New ADA Technical Assistance Publication on Service Dogs


Recently, the Department of Justice published a new Technical Assistance publication on service dogs. Here is the link: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf

I really like the way the technical assistance publication opens – “Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life.” I COULD live without Makiko, but I wouldn’t be able to fully participate in my job especially, but also other parts of my life, without her, and I certainly wouldn’t have the independence, freedom, and confidence without her.

Some of this was covered in other ADA publications, but I’ll still bring some of the facts up here because they are important and also covered on this new technical assistance publication.

  • The ADA defines service animals as DOGS that are individually trained to mitigate someone’s disability. The task must be directly related to this person’s disability.
    • This is interesting for me to see because just recently a coworker sent out an article about service monkeys.. I was thinking they CAN’T really be covered under the ADA but until I had factual proof, I didn’t want to say anything.
  • Emotional support, companion, therapy, and comfort animals ARE NOT covered under the ADA. There is a distinction under the ADA between a psychiatric service animal and an emotional support animal. As the document reads, if the dog could sense that an anxiety attack or other psychiatric episode was about to occur and could perform certain actions, such as bringing medication or perform another action, to help avoid the episode or lessen its impact, then it could be considered a psychiatric service dog. But that would also of course mean it had great behavior and could behave properly in public, etc. If the mere presence of the animal just provides comfort, it is not covered under the ADA.
  • Service dogs CAN be owner-trained, they don’t have to come from an organization.
  • Places of business are still only allowed to ask the two questions of a service dog (or suspected fake service dog) team: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Service animals aren’t required to wear a harness, ID badge, or vest.
    • But of course, guide dogs need to wear their harness because they GENERALLY can’t perform their tasks without having the harness on. This applies for other service dogs too.
  • Service dogs are allowed in self-serve food lines.
  • Service dog handlers aren’t restricted to “pet friendly” hotel rooms. Hotels also can’t charge a cleaning fee unless the dog legitimately has caused damage.
  • A person can technically have more than one service animal. For example, someone might have a service animal to help with their diabetes, but also might have a guide dog if they have become blind due to their diabetes.
  • A service dog handler can keep their dog if they are hospitalized, if they can provide the care necessary or can arrange someone to come in (like a friend or family member) to provide the care. This document specifically stated it is NOT optimal to separate the service dog and handler.
  • A service dog should be allowed in an ambulance if the handler needs to be taken by ambulance; however, if there is no space and it would impact the medical care of the handler, the staff need to make alternate arrangements for the dog to be transported to the hospital.
    • I always kind of knew this, but thought it was interesting – it is the staff’s responsibility to make sure it has arrangements to the HOSPITAL, not a shelter, or other person’s home.
  • There is no required licensure/certification. The documents sold online do not convey any rights under the ADA and in fact the Department of Justice says it carries no weight.
  • Service dogs are required to comply with city/state vaccination/spay/neuter requirements.
  • Some places may have voluntary registries, such as colleges, to help service dog handlers have the proper accommodations and services, especially in an emergency situation.
  • Service animals can be any breed of dog and they can’t be discriminated against in any place because of their breed. Places that have breed restrictions must still allow a service animal of that breed in.
  • Service animals can be excluded if they fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, or are out of control (not housebroken, etc).
    • This fundamentally altered part confused me and I initially felt that it left businesses with a lot of room for their own interpretation, and possibly exploitation. However, this document gave an example of what it means to fundamentally alter the service or program. In most settings, it states, the presence of a service animal will NOT fundamentally alter anything. Examples were given of a boarding school that might have specific areas for those with allergies to dog dander or a zoo where the dogs would interfere with the well being of the animals.
  • Staff can require a service dog be removed from the premises if it is not in the handler’s control and continues not to be.
  • Generally, dogs must stay “four on the floor” (and not in shopping carts), but there are a few exceptions and it is generally up to the store in regards to this policy.
  • Seating, food, and drink at restaurants are for CUSTOMERS ONLY, not the service dogs.
  • Service animals don’t have to be allowed in public pools but they do have to be allowed on the pool deck.
    • Makiko and I have done this before!
  • The ADA does not apply to churches and religious organizations (you know, separation of church and state) BUT sometimes state laws apply. I am not aware of what Texas’ state laws are for these places, might have to check that out. AKA unless stated otherwise by state laws, religious organizations can refuse access to a service dog team.
    • I’ve said this before though, I wouldn’t want to be in a religious place that didn’t accept my service dog. But I identify with Christianity and I understand that there are some religions and cultures that have other views of dogs, not specifically service dogs.
  • The Fair Housing Act applies to places of residence and places of residence are required to permit a service dog. The technical document guided readers to review “HUD’s Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-funded Programs.”
  • The Air Carrier Access Act protects the rights of people with disabilities with air travel.

Published by

Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

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