Why You Don’t Need To Certify Your Service Dog

There are a lot of questions about fake service dogs, fake certificates, and fake registrations. Even in our chat, people ask if US Service Dog Certification “is legit”. We hope you will take the time to read this before you certify your service dog. 

There is no official certification that makes your dog a service dog

Our goal is to keep things 100% transparent, and help people with disabilities navigate the landscape. We want to make it clear to all that there is no centralized service dog registry in the United States. 

Confused? That’s because businesses and landlords have been asking for certifications that are not necessary. People then have to certify their dog to appease a businesses or landlord and the vicious cycle continues.  

So businesses like ours create registries to satisfy these requests and protect people who maintain service animals. If you are being asked to provide proof that you have certified your service dog, our registry is a digital only option that allows you to email a PDF certificate to the business.

According to The American Disability Act, the only official government guidance around service dogs, the one way for your dog to be a Service Dog is (1) for you to have a disability and (2) for your dog to be specially trained to perform a task that helps you with that disability.

That’s it. If you do not have a disability, you are not eligible to have a service dog  

According to the ADA, a disability is a legal term, not a medical term, so it’s inclusive of any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. You can read more about what’s considered a disability here. Conditions like Autism, Diabetes, even severe allergies can be supported by a trained service dog.

Here is where it gets tricky.

People with a disability have the right to train their dog themselves 

According to the ADA, a service dog needs to be trained to perform a specific task, it does not need to be professionally trained. 

Airlines are now asking for trainer information. If you, or in many cases, your child, has a service dog that you or your family have trained yourself, you have the right to self-train and you can mark that on the form. 

Service dogs do not need to wear patches, vests, or any identifier to be a service dog, although many handlers choose to voluntarily represent their dog as a service dog because it avoids conflict.

This is where US Service Dog Certification comes in

If you want to visually represent your dog to a business, you can do so with our certificates and ID cards. Our registry does not make your dog a service dog. Only meeting the ADA definition can make your dog a service dog. 

You can learn more at the ADA frequently asked questions.

Now let’s talk about Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are not considered service dogs, but landlords may make reasonable accommodations for them with a letter from a healthcare provider.

Emotional support animals still need to be well trained and under the control of the handler

If you want to maintain your pet as an emotional support animal due to stress, anxiety, depression, or another medical or emotional impairment, you can talk to your primary care provider, a social worker, or a licensed mental health professional.  Any one of these individuals whom you have a relationship with (defined as being seen within a year), are qualified to write or sign a letter for you. 

This letter can only be written by a healthcare professional whom you have been evaluated by within a year. 

See below for a sample ESA letter for housing:


To Whom It May Concern,

________ is my patient. Based on the presenting symptoms and functional impairments, I have diagnosed [patient] with a mental health disorder that meets the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) criteria. 

Due to his/her disability, [patient] has significant limitations coping with [______]. To help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his/her ability to function independently, I have prescribed [patient] to maintain an emotional support animal. The presence of this animal is necessary for the emotional and mental health of [patient] because its presence will mitigate the symptoms he/she is currently experiencing. It is therefore necessary for [patient] to maintain this animal in their home.


This should be written on professional stationary and/or include the professional’s license information and contact information. 

It is US Service Dog Certification’s goal to help people correctly and ethically navigate this landscape

By registering with US Service Dog Certification, the handle is affirming that they meet the requirements of maintaining a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal as described by the ADA. 

US Service Dog Certification does not require medical information, proof of disability, or any other information, just as businesses are not permitted to ask these questions.

Our certificates and ID cards provide visual representation that handlers can use to identify their dog as a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal to a business or landlord if asked.

Please seek clarity on what you need to appease a business or landlord before purchasing and representing your animal. 

If you have trained your dog independently or with the help of a professional trainer to help you (or your child) with a disability and you want to maintain documentation to represent your dog as such, you can register with US Service Dog Certification.

Our digital documents are emailed to you immediately upon registering.


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