For a more in depth overview of service animals, please read the U.S. Department of Justice's FAQs.
Q: What is a service animal?
A: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a service animal "Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the Department’s revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. (Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.) Entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses where reasonable. The regulations set out four assessment factors to assist entities in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated in their facility. The assessment factors are (1) whether the miniature horse is housebroken; (2) whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control; (3) whether the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and (4) whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility."
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Q: What are the laws that apply to service animals in a place of business?
A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public are prohibited from discriminating against individuals using guide or service dogs. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.
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Q: Are taxicab drivers allowed to refuse to pick me up if I have a service animal?
A: No. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide service to individuals using guide dogs or service animals. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with their guide dogs or service animals than are charged to non-disabled persons for the same or equivalent service.
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Q: Can I be charged a maintenance or service fee for bringing my guide dog or service animal into a business?
A. No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability using a guide dog or service animal as a condition to allowing the animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a guide dog or service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a guide dog or service animal if it is the hotels policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.
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Q: Who is responsible for the guide dog or service animal while in a business establishment?
A. The care and supervision of a guide dog or service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. A business establishment is not required to provide care, food or a special location for the animal.
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Q: I am thinking of getting a service dog. Is there a checklist of specific questions that I should have for service animal or guide dog providers?
A. Here are some suggestions:
- How much will an assistance dog cost?
- Is there an application fee or other types of fees?
- What breeds are used?
- Where does the organization get its dogs?
- What is the minimum age of a recipient?
- Does the recipient do the training, or does the provider?
- Does training occur at home or in a facility?
- How long is the dog in training before being placed with the recipient?
- How long is training for the recipient and the dog as a team?
- What geographical area does the provider serve?
- Will the program consider applicants with multiple disabilities?
- Will providers consider training an individual's own dog as assistance dog?
- What is the waiting period for a dog?
- How many dogs does the provider place each year?
- Does the program award ownership of the dog to the recipient upon certification?
- Is the provider a member of a professional organization focusing on service dog work?
- What are the trainer's qualifications?
- Is the facility physically accessible as defined in the ADA?
- Does the agency provide room and board to recipients during training?
- And is this included in the fees advertised?
Saint Francis Service Dogs
P.O. Box 19538
Roanoke, VA 24019
Service Dogs of Virginia
PO Box 408
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Assistance Dogs International
P.O. Box 5174
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
Canine Companions for Independence
P.O. Box 446
Santa Rosa, CA 95402-0446
866-CCI-DOGS (866-224-3647, Toll-free V/Relay)
Dogs for the Deaf, Inc.
10175 Wheeler Rd.
Central Point, OR 97502
124 W. 7th St.
Washington, KS 66968
NEADS Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans
P.O. Box 213
West Boylston, MA 01583
Paws with a Cause
4646 South Division
Wayland, MI 49348
Delta Society National Service Dog Center
875 124th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98005
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
Information and Advocacy Center
38691 Filly Drive
Sterling Heights, MI 48310
Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.
San Rafael, CA 94915-1200
800-295-4050 (Toll-free V/Relay)
Guide Dogs of America
13445 Glenoaks Blvd.
Sylmar, CA 91342
Leader Dogs for the Blind
1039 S. Rochester Rd.
Rochester Hills, MI 48307-3115
888-777-5332 (Toll free)
The Seeing Eye, Inc.
10 Washington Valley Rd.
P.O. Box 375
Morristown, NJ 07963-0375