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Service Animal Part I

03 Feb 2023 1:13 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

In recognition of February as dog training awareness month, each Friday in February we will be sharing some basic info on some highly trained dogs, service animals. This week we are focusing information using just a few basic “what” questions about service animals. 

What makes an animal a “service animal”? 

          According to the ADA, a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.  The tasks they are trained to perform are meant to specifically help with the disability of the person they would be assisting.

What type of dog can be a service animal?

          Service animals do not have to be strictly Labrador Retrievers or German Shepherds.  In fact, a service animal can be ANY breed of a dog.  As long as they are able to carry out the responsibilities and duties of a service animal for the person they are assisting. 

What tasks are a service animal trained to do?

          There is no set list of tasks that all service animals will perform.  Service animals are trained to do specific tasks for the person they are assisting, dependent on their disability.  So the tasks vary.  A wheelchair user may need them to pick things up off the ground, carry items, or even pull them along.  Someone else that walks, but has a history of seizures, may need them to help recognize early signs a seizure can come on or to remind them to take their medication.  Someone with blindness my need them to be their seeing eye dog with the ability to safely and effectively go with them in the community. 

What do you do if you encounter someone with a service animal?

          Nothing.  They are working.  To do their job and best serve their handler, their attention needs to be focused on their person.  When strangers approach and instantly pet or talk with a dog it interferes with their attention and work.  Before ever touching someone else’s service animal you should ask the person if it is ok. 

What can’t a service animal do?

          While a service animal does have more rights than any other animal, there are still things they are not allowed to do and places they can’t go.  If a service animal is not under control, the entity can ask to have the animal removed.  The person may return or stay but the animal cannot.  Also, while service animals can go many places ordinary animals aren’t allowed, service animals cannot go places that it would compromise the environment.  Such as a sterile operating room or kitchen of a restaurant.

What can a business ask about a service animal?

Neither you nor your staff can ask a disabled customer to show you their service animal’s certification. The ADA does not require an animal to be officially certified to be considered a service animal as long as they can perform the tasks a disabled person needs, are housebroken, and can be controlled.  There are only two questions you may ask a disabled customer about their service animal:

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

You cannot ask to be shown how they perform the task or anything else.  Remember, they are working and their tasks are not tricks to be performed.

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