. Other commenters identified non-violent behavioral tasks that could be construed as minimally protective, such as interrupting self-mutilation, providing safety checks and room searches, reminding the handler to take medications, and protecting the handler from injury resulting from seizures or unconsciousness.

Several commenters noted that the existing direct threat defense, which allows the exclusion of a service animal if the animal exhibits unwarranted or unprovoked violent behavior or poses a direct threat, prevents the use of “attack dogs” as service animals. One commenter noted that the use of a service animal trained to provide “minimal protection” may impede access to care in an emergency, for example, where the first responder is unable or reluctant to approach a person with a disability because the individual´s service animal is in a protective posture suggestive of aggression.

Many organizations and individuals stated that in the general dog training community, “protection” is code for attack or aggression training and should be removed from the definition. Commenters stated that there appears to be a broadly held misconception that aggression-trained animals are appropriate service animals for persons with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While many individuals with PTSD may benefit by using a service animal, the work or tasks performed appropriately by such an animal would not involve unprovoked aggression but could include actively cuing the handler by nudging or pawing the handler to alert to the onset of an episode and removing the individual from the anxiety-provoking environment.

The Department recognizes that despite its best efforts to provide clarification, the “minimal protection” language appears to have been misinterpreted. While the Department maintains that protection from danger is one of the key functions that service animals perform for the benefit of persons with disabilities, the Department recognizes that an animal individually trained to provide aggressive protection, such as an attack dog, is not appropriately considered a service animal. Therefore, the Department has decided to modify the “minimal protection” language to read “non-violent protection,” thereby excluding so-called “attack dogs” or dogs with traditional “protection training” as service animals. The Department believes that this modification to the service animal definition will eliminate confusion, without restricting unnecessarily the type of work or tasks that service animals may perform. The Department´s modification also clarifies that the crime-deterrent effect of a dog´s presence, by itself, does not qualify as work or tasks for purposes of the service animal definition.

Alerting to intruders. The phrase “alerting to intruders” is related to the issues of minimal protection and the work or tasks an animal may perform to meet the definition of a service animal. In the original 1991 regulatory text, this phrase was intended to identify service animals that alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of others. This language has been misinterpreted by some to apply to dogs that are trained specifically to provide aggressive protection, resulting in the assertion that such training qualifies a dog as a service animal under the ADA. The Department reiterates that public accommodations are not required to admit any animal whose use poses a direct threat. In addition, the Department has decided to remove the word “intruders” from the service animal definition and replace it with the phrase “the presence of people or sounds.” The Department believes this clarifies that so-called “attack training” or other aggressive response types of training that cause a dog to provide an aggressive response do not qualify a dog as a service animal under the ADA.

Conversely, if an individual uses a breed of dog that is perceived to be aggressive because of breed reputation, stereotype, or the history or experience the observer may have with other dogs, but the dog is under the control of the individual with a disability and does not exhibit aggressive behavior, the public accommodation cannot exclude the individual or the animal from the place of public accommodation. The animal can only be removed if it engages in the behaviors mentioned in § 36.302(c) (as revised in the final rule) or if the presence of the animal constitutes a fundamental alteration to the nature of the goods, services, facilities, and activities of the place of public accommodation.

“Doing work” or “performing tasks.” The NPRM proposed that the Department maintain the requirement first articulated in the l991 title III regulation that in order to qualify as a service animal, the animal must “perform tasks” or “do work” for the individual with a disability. The phrases “perform tasks” and “do work” describe what an animal must do for the benefit of an individual with a disability in order to qualify as a service animal.

The Department received a number of comments in response to the NPRM proposal urging the removal of the term “do work” from the definition of a service animal. These commenters argued that the Department should emphasize the performance of tasks instead. The Department disagrees. Although the common definition of work includes the performance of tasks, the definition of work is somewhat broader, encompassing activities that do not appear to involve physical action.

One service dog user stated that, in some cases, “critical forms of assistance can´t be construed as physical tasks,” noting that the manifestations of “brain-based disabilities,” such as psychiatric disorders and autism, are as varied as their physical counterparts. The Department agrees with this statement but cautions that unless the animal is individually trained to do something that qualifies as work or a task, the animal is a pet or support animal and does not qualify for coverage as a service animal. A pet or support animal may be able to discern that the handler is in distress, but it is what the animal is trained to do in response to this awareness that distinguishes a service animal from an observant pet or support animal.

The NPRM contained an example of “doing work” that stated “a psychiatric service dog can help some individuals with dissociative identity disorder to remain grounded in time or place.” 73 FR 34508, 34521 (June 17, 2008). Several commenters objected to the use of this example, arguing that grounding was not a “task” and therefore the example inherently contradicted the basic premise that a service animal must perform a task in order to mitigate a disability. Other commenters stated that “grounding” should not be included as an example of “work” because it could lead to some individuals claiming that they should be able to use emotional support animals in public because the dog makes them feel calm or safe. By contrast, one commenter with experience in training service animals explained that grounding is a trained task based upon very specific behavioral indicators that can be observed and measured. These tasks are based upon input from mental health practitioners, dog trainers, and individuals with a history of working with psychiatric service dogs.

It is the Department´s view that an animal that is trained to “ground” a person with a psychiatric disorder does work or performs a task that would qualify it as a service animal as compared to an untrained emotional support animal whose presence affects a person´s disability. It is the fact that the animal is trained to respond to the individual´s needs that distinguishes an animal as a service animal. The process must have two steps: recognition and response. For example, if a service animal senses that a person is about to have a psychiatric episode and it is trained to respond, for example, by nudging, barking, or removing the individual to a safe location until the episode subsides, then the animal has indeed performed a task or done work on behalf of the individual with the disability, as opposed to merely sensing an event.

One commenter suggested defining the term “task,” presumably to improve the understanding of the types of services performed by an animal that would be sufficient to qualify the animal for coverage. The Department believes that the common definition of the word “task” is sufficiently clear and that it is not necessary to add to the definitions section. However, the Department has added examples of other kinds of work or tasks to help illustrate and provide clarity to the definition. After careful evaluation of this issue, the Department has concluded that the phrases “do work” and “perform tasks” have been effective during the past two decades to illustrate the varied services provided by service animals for the benefit of individuals with all types of disabilities. Thus, the Department declines to depart from its longstanding approach at this time.

Species limitations. When the Department originally issued its title III regulation in the early 1990s, the Department did not define the parameters of acceptable animal species. At that time, few anticipated the variety of animals that would be promoted as service animals in the years to come, which ranged from pigs and miniature horses to snakes, iguanas, and parrots. The Department has followed this particular issue closely, keeping current with the many unusual species of animals represented to be service animals. Thus, the Department has decided to refine further this aspect of the service animal definition in the final rule.

The Department received many comments from individuals and organizations recommending species limitations. Several of these commenters asserted that limiting the number of allowable species would help stop erosion of the public´s trust, which has resulted in reduced access for many individuals with disabilities who use trained service animals that adhere to high behavioral standards. Several commenters suggested that other species would be acceptable if those animals could meet nationally recognized behavioral standards for trained service dogs. Other commenters asserted that certain species of animals (e.g., reptiles) cannot be trained to do work or perform tasks, so these animals would not be covered.

In the NPRM, the Department used the term “common domestic animal” in the service animal definition and excluded reptiles, rabbits, farm animals (including horses, miniature horses, ponies, pigs, and goats), ferrets, amphibians, and rodents from the service animal definition. 73 FR 34508, 34553 (June 17, 2008). However, the term “common domestic animal” is difficult to define with precision due to the increase in the number of domesticated species. Also, several State and local laws define a “domestic” animal as an animal that is not wild.

The Department is compelled to take into account the practical considerations of certain animals and to contemplate their suitability in a variety of public contexts, such as restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, and performing arts venues, as well as suitability for urban environments. The Department agrees with commenters´ views that limiting the number and types of species recognized as service animals will provide greater predictability for public accommodations as well as added assurance of access for individuals with disabilities who use dogs as service animals. As a consequence, the Department has decided to limit this rule´s coverage of service animals to dogs, which are the most common service animals used by individuals with disabilities.

Wild animals, monkeys, and other nonhuman primates. Numerous business entities endorsed a narrow definition of acceptable service animal species, and asserted that there are certain animals (e.g., reptiles) that cannot be trained to do work or perform tasks. Other commenters suggested that the Department should identify excluded animals, such as birds and llamas, in the final rule. Although one commenter noted that wild animals bred in captivity should be permitted to be service animals, the Department has decided to make clear that all wild animals, whether born or bred in captivity or in the wild, are eliminated from coverage as service animals. The Department believes that this approach reduces risks to health or safety attendant with wild animals. Some animals, such as certain nonhuman primates, including certain monkeys, pose a direct threat; their behavior can be unpredictably aggressive and violent without notice or provocation. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) issued a position statement advising against the use of monkeys as service animals, stating that “[t]he AVMA does not support the use of nonhuman primates as assistance animals because of animal welfare concerns, and the potential for serious injury and zoonotic [animal to human disease transmission] risks.” AVMA Position Statement, Nonhuman Primates asAssistance Animals (2005), available at www.avma.org/issues/policy/nonhuman_primates.asp (last visited June 24, 2010).

An organization that trains capuchin monkeys to provide in-home services to individuals with paraplegia and quadriplegia was in substantial agreement with the AVMA´s views but requested a limited recognition in the service animal definition for the capuchin monkeys it trains to provide assistance for persons with disabilities. The organization commented that its trained capuchin monkeys undergo scrupulous veterinary examinations to ensure that the animals pose no health risks, and are used by individuals with disabilities exclusively in their homes. The organization acknowledged that the capuchin monkeys it trains are not necessarily suitable for use in a place of public accommodation but noted that the monkeys may need to be used in circumstances that implicate title III coverage, e.g., in the event the handler had to leave home due to an emergency, to visit a veterinarian, or for the initial delivery of the monkey to the individual with a disability. The organization noted that several State and local government entities have local zoning, licensing, health, and safety laws that prohibit non-human primates, and that these prohibitions would prevent individuals with disabilities from using these animals even in their homes.

The organization argued that including capuchin monkeys under the service animal umbrella would make it easier for individuals with disabilities to obtain reasonable modifications of State and local licensing, health, and safety laws that would permit the use of these monkeys. The organization argued that this limited modification to the service animal definition was warranted in view of the services these monkeys perform, which enable many individuals with paraplegia and quadriplegia to live and function with increased independence.

The Department has carefully considered the potential risks associated with the use of nonhuman primates as service animals in places of public accommodation, as well as the information provided to the Department about the significant benefits that trained capuchin monkeys provide to certain individuals with disabilities in residential settings. The Department has determined, however, that nonhuman primates, including capuchin monkeys, will not be recognized as service animals for purposes of this rule because of their potential for disease transmission and unpredictable aggressive behavior. The Department believes that these characteristics make nonhuman primates unsuitable for use as service animals in the context of the wide variety of public settings subject to this rule. As the organization advocating the inclusion of capuchin monkeys acknowledges, capuchin monkeys are not suitable for use in public facilities.

The Department emphasizes that it has decided only that capuchin monkeys will not be included in the definition of service animals for purposes of its regulation implementing the ADA. This decision does not have any effect on the extent to which public accommodations are required to allow the use of such monkeys under other Federal statutes, like the FHAct or the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). For example, a public accommodation that also is considered to be a “dwelling” may be covered under both the ADA and the FHAct. While the ADA does not require such a public accommodation to admit people with service monkeys, the FHAct may. Under the FHAct an individual with a disability may have the right to have an animal other than a dog in his or her home if the animal qualifies as a “reasonable accommodation” that is necessary to afford the individual equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, assuming that the use of the animal does not pose a direct threat. In some cases, the right of an individual to have an animal under the FHAct may conflict with State or local laws that prohibit all individuals, with or without disabilities, from owning a particular species. However, in this circumstance, an individual who wishes to request a reasonable modification of the State or local law must do so under the FHAct, not the ADA.

Having considered all of the comments about which species should qualify as service animals under the ADA, the Department has determined the most reasonable approach is to limit acceptable species to dogs.

Size or weight limitations. The vast majority of commenters did not support a size or weight limitation. Commenters were typically opposed to a size or weight limit because many tasks performed by service animals require large, strong dogs. For instance, service animals may perform tasks such as providing balance and support or pulling a wheelchair. Small animals may not be suitable for large adults. The weight of the service animal user is often correlated with the size and weight of the service animal. Others were concerned that adding a size and weight limit would further complicate the difficult process of finding an appropriate service animal. One commenter noted that there is no need for a limit because “if, as a practical matter, the size or weight of an individual´s service animal creates a direct threat or fundamental alteration to a particular public entity or accommodation, there are provisions that allow for the animal´s exclusion or removal.” Some common concerns among commenters in support of a size and weight limit were that a larger animal may be less able to fit in various areas with its handler, such as toilet rooms and public seating areas, and that larger animals are more difficult to control.

Balancing concerns expressed in favor of and against size and weight limitations, the Department has determined that such limitations would not be appropriate. Many individuals of larger stature require larger dogs. The Department believes it would be inappropriate to deprive these individuals of the option of using a service dog of the size required to provide the physical support and stability these individuals may need to function independently. Since large dogs have always served as service animals, continuing their use should not constitute fundamental alterations or impose undue burdens on public accommodations.

Breed limitations. A few commenters suggested that certain breeds of dogs should not be allowed to be used as service animals. Some suggested that the Department should defer to local laws restricting the breeds of dogs that individuals who reside in a community may own. Other commenters opposed breed restrictions, stating that the breed of a dog does not determine its propensity for aggression and that aggressive and non-aggressive dogs exist in all breeds.

The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks. Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions. Others have restrictions that, while well-meaning, have the unintended effect of screening out the very breeds of dogs that have successfully served as service animals for decades without a history of the type of unprovoked aggression or attacks that would pose a direct threat, e.g., German Shepherds. Other jurisdictions prohibit animals over a certain weight, thereby restricting breeds without invoking an express breed ban. In addition, deference to breed restrictions contained in local laws would have the unacceptable consequence of restricting travel by an individual with a disability who uses a breed that is acceptable and poses no safety hazards in the individual´s home jurisdiction but is nonetheless banned by other jurisdictions. Public accommodations have the ability to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal´s actual behavior or history–not based on fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave. This ability to exclude an animal whose behavior or history evidences a direct threat is sufficient to protect health and safety.

Recognition of psychiatric service animals, but not “emotional support animals.” The definition of “service animal” in the NPRM stated the Department´s longstanding position that emotional support animals are not included in the definition of “service animal.” The proposed text provided that “[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals.” 73 FR 34508, 34553 (June 17, 2008).

Many advocacy organizations expressed concern and disagreed with the exclusion of comfort and emotional support animals. Others have been more specific, stating that individuals with disabilities may need their emotional support animals in order to have equal access. Some commenters noted that individuals with disabilities use animals that have not been trained to perform tasks directly related to their disability. These animals do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. These are emotional support or comfort animals.

Commenters asserted that excluding categories such as “comfort” and “emotional support” animals recognized by laws such as the FHAct or the ACAA is confusing and burdensome. Other commenters noted that emotional support and comfort animals perform an important function, asserting that animal companionship helps individuals who experience depression resulting from multiple sclerosis.

Some commenters explained the benefits emotional support animals provide, including emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, and the promotion of emotional well-being. They contended that without the presence of an emotional support animal in their lives they would be disadvantaged and unable to participate in society. These commenters were concerned that excluding this category of animals will lead to discrimination against and excessive questioning of individuals with non-visible or non-apparent disabilities. Other commenters expressing opposition to the exclusion of individually trained “comfort” or “emotional support” animals asserted that the ability to soothe or de-escalate and control emotion is “work” that benefits the individual with the disability.

Many commenters requested that the Department carve out an exception that permits current or former members of the military to use emotional support animals. They asserted that a significant number of service members returning from active combat duty have adjustment difficulties due to combat, sexual assault, or other traumatic experiences while on active duty. Commenters noted that some current or former members of the military service have been prescribed animals for conditions such as PTSD. One commenter stated that service women who were sexually assaulted while in the military use emotional support animals to help them feel safe enough to step outside their homes. The Department recognizes that many current and former members of the military have disabilities as a result of service-related injuries that may require emotional support and that such individuals can benefit from the use of an emotional support animal and could use such animal in their home under the FHAct. However, having carefully weighed the issues, the Department believes that its final rule appropriately addresses the balance of issues and concerns of both the individual with a disability and the public accommodation. The Department also notes that nothing in this part prohibits a public entity from allowing current or former military members or anyone else with disabilities to utilize emotional support animals if it wants to do so.

Commenters asserted the view that if an animal´s “mere presence” legitimately provides such benefits to an individual with a disability and if those benefits are necessary to provide equal opportunity given the facts of the particular disability, then such an animal should qualify as a “service animal.” Commenters noted that the focus should be on the nature of a person´s disability, the difficulties the disability may impose and whether the requested accommodation would legitimately address those difficulties, not on evaluating the animal involved. The Department understands this approach has benefitted many individuals under the FHAct and analogous State law provisions, where the presence of animals poses fewer health and safety issues and where emotional support animals provide assistance that is unique to residential settings. The Department believes, however, that the presence of such animals is not required in the context of public accommodations, such as restaurants, hospitals, hotels, retail establishments, and assembly areas.

Under the Department´s previous regulatory framework, some individuals and entities assumed that the requirement that service animals must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks excluded all individuals with mental disabilities from having service animals. Others assumed that any person with a psychiatric condition whose pet provided comfort to them was covered by the 1991 title III regulation. The Department reiterates that psychiatric service animals that are trained to do work or perform a task for individuals whose disability is covered by the ADA are protected by the Department´s present regulatory approach. Psychiatric service animals can be trained to perform a variety of tasks that assist individuals with disabilities to detect the onset of psychiatric episodes and ameliorate their effects. Tasks performed by psychiatric service animals may include reminding the handler to take medicine, providing safety checks or room searches for persons with PTSD, interrupting self-mutilation, and removing disoriented individuals from dangerous situations.

The difference between an emotional support animal and a psychiatric service animal is the work or tasks that the animal performs. Traditionally, service dogs worked as guides for individuals who were blind or had low vision. Since the original regulation was promulgated, service animals have been trained to assist individuals with many different types of disabilities.

In the final rule, the Department has retained its position on the exclusion of emotional support animals from the definition of “service animal.” The definition states that “[t]he provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship * * * do[es] not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” The Department notes, however, that the exclusion of emotional support animals from coverage in the final rule does not mean that individuals with psychiatric or mental disabilities cannot use service animals that meet the regulatory definition. The final rule defines service animal 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, This language simply clarifies the Department´s longstanding position.

The Department´s position is based on the fact that the title II and title III regulations govern a wider range of public settings than the housing and transportation settings for which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the DOT regulations allow emotional support animals or comfort animals. The Department recognizes that there are situations not governed by the title II and title III regulations, particularly in the context of residential settings and transportation, where there may be a legal obligation to permit the use of animals that do not qualify as service animals under the ADA, but whose presence nonetheless provides necessary emotional support to persons with disabilities. Accordingly, other Federal agency regulations, case law, and possibly State or local laws governing those situations may provide appropriately for increased access for animals other than service animals as defined under the ADA. Public officials, housing providers, and others who make decisions relating to animals in residential and transportation settings should consult the Federal, State, and local laws that apply in those areas (e.g., the FHAct regulations of HUD and the ACAA) and not rely on the ADA as a basis for reducing those obligations.

Retain term “service animal.” Some commenters asserted that the term “assistance animal” is a term of art and should replace the term “service animal”; however, the majority of commenters preferred the term “service animal” because it is more specific. The Department has decided to retain the term “service animal” in the final rule. While some agencies, like HUD, use the terms “assistance animal,” “assistive animal,” or “support animal,” these terms are used to denote a broader category of animals than is covered by the ADA. The Department has decided that changing the term used in the final rule would create confusion, particularly in view of the broader parameters for coverage under the FHAct, cf. Preamble to HUD´s Final Rule for Pet Ownership for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities, 73 FR 63834–38 (Oct. 27, 2008); HUD Handbook No. 4350.3 Rev-1, Chapter 2, Occupancy Requirements of Subsidized Multifamily Housing Programs (June 2007), available at www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/handbooks/hsgh/4350.3 (last visited June 24, 2010). Moreover, as discussed above, the Department´s definition of “service animal” in the final rule does not affect the rights of individuals with disabilities who use assistance animals in their homes under the FHAct or who use “emotional support animals” that are covered under the ACAA and its implementing regulations. See 14 CFR 382.7 et seq.; see also Department of Transportation, Guidance Concerning Service Animals in Air Transportation, 68 FR 24874, 24877 (May 9, 2003) (discussing accommodation of service animals and emotional support animals on aircraft).

Section 35.136 Service animals.

The 1991 title II regulation states that “[a] public entity shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity.” 28 CFR 130(b)(7). Unlike the title III regulation, the 1991 title II regulation did not contain a specific provision addressing service animals.

In the NPRM, the Department stated the intention of providing the broadest feasible access to individuals with disabilities and their service animals, unless a public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications to policies excluding animals would fundamentally alter the nature of the public entity´s service, program, or activity. The Department proposed creating a new § 35.136 addressing service animals that was intended to retain the scope of the 1991 title III regulation at § 36.302(c), while clarifying the Department´s longstanding policies and interpretations, as outlined in published technical assistance, Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business (1996), available at www.ada.gov/qasrvc.ftm and ADA Guide for Small Businesses (1999) available at www.ada.gov/smbustxt.htm, and to add that a public entity may exclude a service animal in certain circumstances where the service animal fails to meet certain behavioral standards. The Department received extensive comments in response to proposed § 35.136 from individuals, disability advocacy groups, organizations involved in training service animals, and public entities. Those comments and the Department´s response are discussed below.

Exclusion of service animals. In the NPRM, the Department proposed incorporating the title III regulatory language of § 36.302(c) into new § 35.136(a) which states that “[g]enerally, a public entity shall modify its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that the use of a service animal would fundamentally alter the public entity´s service, program, or activity.” The final rule retains this language with some modifications.

In addition, in the NPRM, the Department proposed clarifying those circumstances where otherwise eligible service animals may be excluded by public entities from their programs or facilities. The Department proposed in § 35.136(b)(1) of the NPRM that a public entity may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from a title II service, program, or activity if: “[t]he animal is out of control and the animal´s handler does not take effective action to control it.” 73 FR 34466, 34504 (June 17, 2008).

The Department has long held that a service animal must be under the control of the handler at all times. Commenters overwhelmingly were in favor of this language, but noted that there are occasions when service animals are provoked to disruptive or aggressive behavior by agitators or troublemakers, as in the case of a blind individual whose service dog is taunted or pinched. While all service animals are trained to ignore and overcome these types of incidents, misbehavior in response to provocation is not always unreasonable. In circumstances where a service animal misbehaves or responds reasonably to a provocation or injury, the public entity must give the handler a reasonable opportunity to gain control of the animal. Further, if the individual with a disability asserts that the animal was provoked or injured, or if the public entity otherwise has reason to suspect that provocation or injury has occurred, the public entity should seek to determine the facts and, if provocation or injury occurred, the public entity should take effective steps to prevent further provocation or injury, which may include asking the provocateur to leave the public entity. This language is unchanged in the final rule.

The NPRM also proposed language at § 35.136(b)(2) to permit a public entity to exclude a service animal if the animal is not housebroken (i.e., trained so that, absent illness or accident, the animal controls its waste elimination) or the animal´s presence or behavior fundamentally alters the nature of the service the public entity provides (e.g., repeated barking during a live performance). Several commenters were supportive of this NPRM language, but cautioned against overreaction by the public entity in these instances. One commenter noted that animals get sick, too, and that accidents occasionally happen. In these circumstances, simple clean up typically addresses the incident. Commenters noted that the public entity must be careful when it excludes a service animal on the basis of “fundamental alteration,” asserting for example that a public entity should not exclude a service animal for barking in an environment where other types of noise, such as loud cheering or a child crying, is tolerated. The Department maintains that the appropriateness of an exclusion can be assessed by reviewing how a public entity addresses comparable situations that do not involve a service animal. The Department has retained in § 35.136(b) of the final rule the exception requiring animals to be housebroken. The Department has not retained the specific NPRM language stating that animals can be excluded if their presence or behavior fundamentally alters the nature of the service provided by the public entity, because the Department believes that this exception is covered by the general reasonable modification requirement contained in § 35.130(b)(7).

The NPRM also proposed at § 35.136(b)(3) that a service animal can be excluded where “[t]he animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by reasonable modifications.” 73 FR 34466, 34504 (June 17, 2003). Commenters were universally supportive of this provision as it makes express the discretion of a public entity to exclude a service animal that poses a direct threat. Several commenters cautioned against the overuse of this provision and suggested that the Department provide an example of the rule´s application. The Department has decided not to include regulatory language specifically stating that a service animal can be excluded if it poses a direct threat. The Department believes that the addition of new § 35.139, which incorporates the language of the title III provisions at § 36.302 relating to the general defense of direct threat, is sufficient to establish the availability of this defense to public entities.

Access to a public entity following the proper exclusion of a service animal. The NPRM proposed that in the event a public entity properly excludes a service animal, the public entity must give the individual with a disability the opportunity to access the programs, services, and facilities of the public entity without the service animal. Most commenters welcomed this provision as a common sense approach. These commenters noted that they do not wish to preclude individuals with disabilities from the full and equal enjoyment of the State or local government´s programs, services, or facilities, simply because of an isolated problem with a service animal. The Department has elected to retain this provision in § 35.136(a).

Other requirements. The NPRM also proposed that the regulation include the following requirements: that the work or tasks performed by the service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability; that a service animal must be individually trained to do work or perform a task, be housebroken, and be under the control of the handler; and that a service animal must have a harness, leash, or other tether. Most commenters addressed at least one of these issues in their responses. Most agreed that these provisions are important to clarify further the 1991 service animal regulation. The Department has moved the requirement that the work or tasks performed by the service animal must be related directly to the handler´s disability to the definition of “service animal” in § 35.104. In addition, the Department has modified the proposed language in § 35.136(d) relating to the handler´s control of the animal with a harness, leash, or other tether to state that “[a] service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal´s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler´s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).” The Department has retained the requirement that the service animal must be individually trained (see Appendix A discussion of § 35.104, definition of “service animal”), as well as the requirement that the service animal be housebroken.

Responsibility for supervision and care of a service animal. The NPRM proposed language at § 35.136(e) stating that “[a] public entity is not responsible for caring for or supervising a service animal.” 73 FR 34466, 34504 (June 17, 2008). Most commenters did not address this particular provision. The Department recognizes that there are occasions when a person with a disability is confined to bed in a hospital for a period of time. In such an instance, the individual may not be able to walk or feed the service animal. In such cases, if the individual has a family member, friend, or other person willing to take on these responsibilities in the place of the individual with disabilities, the individual´s obligation to be responsible for the care and supervision of the service animal would be satisfied. The language of this section is retained, with minor modifications, in § 35.136(e) of the final rule.

Inquiries about service animals. The NPRM proposed language at § 35.136(f) setting forth parameters about how a public entity may determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. The proposed section stated that a public entity may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what task or work the animal has been trained to do but may not require proof of service animal certification or licensing. Such inquiries are limited to eliciting the information necessary to make a decision without requiring disclosure of confidential disability-related information that a State or local government entity does not need. This language is consistent with the policy guidance outlined in two Department publications, Commonly Asked Questions about Service Animals in Places of Business (1996), available at www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm, and ADA Guide for Small Businesses, (1999), available at www.ada.gov/smbustxt.htm.

Although some commenters contended that the NPRM service animal provisions leave unaddressed the issue of how a public entity can distinguish between a psychiatric service animal, which is covered under the final rule, and a comfort animal, which is not, other commenters noted that the Department´s published guidance has helped public entities to distinguish between service animals and pets on the basis of an individual´s response to these questions. Accordingly, the Department has retained the NPRM language incorporating its guidance concerning the permissible questions into the final rule.

Some commenters suggested that a title II entity be allowed to require current documentation, no more than one year old, on letterhead from a mental health professional stating the following: (1) that the individual seeking to use the animal has a mental health-related disability; (2) that having the animal accompany the individual is necessary to the individual´s mental health or treatment or to assist the person otherwise; and (3) that the person providing the assessment of the individual is a licensed mental health professional and the individual seeking to use the animal is under that individual´s professional care. These commenters asserted that this will prevent abuse and ensure that individuals with legitimate needs for psychiatric service animals may use them. The Department believes that this proposal would treat persons with psychiatric, intellectual, and other mental disabilities less favorably than persons with physical or sensory disabilities. The proposal would also require persons with disabilities to obtain medical documentation and carry it with them any time they seek to engage in ordinary activities of daily life in their communities–something individuals without disabilities have not been required to do. Accordingly, the Department has concluded that a documentation requirement of this kind would be unnecessary, burdensome, and contrary to the spirit, intent, and mandates of the ADA.

Areas of a public entity open to the public, participants in services, programs, or activities, or invitees. The NPRM proposed at § 35.136(g) that an individual with a disability who uses a service animal has the same right of access to areas of a title II entity as members of the public, participants in services, programs, or activities, or invitees. Commenters indicated that allowing individuals with disabilities to go with their service animals into the same areas as members of the public, participants in programs, services, or activities, or invitees is accepted practice by most State and local government entities. The Department has included a slightly modified version of this provision in § 35.136(g) of the final rule.

The Department notes that under the final rule, a healthcare facility must also permit a person with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal in all areas of the facility in which that person would otherwise be allowed. There are some exceptions, however. The Department follows the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the use of service animals in a hospital setting. Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted to humans through bites, scratches, direct contact, arthropod vectors, or aerosols.

Consistent with CDC guidance, it is generally appropriate to exclude a service animal from limited-access areas that employ general infection-control measures, such as operating rooms and burn units. See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities: Recommendations of CDC and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (June 2003), available at www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/guidelines/eic_in_HCF_03.pdf (last visited June 24, 2010). A service animal may accompany its handler to such areas as admissions and discharge offices, the emergency room, inpatient and outpatient rooms, examining and diagnostic rooms, clinics, rehabilitation therapy areas, the cafeteria and vending areas, the pharmacy, restrooms, and all other areas of the facility where healthcare personnel, patients, and visitors are permitted without added precaution.

Prohibition against surcharges for use of a service animal. In the NPRM, the Department proposed to incorporate the previously mentioned policy guidance, which prohibits the assessment of a surcharge for the use of a service animal, into proposed § 35.136(h). Several commenters agreed that this provision makes clear the obligation of a public entity to admit an individual with a service animal without surcharges, and that any additional costs imposed should be factored into the overall cost of administering a program, service, or activity, and passed on as a charge to all participants, rather than an individualized surcharge to the service animal user. Commenters also noted that service animal users cannot be required to comply with other requirements that are not generally applicable to other persons. If a public entity normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal. The Department has retained this language, with minor modifications, in the final rule at § 35.136(h).

Training requirement. Certain commenters recommended the adoption of formal training requirements for service animals. The Department has rejected this approach and will not impose any type of formal training requirements or certification process, but will continue to require that service animals be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. While some groups have urged the Department to modify this position, the Department has determined that such a modification would not serve the full array of individuals with disabilities who use service animals, since individuals with disabilities may be capable of training, and some have trained, their service animal to perform tasks or do work to accommodate their disability. A training and certification requirement would increase the expense of acquiring a service animal and might limit access to service animals for individuals with limited financial resources.

Some commenters proposed specific behavior or training standards for service animals, arguing that without such standards, the public has no way to differentiate between untrained pets and service animals. Many of the suggested behavior or training standards were lengthy and detailed. The Department believes that this rule addresses service animal behavior sufficiently by including provisions that address the obligations of the service animal user and the circumstances under which a service animal may be excluded, such as the requirements that an animal be housebroken and under the control of its handler.

Miniature horses. The Department has been persuaded by commenters and the available research to include a provision that would require public entities to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by a person with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability. The traditional service animal is a dog, which has a long history of guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, and over time dogs have been trained to perform an even wider variety of services for individuals with all types of disabilities. However, an organization that developed a program to train miniature horses, modeled on the program used for guide dogs, began training miniature horses in 1991.

Although commenters generally supported the species limitations proposed in the NPRM, some were opposed to the exclusion of miniature horses from the definition of a service animal. These commenters noted that these animals have been providing assistance to persons with disabilities for many years. Miniature horses were suggested by some commenters as viable alternatives to dogs for individuals with allergies, or for those whose religious beliefs preclude the use of dogs. Another consideration mentioned in favor of the use of miniature horses is the longer life span and strength of miniature horses in comparison to dogs. Specifically, miniature horses can provide service for more than 25 years while dogs can provide service for approximately 7 years, and, because of their strength, miniature horses can provide services that dogs cannot provide. Accordingly, use of miniature horses reduces the cost involved to retire, replace, and train replacement service animals.

The miniature horse is not one specific breed, but may be one of several breeds, with distinct characteristics that produce animals suited to service animal work. The animals generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the withers, or shoulders, and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. These characteristics are similar to those of large breed dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes, and Mastiffs. Similar to dogs, miniature horses can be trained through behavioral reinforcement to be “housebroken.” Most miniature service horse handlers and organizations recommend that when the animals are not doing work or performing tasks, the miniature horses should be kept outside in a designated area, instead of indoors in a house.

According to information provided by an organization that trains service horses, these miniature horses are trained to provide a wide array of services to their handlers, primarily guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, pulling wheelchairs, providing stability and balance for individuals with disabilities that impair the ability to walk, and supplying leverage that enables a person with a mobility disability to get up after a fall. According to the commenter, miniature horses are particularly effective for large stature individuals. The animals can be trained to stand (and in some cases, lie down) at the handler´s feet in venues where space is at a premium, such as assembly areas or inside some vehicles that provide public transportation. Some individuals with disabilities have traveled by train and have flown commercially with their miniature horses.

The miniature horse is not included in the definition of service animal, which is limited to dogs. However, the Department has added a specific provision at § 35.136(i) of the final rule covering miniature horses. Under this provision, a public entity must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability. The public entity may take into account a series of assessment factors in determining whether to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility. These include the type, size, and weight of the miniature horse; whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse; whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and whether the miniature horse´s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation. In addition, paragraphs (c)-(h) of this section, which are applicable to dogs, also apply to miniature horses.

Ponies and full-size horses are not covered by § 35.136(i). Also, because miniature horses can vary in size and can be larger and less flexible than dogs, covered entities may exclude this type of service animal if the presence of the miniature horse, because of its larger size and lower level of flexibility, results in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the programs activities, or services provided.

32 Comments

  1. Bob Worthington
    Posted September 3, 2010 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    Have I read this correctly? A service animal MUST be a dog. I do not object, I’m just looking for clarification.

  2. Posted September 3, 2010 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Under the rewritten federal law (ADA), it reads the the animal must be a dog with the exception of a miniature horse (see 36.302c9 for this exception). State law can override this but remember that would apply only to that state and not the entire country. Some states already grant more rights, for example, some states permit dogs in training to have access rights. Please let me know if you have further questions.

  3. Kayzha
    Posted October 7, 2010 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    I found your technical information to be very helpful. I am particularily disturbed by the “exclusion” of “comfort and therapy animals”. I “handle” a cat who has had over 5 YEARS of training, and has worked in nursing homes and convelescent centers specifically with stroke, depression, cancer, and end of life/dying patients, as a “bedside” companion…something soft to touch or hold. She knows over 50 commands, and is entirely “voice controlled”. She “senses” the distress in the patient she visits, and will curl up and stay with that person for hours, or until she receives another command from me.
    She definitely provides supportive/end of life therapy to persons who are in serious to grave medical situations. I cannot tell you the immense positive feedback I have received from her extraordinary SERVICE to others who are not doing so well.
    So now ADA REMOVES her from their “definition” of “service animals”???!!! I say,
    “YOU STUPID IDIOTS!!!” “Go visit a hospice or a cancer group sometime and then tell ME that she can no longer HELP these people because YOU made a change in the definition!!” THAT is just plain WRONG on SO many levels. ….and I, for one, am super-pissed off that the “emotional/comfort/end of life” “criteria” for her is, apparently,
    “not considered a service animal”. As her handler/trainer, and with an extensive professional medical and disability background, I am INCREDULOUS over this!!
    HOW COMPLETELY STUPID!!! … and we wonder why our “government” is in trouble…etc etc etc.

  4. Posted December 2, 2010 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I agree that some things within the ADA still need clarification but the new definition of a Service Animal effective March 15th is a step in the right direction. I have had calls from people asking me to train their dog as a Service Dog for “emotional support” (before the new definition came about) to find out later in the interview process that they are mostly doing it to side step a “No Pet” policy from their landlord. I never thought an “emotional support” dog was a dog that did not mitigate a disability. I thought is was a politically correct way of classifying a service dog for mental disabilities. The Law is clearer now on what is a Service Animal that has public access rights under the ADA and helps prevent the abuse form people using the previous definition just to keep their pet. I feel there should be licensing for trainers under the ADA to train all types of service animals. My state requires me to hold a license to operate a hearing dog business, under MA General Laws Chapter 129 Sections 39C, 39D and 43 but does not require or has a license available for other types of service dogs. People are just slapping a vest on a dog and calling it a service dog. This to me is insulting. I and a lot of other professional trainers spend well over a year solid with a dog and countless hours to train service dogs that are public access certified (meaning they will behave 100% of the time by second command under reasonable distraction in public to include malls, movie theaters, buses, trains, airlines and not eliminate indoors) and to top it off teach the dog to mitigate disabilities such as hearing, diabetic alert, mobility, PTSD (and actually help mitigate that disability) Psychiatric (not emotional support that does not have a medical condition attached to it). I disagree that it would increase costs to make it unaffordable to people with disabilities to licence trainers or the dogs because most cannot afford it now. That is why there are fund raisers most people in this business have for people to obtain a legitimate service dog. Another $100.00 or so per service dog is peanuts compared to the $15,000.00 to $25,000.00 it costs now. What it would do is put a stop to the illegitimate people calling their pet a service dog. Just so people know, the national average to raise and train a service dog to be ready to go to work for their partner exceeds $20,000.00 over 80% of this cost is absorbed by donations and fund raising. Some may even end up with the service dog for free if they cannot afford it and we can differ the cost 100% from donations or other sources.

  5. james
    Posted December 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    that is a lil unfair but at the same time understandable of the def of a service animal
    personly im an iraq vet with ptsd and i find my greencheck conure helps me to calm dowm after i have or durin one of my episodes i would wish they would alow certin parrots to be a SA cause not everyone can acomindate a dog nor minture horse when a small parrot can sit silently on ur shoulder with a harness and leash and would take up less rome as the approved SA

  6. Bradley Chism
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Where does one go – or what is the definition of a service animal for transit here in Oregon? It would be nice to be able to give the drivers an easy referance to identify what is and what isn’t – whats exceptable and whats not. Please help if you can – thank You

  7. Jamie Engelleiter
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I think it is absurd to allow full access of service animals without PROOF! This just allows all persons to bring in their pets into areas that pets are not normally permitted. I have no objections with allowing service animals – I do however have a problem with a person sitting with a pet on their lap in a restaurant & they only have to state that the animal is for their hearing! WHY DO OUR GOVERMENTS SET US UP FOR PROBLEMS WITH ABUSE OF PRIVILEDGES!

  8. Larry Cliver
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I had a triple bypass and a resulting resp. failure in 08′. I suffered memory loss in the process. I also came out with more indignant and impatient as well. My dog (Nettie) who I bought after the fact started showing concern as to my restless bahavior (Alerting me to anxiety). People with anxiety don’t always know they have it…. I didn’t. All I did at the time out of attentiveness alone, was look at her and know that something was wrong and I became more mindful of her. We have developed a great repour and she has saved me more often than I could count from crashing emotionally. Is this defined as a service dog under ADA guidelines as a service dog “individually trained”, or a qualified Grounding Dog also under ADA guidelines? And are grounding dogs considered service dogs!?
    My doctor is hesitant to up my beta blocker because of a low resting pulse and anxiety has pushed palpitations to the point of going “flush” where I have to stop and “catch my breath”. It’s nerve wracking! Nettie has done a fantastic job in calming that storm of mine and when she shows me any sign of alarm with me, I stop and work with her and it helps me.

  9. Wendy
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    You can tell a Servie Dog verses a dog that someone thru a vest on and calls it their Service animal the minute they walk into your establishment. The handler should be working the dog as soon as they walk in the door. If the dog is not responding to the Handlers commands,such as Sit, down, stay….then the dog is probalby not a Service animal.

  10. Wendy
    Posted June 3, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    Jaime,

    what kind of “PROOF” are you referring to?

  11. Posted June 4, 2011 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Wendy,

    Not all service dogs wear vests nor are they required to wear vests. From the ADA’s Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business:

    3. Q: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

    A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

    And from The ADA and Emergency Shelters: Access for All in Emergencies and Disasters:

    How can a service animal be identified? Service animals come in all breeds and sizes. Many are easily identified because they wear special harnesses, capes, vests, scarves, or patches. Others can be identified by the functions they perform for people whose disabilities can be readily observed. When none of these identifiers are present, shelter staff may ask only two questions to determine if an animal is a service animal: (1) “Do you need this animal because of a disability?” and (2) “What tasks or work has the animal been trained to perform?” If the answers to these questions reveal that the animal has been trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability, it qualifies as a service animal and must generally be allowed to accompany its owner anywhere other members of the public are allowed to go, including areas where food is served and most areas where medical care is provided. Questions about the nature or severity of a person’s disability or ability to function may not be asked.

    If you look at the ADA §36.104 Definitions, you won’t find a requirement for how the animal must dress to be identified as a service animal. The closest thing you’ll find for this is under ADA §36.302(c)(4) Animal under handler´s control. From the ADA Update: A Primer for Small Businesses:

    Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents him from using these devices.

    As you can see, even the presence of a harness as an identifier is not guaranteed. Sometimes, it will be obvious that the animal is a service dog because you’ll observe the dog guiding someone who has a visual impairment, pulling a wheelchair or providing stability to someone with an observable mobility impairment. There are many invisible disabilities, however, so the best thing to do if you see a person with an animal in a public accommodation and are not sure if the animal is a service animal is to ask the manager or other employee of the public accommodation to make an inquiry. This is discussed in more detail in the next post.

    Rebecca

  12. Posted June 4, 2011 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Wendy,

    While I can’t speak for Jaime, usually when people want proof, they’re looking for national certification of service dogs so businesses and the public can be assured that the animal has been trained to certain minimum standards. Public accommodations may not ask for certification or other proof that the animal is a service animal. The only inquiries a public accommodation may make are:

    1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
    2. What work or task has the animal has been trained to perform?

    Even these questions may not be asked if it’s readily apparent that the animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, e.g., you see the animal guiding an individual with a visual impairment.

    Rebecca

  13. Posted June 4, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Larry,

    What exactly has your dog been trained to do? Has it been individually trained by you or someone else to do a task that helps mitigate your disability? From your description, the dog hasn’t been trained to do anything, only reacts to a situation, and therefore would be considered a pet or an emotional support animal instead of a service animal. This is discussed in more detail in the next post. I have also responded to your comments with suggestions via e-mail. Please let me know if you need further help.

    Rebcca

  14. Posted June 4, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Jaime,

    I think you’ll find the legitimate service dog handlers feel the same way about people posing as having a disability so they can bring their untrained pets in to places. Currently, a public accommodation cannot ask for certification or documentation that the dog is a service dog but they may make the following two inquiries:

    1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
    2. What work or task has the animal has been trained to perform?

    While it’s true that someone can lie about the animal being needed because of a disability, most people can’t come up with specific tasks the dog has been trained to do to help mitigate the disability. It’s not a perfect solution but it is better than nothing. I personally would like to see national certification some day but I’m in the minority of those working with a service dog who want this. I discuss this in more depth in the next post.

    Rebecca

  15. Posted June 4, 2011 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Bradley,

    Public transportation falls under Title II of the ADA and privately operated transportation (hotel shuttles, taxis, limos, etc.) falls under Title III of the ADA. The ADA applies to all states and territories in the US. Oregon may have laws that grant greater protection to individuals who use service animals (e.g., laws regarding interference, laws permitting animals other than dogs and miniature horses to act as service animals, laws permitting service animals in training to receive the same benefits, etc.) but at a minimum, transportation is required to comply with the ADA.

    If you need to know specifics about Oregon’s laws, I’d recommend doing a search of Oregon.gov as well as Oregon State Legislature. In addition, you can call Disability Rights Oregon, which is Oregon’s designated protection and advocacy agency. Those agencies are there for both the individual who has a disability as well as businesses to help answer questions. I’d also recommend checking out Assistance Dogs International’s Guide to Assistance Dog Laws, which can be ordered for a small fee (book format) or downloaded (PDF format). Please keep in mind that this was last updated in 2006 so the changes to the ADA are not covered and it’s possible that states have updated their own laws within the last five years. Even though it may be out of date, it’s still an excellent start since the chapter numbers of the laws generally stay the same so you can look them up to see how they’ve been updated. New legislation will not be covered, of course, but sometimes there are pointers to them when looking through the laws.

    Rebecca

  16. Posted June 4, 2011 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    James,

    Please remember that the mere presence of the animal would is not enough for the animal to be considered a service animal and under the ADA would be considered a pet. However, FHAct and the DOT does make accommodations for emotional support animals and these animals do not have to be dogs. This is discussed in more detail in the next post. If you are curious what dogs can be trained to do to help someone with PTSD, please see Service Dog Tasks for Psychiatric Disabilities.

    From what I understand, one of the reasons why birds of any sort are not permitted is due to the health issues with the birds droppings. It is important that immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women not be near these droppings and I’ve been told that it’s not easy to potty train a bird like a dog.

    Taking up room at a public accommodation isn’t usually an issue unless we’re talking about a very large dog such as a Great Danes or Irish Wolfhounds or miniature horses. While it’s true that some facilities are unable to accommodate a miniature horse due to it’s size, most dogs are generally able to curl up so they don’t take up much room. For example, my first service dog was an Australian Shepherd and he was able to curl up and fit under the chair in front of me on an airplane!

    Rebecca

  17. Posted June 4, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Terry,

    Emotional support animals actually are of great benefit, however, they have never been covered under the ADA. I do agree with you that some training organizations are not training their dogs appropriately which is why I recommend people get dogs through Assistance Dogs International (ADI)- member organizations. ADI requires the facilities, their trainers and the dogs to comply with standards. I don’t know if you have looked into ADI accreditation for your program or not. If not, I hope you will have a look and give some consideration to become a member program. I think you might be surprised by how much is required (PDF) as part of their minimum requirements. To be clear, this is not to say that all non ADI-member organizations do a bad job training. Many do do a good job; it’s just not guaranteed.

    I don’t believe it will be that big of a cost issue, either, especially since once standards are in place and certification is available, insurance companies will be willing to consider covering the cost so you won’t need fundraisers. Service animals are considered medical equipment after all, just like wheelchairs. The reason why most insurance companies won’t cover these expenses now is because they can’t tell how well the animal is trained and if it has been trained to help mitigate the individual’s disability. I discuss this more in the next post.

    Rebecca

  18. Posted June 4, 2011 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Kayzha,

    Emotional support animals and therapy animals have never been covered under the ADA. I believe much of the confusion with emotional support animals was due to the fact that they are referred to as assistance animals by FHAct so some assumed this meant they were also covered under the ADA since many people with service animals also refer to them as assistance animals. I discuss this in more detail in the next post.

    Therapy animals are in a different category altogether. While many have received task-based training, not all work with people with disabilities to help mitigate their disability. The work you describe is one such example. Those that have received such training are usually used by physical or occupational therapists as part of therapy they perform. The animal may or may not be used with an individual with a disability in these situations. More importantly, you need to remember that the law covers individuals with disabilities only, not able-bodied individuals who use animals as part of their work. The law offers service animals as an option of assistive equipment to an individual with a disability and these animals must meet the definition put forth in the ADA. In addition, ADA § 36.302(c)(4) and (5) require that the individual with the disability be solely responsible for the handling of the animal. This is simply not the case for a therapy animal. The ADA has never covered able-bodied individuals and therefore has never covered the animals they own, no matter how well they’re trained. While it’s possible that a physical or occupational therapist has a disability and is using their service dog to also do therapy work, this is usually not the case. In such cases, the physical or occupational therapist is the one covered under the ADA to use the service animal.

    The type of work you are describing is support via the presence of the animal and this has never been defined as a task under the ADA. Please see the next post for more detailed information. The work you are doing is wonderful and I sincerely hope that you will continue but again, emotional support and therapy animals have never been covered by the ADA.

    Rebecca

  19. Pami
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    The new law went into effect on 3-15-2011 where dogs and min horse are allowed out in public NO! other type of animal can be called a service animal under (ADA) laws now. I would like to know what other think of these new law. I have a service dog and he a Labraddodle.

  20. James
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    What is the different between a Emotionals Support Dog/Thearpy Dog

    Also what the different between a Service Dog / Assistant Dog

    Also whats the different between a Service dog / Aid Dog

    I’m seeing more people having a vest on with this type of patch Aid Dog.

    Please help! Me understand

  21. Pami
    Posted October 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    What do people thing of the new (ADA) law for service dogs and min horses it came in effect 3-15-2011. Just go online a read it.

  22. Posted October 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    James -
    An emotional support animal (not necessarily a dog) is an animal that helps an individual cope with psychiatric issues such as anxiety and depression by being present. The animal does not have to receive any training. These animals are covered under the FHAct but not under the ADA. Individuals whose psychiatric issues that are considered disabling under the law may use psychiatric service dogs, which have been individually trained to help mitigate their psychiatric disability. Some things psychiatric service dogs have been trained to do have been catalogued on IAADP.

    A therapy animals (not necessarily a dog) are trained to work with many people unlike a service dog which is individually trained to work with a specific individual. What training they receive depends upon the type of work they will be doing. Most people are familiar with are the therapy animals handled by volunteers that visit with people in hospitals and nursing homes or sit with kids while the kids read to them. The type of training these animals receive is similar to what’s needed to pass the Canine Good Citizen test: good public behavior. Other kinds work with professionals such as occupational therapists, physical therapists and psychotherapists. These animals sometimes receive specialized training beyond good public manners to help the professional’s clients perform tasks. For example, they may be trained to stand still while a person combs them. This can be very helpful for someone who has injured their hand, arm or shoulder and is receiving occupational or physical therapy. While therapy animals may help someone with a disability, it is not a requirement. These animals are not covered under the ADA.

    Assistance Dog is an umbrella term for any kind of dog that offers assistance. Emotional support dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, search & rescue dogs, etc. all fall under this umbrella. The FHAct refers to assistance dogs, which caused some confusion on the part of emotional support dog owners since many service dog owners often refer to their dogs as assistance dogs. I believe this is one reason why some emotional support dog owners incorrectly thought they were covered under the ADA. This was never the case and to make this clear, the wording in the ADA changed.

    Some people refer to their service dogs as aid dogs. Are you confused yet? :-) This means you’ll see people referring to this type of dog as service dog, assistance dog or aid dog. There are likely other terms people use, too. If you are a business owner and are not sure, you may ask the person two questions: 1) Do you have a disability & is this your service dog? and 2) What tasks has your dog been trained to do. The person should be able to name three tasks the dog has been trained to do. Anything that a dog does without training is not considered a tasks. Remember to never ask a person about their disability. This is both rude and illegal.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  23. Posted October 25, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    You don’t have to go far! The post you’ve commented on has the full text and commentary pertaining to service dogs.

  24. Posted October 25, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Pami,
    Please remember that miniature horses are permitted only under certain circumstances. Please see 36.302(c)(9)(ii): Assessment factors of Title III of the ADA or in the post your commented on for more information.

    Did you get your dog through a program or train your own? Mine was trained by Summit Assistance Dogs but as you know, training never stops! I’m always working on new tricks and honing her current skills.

  25. Andi
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    For the past 10 years I have been disabled with my condition gradually deteriorating. I’ve held off on acquiring a service animal for financial reasons and because I didn’t consider my issues severe enough to require one, however I have now reached the point of needing to get a service animal in the next 2-5 years while I am still capable of training one. That said I now find I cannot get a service animal since I am both allergic and terrified of dogs, with PTSD stemming from when a family dog mauled me as a child. While the exemption for miniature horses exists I do not have either the financial resources to afford the upkeep on a horse.
    This legislation effectively bans me from being able to acquire and train a service animal. I had hope of continuing a semi-independent lifestyle for my later years but with this restriction I am now facing the potential of having to move into assisted living before my 35th birthday.

  26. Posted January 1, 2012 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    Andi,

    I’m sorry your health is doing so poorly but it sounds like a miniature horse might not be a suitable service animal for you even if you could afford the upkeep. I had looked into using a miniature horse myself but quickly came to the conclusion that it was not a suitable choice since I needed to use my service animal indoors 24/7 and a miniature horse needs to spend ample time outside for health reasons (at least overnight). I sometimes need help to get out of bed during the night or morning and this would not be possible. In addition, the area where I live is not zoned for farm animals and there was no guarantee that this would be waived for a service miniature horse. It’s simply untested waters and if any neighbor complained, I’d likely lose. Unless you live in a rural location, I fear you may discover the same thing. Also, remember that you need to check with each facility you plan to visit ahead of time to see if they can accommodate the miniature horse. Accommodation is based on the type, size, and weight of the miniature horse, the handler’s control of the miniature horse and whether the miniature horse´s presence compromises safety requirements necessary for the facility’s safe operation. There’s no guarantee that all facilities will be able to accomomodate the animal.

    Regarding the expense involved in upkeep, there is expense involved with owning any type of a service animal and the cost is greater if you choose to train your own. Please see the current post titled, Is a Service Dog the Right Choice for You? You may also be surprised to learn that in researching a miniature horse as an option for myself, I discovered that the upkeep (vet & food bills) was actually less expensive than a service dog’s. Assuming you live in a place zoned for farm animals, you would need to build a small shed for the miniature horse (or purchase a pre-built one from Lowes or Home Depot). Food of hay and oats can be cheaply purchased from any feed store. Horse vets in this area tend to charge less than regular vets. One reason is probably because they generally don’t need to pay for upkeep on a veterinary hospital.

    If you would still like to consider a service miniature horse, there’s no reason you need to train your own. You may be able to find a non-profit willing to train a horse for you and it shouldn’t cost you anything. I highly recommend going this route over training your own, regardless of the species, because of the issues involved with training your own. For example, what will happen to the miniature horse if the miniature horse doesn’t work out or if you find that you don’t have the background or stamina needed to train one?

    But dogs and miniature horses are not your only options. These are your options federally but some states still allow other species to work as service animals. Be sure to check your state laws to see if this is the case where you live. It would mean that whenever you left the state, you may not be able to travel with your service animal but if you don’t do much interstate travel anyway, it won’t matter. Perhaps a pig may be a more appropriate animal for you to consider? I understand that they are quite smart and despite their reputation, clean.

    I don’t know your situational needs but if your main need is help inside your house, you can use any animal as a service animal. The issue only arises when you need to leave. If you live in a situation where someone else handles the majority of your non-household needs, then research what animal you’d like to use to see if it’s feasible for you.

    Whatever animal you choose to use, please be sure to contact a qualified trainer to discuss the feasibility of this kind of animal working as a service animal and to help you find a suitable one. If you have never trained this type of animal, it will also be helpful to work with a trainer if you decide to train the animal yourself.

    Best of luck! I hope you’ll find an option that works for you.

    Rebecca

  27. Tracy
    Posted January 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I have question. My daughter has multiple disabilities and does use a service dog to help mitigate more than one (she is legally blind in one eye and the vision in the other can temporarily blur or cut due to neurological conditions she has and Buddy is trained to guide her to someone she is with if her vision goes bad, she spends part of her time in a wheelchair and is a medium fall risk if she is on her feet so Buddy is trained to ‘find’ help if Tasha needs it in the case of a fall or if her wheelchair is stuck, and she suffers from anxiety and Buddy assists her through attacks by licking her hands until she starts to come out of it). The question…and I know this gets into the gray area of things…if you do not know, could you please tell me who to talk to. Tasha is currently receiving in home support and day hab services through a medicaid waiver; she has been considering moving into a group home so she could be more independent but still have staff to assist her if she needs it. The group home is the primary residence to a group of no more than five individuals and the house staff; it is run and owned by a non-profit organization that provides the services. The organization has said that they are not sure Buddy would be allowed but to this point have not be very specific about why. I do not believe the organization itself can refuse to allow Buddy because I see no difference from having accommodation at a group home and being in the hospital (in both cases, you are not there unless there are real medical reasons why you are there). However, I know that if Tasha visits an individual in their residence and it does not matter if they own or rent the residence, that the individual has to right to say “I don’t want the dog to come in”. So, would it be possible for the dog to be excluded because one of the present residents does not want to permit him? After all, while they are in a sense, a patient, we are talking about their primary residence. We have a meeting set up this coming Friday and I am just trying to find any and all the pertinent information I can on the matter.

    Thank you for your help, insight, and suggestions.
    Tracy

  28. Posted January 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Tracy,

    The ADA deals with public accommodations, such as hospitals, but not private dwellings, such as group homes. These are covered under the Fair Housing Act. In addition, the facility in question may also be bound by Section 504 of the Rehab Act if they are receiving government funds. My understanding is that the facility may not exclude your daughter’s service dog under either regulation. I’ve included links to information below that should be able to help you should the facility try to discriminate against your daughter. I hope this helps with your situation. Please let me know if you have further questions and do let us know what happens!

    There are a few things anyone who uses an assistance animal should know regarding housing:

    • The animals are defined differently under the Fair Housing Act than under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Fair Housing Act does not restrict the breed of the animal (except in narrow cases (PDF)) and does not require the animal to be trained but the animal must directly mitigate the disability. Because of this, you may hear these animals referred to as service animals, assistance animals, therapy animals, companion animals, aide animals, working animals, etc.
    • The animals are not considered pets and may not be treated as pets. This means facilities may not deny them due to a no pet clause and they may not charge a fee, deposit or rent specific to the animal.
    • The Fair Housing Act interprets “dwelling” and “dwelling units” broadly and it also applies in all housing transactions (renting, sales, homeowners associations, etc.).
  29. Posted March 4, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    To ALL—–My beautiful husky/B.C./Aussie mix disappeared on 10 February, 2012. Since then, I don’t want to go anyplace, see anyone, and all the anti-depression pills made can get me to get back to “normal.” PSTSD,
    agoraphobia, S.A.D, and Dissociation Idenity Disorder. I miss my Tanner. I don’t want to do anything without him as I used did. The dog advised fort me to replace Tanner, is located over 350 miles away. I need help with these Questioons: I paid for and trained my 2 other Service Partners. It was a great cost. Can the ADA help me to find and purchase what the Psychatric folks recommend, that’s a first??? As other papers recommend, My husband and I train my partner to meet my quite specific needs. Alaskan Klee Kai, White German Sheperd, Tibetian Mastiff,Shiba Inu, Akita , and otheres that are mixes. The P.hD. aren’t thinking about the cost of these partners. So, does anyone know if the ADA help with the cost???

  30. Posted March 4, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Gael,
    I’m very sorry to hear that your service dog has disappeared. The ADA is a federal law and as such is not responsible for the cost of any assistive device. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any insurance company that will pay for the cost of a service dog and I imagine this will be the case as long as there is no certification for the dogs. They simply can’t trust that all dogs meet satisfactory training criteria without certification. You can deduct the entire cost of training and keeping a service dog as a medical expenditure from your taxes, however. In some cases, this may mean a large refund, depending upon how much you (and your partner, if filing jointly) earned the previous year. In addition, there are many non-profit organizations that train psychiatric service dogs and place them for free. I highly recommend going to ADI’s website and looking for a member organization that trains psychiatric service dogs and applying for one. Your best bet is to apply to multiple organizations since there is likely to be a wait. Right now, some organizations are only training dogs for veterans because of grants they are able to receive so be sure to check before applying. If you do apply to organizations, be prepared to answer to the best of your ability how your dog disappeared and what steps you have already taken and plan to take to make sure it doesn’t happen again during their initial home visit. You may also want to check with your church, synagogue, mosque, etc. to see if they have funds available for an emergency or would be willing to help raise the money needed to train another dog instead of going through an agency. I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you. Please remember that it can take a good 6-8 weeks for anti-depressants to kick in. While you may not be able to get back fully to where you were, you may be able to get to a point where you can function with the help of your therapist until a dog becomes available.

  31. Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Rebecca,
    While there are great ideas from ADI, unfortunately getting a Service Dog from an ADI accredited School also gives no guarantees. I have personally seen dogs from ADI accredited Schools out in public that could not pass a CGC never mind their public access test. ADI is very politically motivated and the ones with big bucks and funding get their indiscretions swept under the rug. Some of their policies in regards to Service Dogs have absolutely no relevance to the performance of a Service Dog,its health or public safety. ie. Your Service Dog cannot be on a Raw diet. (If they were allowed the Dog food manufactures would not give them the money they do) to me, that is more of a politically money motivated organization than an organization that has the dog, the public and its disabled peoples interests in mind first. The Largest Service Dog organization in this country is NOT an ADI accredited school BY CHOICE. Ever wonder why?

  32. Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Hi Terry,

    Thanks for writing. I think you may have two different organizations confused and I’d like to step through each point raised.

    Assistance Dogs International (ADI) does not have a policy regarding raw protein diets. Pet Partners, formerly known as The Delta Society, however, does. Pet Partners and their affiliated organizations are for therapy animals and not service animals. Please see the post dated December 31, 2011 for more information about the difference between these two types of working animals.

    Pet Partners policy caused quite an uproar when it was first announced. Pet Partners had recently received a large grant from Purina. In addition, at least one member of their board who voted in favor of their new raw protein diet policy was associated with Purina. As you can imagine, this raised many questions regarding the motivation behind the policy. Pet Partners pointed to studies that had been published regarding the increase of shedding of pathogenic bacteria to back up their new policy but naysayers pointed out that these studies did not require the same infection control parameters that Pet Partners already had in place. Many of the naysayers felt these parameters eliminated the concerns. Some Pet Partners affiliated organizations chose to leave the group and start their own program with their own liability insurance coverage. Pet Partners is the only national therapy animal organization to have this policy so if you do not agree with it, you can always join one of the other national therapy animal organizations (Therapy Dogs International (TDI), Therapy Dogs, Incorporated (TD Inc), Paws for Friendship, Love on a Leash and The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs) or a local therapy animal organization.

    While Pet Partners does have service animal information on their site, they are not as involved with service animal work in as many ways as they used to be when Susan Duncan, RN was in charge of the division. (She is responsible for the vast majority of the information on their site regarding service animals. It’s very well written and I highly recommend all read it!) For example, about a decade ago, Pet Partners formed a committee of top service dog trainers in the United States to work on standards for training, the result of which can also be found on their site (PDF). This standard is not a requirement but a recommendation. It is not the same thing as ADI’s standards nor is it a requirement to follow these standards to be mentioned on the Pet Partners Service Animal Trainers and Training Programs List (PDF). Some members of this list are ADI-member programs and some are not. Pet Partners makes it very clear that “[i]nclusion on [their] website does not constitute an endorsement by [Pet Partners] nor does omission imply disapproval.” Being on this list is not a matter of being a member of their program. The list is solely for informational purposes. Pet Partners is no longer involved in the service animal community in this fashion and now seems to be mostly focused on client education and lobbying.

    [NB: There may be an overlap between the members of Pet Partners Service Dog Standards Committee and those who helped establish ADI's standards. One would think there would be an overlap then between the standards. I do know someone who was involved with both and would be happy to ask her if this is of interest.]

    Regarding the largest services dog organizations in the US, as far as I know, the two largest are Guide Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye. Both are ADI members. I believe that the two largest non-guide dog service dog organizations in the US are Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and Paws with a Cause. Again, both of these are ADI members. For a complete list of ADI-member organizations, please see ADI’s Member Programs List & Links.

    Regarding your concerns about the training dogs from ADI-member programs receive, if you see aberrant behavior, more often than not, it’s due to poor handler skills and not the dog’s training. Of course, if this goes on long enough, it can affect the dog’s training! Regardless, it shouldn’t happen and needs to be corrected. I’d recommend contacting the ADI-member program that trained the dog instead of approaching the handler. The handler may not realize there’s a problem and may take offense at someone unknown to them correcting them. You can approach the handler and politely ask which program trained the dog if the dog does not have the program’s emblem on its cape. Programs take reports seriously. They want to know if there is a problem so they can work with the team to correct it. When contacting the program, please be sure to include as much information as you can remember, for example:

    • Dog: breed, size, collar
    • Person: name (if known), height, weight, disability (if known) any other distinguishing characteristics
    • Location: address or building name, date and time of day, anything unusual going on? (crowded for a sale, 8 ft Easter Bunny, etc.)
    • Occurrence: describe what happened and why you thought it was inappropriate behavior (e.g., maybe the dog barked to warn of an oncoming seizure but the barking went on for 5 minutes)
    • Video: if you have a smartphone, take video and send it

    Please keep to the facts and avoid making personal attacks and remember that the more factual information you are able to provide, the better able the program will be able to respond. If you are able to provide location and dates, the program may even be able to talk to staff at the location. Believe me, if there was a problem, the personnel will be able to remember and often are happy to help put a stop to the behavior! If you happen to have a smartphone, please take a video of the incident if you can. It’s not only helpful for the program but for the handler as well. Sometimes, handlers (service dog or otherwise) don’t realize what handling issues they have until they see it for themselves.

    If the program doesn’t respond, if you see the same behavior continue to occur or if you see many teams from the same program have issues, please contact ADI. Again, be sure to include as much information as you can. I’d recommend sending a copy of your correspondence to them.

    Regarding the CGC, it seems odd that a dog the could pass the Public Access Test (PAT) and not pass the CGC test given the amount of overlap between the two. In addition, the PAT requires more from the team than the CGC and takes place in an uncontrolled situation whereas the CGC takes place in a controlled situation. To give you an idea of how much overlap there is, I created the table below to show how the PAT compares to the CGC. If an ADI PAT item has no bulleted items bolded, it means all of the bulleted items apply. Granted, t’s not a perfect match but I think you’ll understand why I find it odd that a team could pass the PAT and not the CGC. Anything is possible, however! One other thing I’d like to add is that even though there is a great overlap, some ADI-member organizations require their dogs to pass the CGC in addition to the PAT. The fact is that the CGC is a more recognized test than the PAT, which can make access easier at times even though it shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

    I’d also be surprised if a team that passed the Pet Partners or actually any of the national therapy animal organizations couldn’t pass the CGC since most of the tests are based off of the CGC and some offer CGC certification as part of passing.

    I hope this helps clarify the issues you’ve raised. Again, I suspect you were thinking of Pet Partners (formerly known as The Delta Society) and not Assistance Dogs International. Please let me know if you have any questions about this.

    AKC CGC Test Items ADI PAT Items
    Takes place in a controlled environment, setup by the evaluator. Takes place in uncontrolled environments, such as shopping malls, restaurants and hospitals.
    Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger

    • The dog allows a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation.
    • The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.
    Test 7: Downs on command

    • The dog responded promptly to the command to down.
    • The dog remained under control around food — not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.
    • The dog remained composed while the child approached — child should not taunt dog or be overly dramatic.
    • The dog maintained a down-stay while being stepped over by a stranger.
    Test 2: Sitting politely for petting

    • The dog allows a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler.
    • The dog must not show shyness or resentment.
    Test 6: Sits on command

    • The dog responded promptly to the command to sit.
    • The dog remained under control around food — not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.
    • The dog remained composed while the shopping cart passed — did not shy away, show signs of fear, etc. shopping cart should be pushed normally and reasonable, not dramatically.
    • The dog maintained a sit-stay while being petted by a stranger.

    Test 7: Downs on command

    • The dog responded promptly to the command to down.
    • The dog remained under control around food — not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.
    • The dog remained composed while the child approached — child should not taunt dog or be overly dramatic.
    • The dog maintained a down-stay while being stepped over by a stranger.
    Test 3: Appearance and grooming

    • The dog is inspected to make sure it is cleaned and groomed and is in healthy condition (weight, alert, etc.)
    • The dog allows the evaluator to softly comb or brush it.
    • The dog allows the evaluator to gently examine its ears and pick up its front paws.
    No equivalent test.

    This task isn’t specific to service work but is probably worthwhile to add for the sake of the veterinarians who will take care of these dogs.

    Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)

    • The team must take a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end.
    • The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops.
    • The dog’s position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler’s movements and changes of direction.

    Test 5: Walking through a crowd

    • The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three).
    • The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment.
    • The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.
    Test 2: Approaching the building

    • The dog stayed in relative heel position.
    • The dog was calm around traffic.
    • The dog stopped when the individual came to a halt.

    Test 4: Heeling through the building

    • The dog was within the prescribed distance of the individual.
    • The dog ignored the public, remaining focused on the individual.
    • The dog readily adjusted to speed changes.
    • The dog readily turned corners–did not have to be tugged or jerked to change direction.
    • The dog readily maneuvered through tight quarters.

    Test 12: Controlled exit

    • The dog stayed in relative heel position.
    • The dog was calm around the traffic.
    • The dog stopped when the individual came to a halt.
    Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place

    • The dog must do sit and down on command.
    • While on a 20′ leash, the dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog.

    • The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down.
    Test 1: Controlled unload out of vehicle

    • The dog waited in the vehicle until released.
    • The dog waited outside the vehicle under control.
    • The dog remained under control while another dog was walked past.

    Test 3: Controlled entry through a doorway

    • The dog waited quietly at the door until commanded to enter.
    • The dog waited on the inside until able to return to heel position.

    Test 6: Sits on command

    • The dog responded promptly to the command to sit.
    • The dog remained under control around food — not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.
    • The dog remained composed while the shopping cart passed — did not shy away, show signs of fear, etc. shopping cart should be pushed normally and reasonable, not dramatically.
    • The dog maintained a sit-stay while being petted by a stranger.

    Test 7: Downs on command

    • The dog responded promptly to the command to down.
    • The dog remained under control around food — not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.
    • The dog remained composed while the child approached — child should not taunt dog or be overly dramatic.
    • The dog maintained a down-stay while being stepped over by a stranger.

    Test 13: Controlled load into vehicle

    • The dog waited until commanded to enter the vehicle.
    • The dog readily entered the vehicle upon command.
    Test 7: Coming when called

    • The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog.
    Test 5: Six foot recall on lead

    • The dog responded readily to the recall command–did not stray away, seek attention from others or trudge slowly.
    • The dog remained under control and focused on the individual.
    • The dog came within the prescribed distance of the individual.
    • The dog came directly to the individual.
    Test 8: Reaction to another dog

    • Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet.
    • The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.
    Test 1: Controlled unload out of vehicle

    • The dog waited in the vehicle until released.
    • The dog waited outside the vehicle under control.
    • The dog remained under control while another dog was walked past.
    Test 9: Reaction to distraction

    • The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled to the two distractions but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark.
    Test 2: Approaching the building

    • The dog stayed in relative heel position.
    • The dog was calm around traffic.
    • The dog stopped when the individual came to a halt.

    Test 6: Sits on command

    • The dog responded promptly to the command to sit.
    • The dog remained under control around food — not trying to get food and not needing repeated corrections.
    • The dog remained composed while the shopping cart passed — did not shy away, show signs of fear, etc. shopping cart should be pushed normally and reasonable, not dramatically.
    • The dog maintained a sit-stay while being petted by a stranger.

    Test 8: Noise distractions

    • The dog remained composed during the noise distraction.

    Test 12: Controlled exit

    • The dog stayed in relative heel position.
    • The dog was calm around the traffic.
    • The dog stopped when the individual came to a halt.
    Test 10: Supervised separation

    • The owner goes out of sight for three minutes.
    • The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness.
    Test 11: Dog taken by another person

    • Another person can take the dog’s leash and the dog’s partner can move away without aggression or undue stress on the part of the dog.
    N/A Test 9: Restaurant

    • The dog is unobtrusive and out of the way of patrons and employees as much as possible.
    • The dog maintained proper behavior, ignoring food and being quiet.
    N/A Test 10: Off lead

    • When told to drop the leash, the team maintained control and the individual got the leash back in position.
    N/A Test 14: Team relationship

    • When the dog did well, the person praised the dog.
    • The dog is relaxed, confident and friendly.
    • The person kept the dog under control.
    N/A Test 15: Tasks (optional)

    • The dog must perform three tasks that mitigate the handler’s disability.

    ADI requires that all dogs trained by ADI-member programs be able to perform at least three tasks that mitigate the handler’s disability. Federal law only requires one. This is not an official part of ADI’s PAT but some member programs include it as do many owner-trained dogs (who handlers have applied for IAADP membership) to show that the dog is compliant with the law.

One Trackback

  1. By Mental Disorders 101 on July 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    New ADA Service Animal Definition – Blue Dog's Blog…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)