Under the American Disability Act, 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. Service animals are not required to be professionally trained. People with disabilities have the right to train their dog themselves and do not need to use a special training program. As well, service animals are not required to wear a vest, specific harness, or identification. Any breed is eligible to be trained as a service dog.
To determine if a dog is a service animal, an inquirer may ask only two specific questions:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work, or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Legally staff are not allowed to request documentation for the dog, require the dog to demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. Individuals may choose to voluntarily identify their service animals in an online registry and with physical identifiers such as vests, ID cards, and certifications. If you wish to voluntarily identify your dog as a service animal, you may purchase a certification and other identifiers.Register now
Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
Emotional Support Animals provide comfort by being with a person. They are not considered as Service Animals under the ADA because they are not trained to perform a specific task related to a person’s disability. Many people with generalized anxiety and other mental health needs can benefit greatly by the presence of an emotional support animal. Only your licensed mental health professional can prescribe that you maintain an Emotional Support Animal.
Emotional Support Animals are recognized by the Fair Housing Act. They are no longer recognized by the Air Carrier Access Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to anyone based on race, religious, gender, age, and other factors including a disability. Disabilities include people with special needs, including maintaining an Emotional Support Animal. Property owners must make reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, including those who maintain an Emotional Support Animal. Landlords may not charge an additional fee for assistance animals.
This applies to travel accommodations as well. Upon meeting the requirements, hotels or short term rentals cannot charge an additional fee for traveling with a support animal. Providing a certificate to your hotel front desk or Airbnb host should be sufficient evidence to waive a pet fee.
Until 2020, the Air Carrier Act recognized Emotional Support Animals and permitted them to fly in the cabin with their handler if you have a mental or emotional disability that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Now, most airlines treat ESA dogs as pets in the cabin. Airlines may each have their own requirements for determining whether an animal is a service animal or emotional support animal, including requiring a letter from your mental health professional, presence of harness, ID tags, and/or certification. See our guide to flying with your support animal for more information. We always recommend contacting your airline directly to determine what you need.Register now
Therapy Dogs provide comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, rehab centers, high stress situations, and during disaster relief efforts. Therapy Dogs are part of volunteer programs and do not need to be prescribed or registered. They also do not carry the same special rights that Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs do. If you wish to volunteer with your dog you may opt for a general good manners training course and may identify your dog with a Therapy Dog Vest.
If you would like to voluntarily register your Therapy Dog and purchase certification documentation, visit our registration page.Register now