What is a Service Animal?

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples 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 many other duties

Who qualifies to have a Service Animal?

Service animals, as defined by American with Disabilities Act, are dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Now, what does that actually mean? We have broken down the definition into three parts to help better understand: disability, training, and tasks.

Disability: An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), over 1 out of 4 (26% ~ 61 million) of adults in the United States have some type of disability who may benefit from the assistance of a Service Animal.

Training: Service animals must always have basic obedience training. They should always behave in public and be under the control of the handler. In addition to the basic obedience training, a service animal must be trained (either by a professional trainer or the handler themselves) to perform a task, or an act of “service”, directly related to the handler’s disability.

Tasks: The task(s) a service animal performs for its handler must be directly related to the disability.

In conclusion, if you have a dog that has been trained (either by yourself or a professional) to provide assistance for your disability, then you may qualify to have a service animal.

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