[nagdu] ADA definition of service animals

Tami Jarvis tami at poodlemutt.com
Fri Jan 3 16:47:19 UTC 2014


Well, there is a lot of confusion, mostly helped along by articles that 
get the terminology screwed up, as well as general confusion in the 
general public. I'll try to answer your questions and see if I can make 
sense. :)

What makes a dog a service dog is the individual task-training for a 
person with a disability. The person with a disability has the right to 
be accompanied by the service dog trained to help with his/her 
disability. So for purposes of public access, the dog is a service dog 
when it is accompanying the disabled handler for whose disability it is 

It doesn't matter who trained the dog, just that the dog is 
task-trained. So if your hypothetical 15-year-old trains the dog to 
alert to a disabling medical condition or whatever else, then the dog is 
a service dog.

A service dog can also double as a therapy dog. I know of more than one, 
actually. For purposes of the ADA, it is a service dog when it is 
working for the disabled handler. But it can still go visit people in 
the hospital, in which setting it would be called a therapy dog. That 
doesn't undo its training or change its work for the handler.

The guide dogs gear is familiar to most folks, but that is not what 
makes it a service dog or marks it as a service dog, for that matter. 
It's just working gear. If I take my dog in without her harness and she 
is leash guiding, she is no less a service dog, and she is still 
assisting me with my disability. The harness gives me better 
communication with her movements and ups and downs and so forth, so I 
use the harness as a tool in being guided. Has nothing to do with her 
training or status. It's not a marker; it is just working gear.

Medical alert dogs and some other types of service dogs do not need gear 
to do their work. They also don't need to be big, as their work is not 
strenuous. They do need to be trained to perform some specific behavior 
to alert the handler to an impending medical situation, like a blood 
sugar change or an oncoming seizure. So, taking your example of medicine 
in a bag, the dog would let the handler know it is time to take the 
insulin out of the bag and use it. Some alert dogs also perform more 
sophisticated behaviors, like getting a handler with PTSD away from a 
trigger, or taking an epileptic to a safe place before onset of a 
seizure, stuff like that. I believe some will perform specific soothing 
behaviors when necessary, as well, to help the handler through a crisis.

The performance of specific behaviors to accomplish specific tasks for 
the disabled handler is what sets the alert dog apart from the comfort 
dog. That, and the handler's disability. If the dog just makes the 
handler feel better by being there, it is not a service dog. If the dog 
performs a specific behavior to assist the disabled handler in normal 
activity, then it is a service dog.

Some people do get vests or other insignia to mark their dogs as service 
dogs. This has nothing to do with the right to public access. Generally, 
it's an attempt to keep the public from molesting the dog while it is 
working. Or to give folks something to read while they are petting the 
dog while it is working... So some handlers forego the vest and handle 
the public interference more directly.

The counter person could have asked either you or the person with the 
"unmarked" small dog two questions: 1) Is it a service dog. Answering 
yes to that tells the person that the dog is task-trained and that the 
handler has a disability. Otherwise, it would not be a service dog. 2) 
What tasks is the dog trained to perform? So an answer might be, "to 
touch my knee when my blood sugar starts to drop." My answer is usually, 
"to guide, which is a long list." /lol/ If the person deciding whether 
the dog is legit or not is in doubt, he/she may ask for a demonstration 
of the trained behavior.

So there is your proof of training. An ID card will not cause a dog to 
do something specific that it doesn't just naturally do in response to a 
specific stimulus. It has to be trained to do that. I'm always floored 
by people who can watch my guide dog at work and fuss about whether I 
have a piece of paper to demonstrate she was trained... Um... Do they 
assume she was *born* doing all those things while walking past the 
yummy pastries without eating them? /lol/ For an alert dog, the work 
isn't so readily apparent, which is the reason for the second question 
or a request for a demonstration of trained behavior.

It doesn't matter who trained the dog. It does matter that the handler 
be responsible with the dog in public places. The handler needs to 
ensure that the dog is not a problem, whether it is the handler who 
trained the dog or if it was someone else. I trained my dog to do all 
those guiding tasks *and* to behave in public; but it is still essential 
that I keep her on the straight and narrow among all the temptations in 
the grocery store. Someone else, if I'm thinking straight, trained your 
dog to do all those guiding tasks *and* to behave in public; but it is 
now up to you to keep your dog on the straight and narrow. If either of 
us fails to keep our dogs to their training, then the training comes to 
nothing and yummy pastries are in danger! You probably have an ID card 
from whoever trained your dog. I do not. Either way, it doesn't matter, 
since if we don't do as we should, our dogs will become problems in 
public. If that happens, either of us can be legally asked to remove the 

Make sense?


On 01/02/2014 06:57 PM, Bridget Walker wrote:
> Hi all,
> I think that sums it up.
> I have a question.
> I know there are medical alert dogs trained for disorders such as epilepsy, diabetes, and other major health disorders which impact an individuals daily life.
> So if an individual trains specifically their pet to be a medical alert dog and a therapy dog yes two different types of dogs do you believe that dog is a service dog under the ADA?
> I know for a fact therapy dogs are dogs who provide comfort so, they do not fit the criteria. How can a dog be both?
> It is like me saying my guide is a medical alert dog because he knows where my medication is in my bag. The true reality is my guide dog could not help me if I needed it. He can not administer the medication in fact the only reason he knows where it is is for when I don't remember.
> I keep asking this question and I will keep on it until it is spelt out and clear. I am wondering who is it that determines if a dog can be a working dog if the dog does not have an official dog trainer? What I mean is if a fifteen year old trains a medical alert dog can they say it is a service  dog without any clear cut testing?
> If someone has a dog who was originally certified as a therapy dog can they train the dog to do a task which is covered under the ADA?
> There are way to many gray areas which I can not believe.
> It seems like every time I go out I run in to someone passing off their dog as some type of service  dog.  I went to the pharmacy the other day and some person had a little dog on a leash. No harness or vest nothing saying the dog was assisting them in any way.  Then the person behind the counter was trying to understand how could one dog be clearly marked as a guide dog but, who knows why the other dog was needed.
> That's my rant for the day.
> Best,
> Bridget
> Sent from my iPad
>> On Dec 30, 2013, at 2:11 PM, craig.heaps at comcast.net wrote:
>> Here's one sentence from the government's ada website:
>> http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
>> "Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Lori Dent" <loriandleo at ohiohills.com>
>> To: "NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users" <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
>> Sent: Monday, December 30, 2013 10:30:00 AM
>> Subject: [nagdu] ADA definition of service animals
>> Hi all,
>> I'm hearing  more and more about dogs being allowed in public places that help people deal with stress, anziety and oather reasons that as far as I know that does not meet the definition.
>> I know of one person who suffers from extreme stress in public  and she brings her Chihuahua  mix with her where ever she goes. Her doctor prescribed the dog and the woman claims her dog is a"medical necessity".
>> I was just wondering if the ADA has a clear cut definition of  of a service animal.There have been a couple of articles in the paper about what a service animal is. In today's Hints from Heloise she was talking about service animals. What I got from the article is some confusion about this issue. Is there anything in the ADA that is not clear cut and open the door for other purposes?
>> Lori and the Gipper
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