Service Dog Overview - United States of America

Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability. In some instances, a miniature horse may be used as a service animal if it meets criteria described by the ADA.

While performing its role as a service dog it should reflect proper standards of behavior.

1. Is clean, well-groomed and does not have an offensive odor.
2. Does not urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations.
3. Must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices
interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these
devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to
maintain control of the animal.
4. Should be responsive to the first command of the handler 90% of the time.
5. Does not solicit attention, visit, or annoy any member of the general public.
6. Does not disrupt the normal course of business.
7. Does not vocalize unnecessarily, i.e. barking, growling or whining. However, some
service dogs are trained to give a notification bark to their owner in case of an impending
medical emergency.
8. Shows no aggression towards people or other animals.
9. Does not solicit or steal food or other items from the public.
10. Works calmly and quietly on harness, leash or other tether.
11. Can perform its tasks in public despite multiple distractions.
12. Must be able to lie quietly beside the handler without blocking aisles, doorways, etc.
13. Stays within 24″ (60 cm) of its handler at all times unless the nature of a trained task
requires it to be working at a greater distance.
14. Has 4 paws on the ground unless completing a specific task to aid the handler.

Service Dogs in Training are being trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Under the ADA, these animals do not have access into public areas. However, most states have laws permitting these dogs with their trainers access into public areas. Check local state legislation for more information. These dogs should be reflecting the same standards of behavior in public areas as a fully trained service dog. Trainers and individuals handling these dogs should ensure they can meet the behavior standards before taking the in training dog into public access areas. Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) have the sole function to provide comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or provide emotional well-being to the handler. This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act applies to virtually all types of housing, both public and privately-owned, including housing covered by the ADA. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are obligated to permit, as a reasonable accommodation, the use of animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with a disability, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability. ESAs do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.