The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a Service Animal as: any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, developmental, psychiatric, intellectual, or other disability.
Per U.S. federal law, the Service Animal and Service Dog definition is clear cut. It includes any dog trained to assist a person with a disability overcome obstacles affecting their day to day life that directly result from their disability. As such, Service Animals are skilled and highly trained dogs who partner with people with disabilities. Service Animals are also known as Assistance Animals, Assistance Dogs, and Service Dogs.
These unique working dogs utilize their specialized training to mitigate their partner’s specific disability and the difficulties caused by the disability. They perform some of the functions and tasks that an individual with a disability cannot perform easily for him or herself. In order to be a Service Dog, a dog must be partnered with a person with a disability that hinders their ability to function independently. Furthermore, the dog must have specific task training or work that directly lessens or reduces the impact of the handler’s disability. Without both of these pieces, a dog, no matter how well trained, is not legally a Service Dog.
Service Dogs can be trained to assist with tasks and work related to a wide range of disabilities, including — but not limited to — deafness, blindness, autism, epilepsy, severely limiting psychiatric conditions, life-threatening allergies, diabetes, mobility issues, neuromuscular diseases, and many others, such as endocrine system, circulatory, or pulmonary irregularities. Some disabilities, like many neurological disorders or the cardiac condition POTS, are invisible and may not be apparent to others.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a Service Animal as: any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, developmental, psychiatric, intellectual, or other disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:
- Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
- Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
- Providing non-violent protection or rescue work
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Assisting an individual during a seizure
- Alerting individuals to the presence of deadly allergens
- Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone
- Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
- Helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
Source: Part 35 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services (as amended by the final rule published on September 15, 2010)
Authority: 5 U.S.C. 301; 28 U.S.C. 509, 510; 42 U.S.C. 12134.
Subpart A—General § 35.104 Definitions
View the full ADA Legislation >
The ADA also allows miniature horses to also be used as Service Animals, however our focus is on canines alone.