Service Animals and Your Rights

According to the American Disabilities Act, a “service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” In recent years, there have been some controversy regarding individuals falsely claiming a pet as a service animal to allow them into restaurants, hotels, etc. Not only is presenting a pet dog as a service dog is unethical, it is a federal crime. When a dog in a service dog vest misbehaves in public and is not properly trained, the public’s perception of a real service dog may change. Due to the increased number of service dog fraud, those genuine individuals that have highly trained service dogs, are prevented from going into certain establishments and questioned as to the purpose of the animal. The American Disabilities Act states, “When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”

Service dogs are allowed access to any public place and any airline as long as they behave in accordance with their Service Dog Policy including no excessive barking, housetrained, and no aggressive behavior. Please note, there are some places that are legally allowed to deny entrance to a service dog including places of worship and sterile environments such as operating rooms. During training, the service dog may where a “Service Dog In Training” Patch. According to Texas Law, “An assistance animal in training shall not be denied admittance to any public facility when accompanied by an approved trainer who is an agent of an organization generally recognized by agencies.”

Dog training is not currently a regulated field. Because of this unregulated access, dogs trained as service dogs are not considered “certified”. There is not a universal certification or national registry of trained service dogs however, there are standards. Arfordable Dog Training trains based on the Assistance Dog International and International Association of Assistance Dog Partners* standards. Each service dog team will be required to pass the Public Access Test (PAT). The test includes basic and advanced commands including those specifically related to each client’s individual disability.**

*Disclaimer: Arfordable Dog Training is not affiliated or a member of Assistance Dogs International or the International Guide Dog Federation.

At this time, Arfordable Dog Training will work with Mobility Service Dogs** but wish to expand in the future. Due to the limited availability, the disability-related service dog training for Mobility Service Dogs will focus on tasks such retrieving dropped items, turning lights on and off, carrying items in a dog backpack, getting help if someone falls, helping people get up from seated positions or into seated positions (depending on dog’s size), opening and shutting doors, etc. Arfordable Dog Training can assist in preparation to specialized disability-related service dog training.

** May be referred to a more specialized trainer, if applicable.