What is a Service Animal?

  Dogs are mans best friend, probably since the beginning of time. They are easy to train, loyal, compassionate, and trust worthy so it makes sense that dogs would become service animals.  The question is “What is a Service Animal?”
The ADA defines a service animal as “dogs (and in some cases miniature horses) that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” For instance; an obvious task would be a Seeing Eye Dog that guides individuals who are blind. Some other tasks would be alerting a deaf individual of a car going by, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure. There are so many other tasks that service animals provide that it’s too numerous to list.
Now remember, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. If that is the case, the individual must have control of the service animal at all times by means of voice, signal, or other effective means. Under the ADA regulations governments, businesses and non-profits that serve the public must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. A good example of this would be a hospital setting where it would be appropriate to allow a service animal into a patients room, clinics, cafeterias, or exam room. However, it would be inappropriate to allow a service animal into the operating room where it could affect the sterilization of the environment.
A few extra tidbits you might find helpful when out and about on your life’s journey. Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. If a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or the service animal. Restaurants must allow service animals in public areas. Staff is not required to provide care or food for the animal. Lastly, people with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to patrons without animals. If a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
And remember…When it is not obvious what a service animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.
And if you’re still in the dark about Service Animals, you can get a hold of us here at DACNW, we are always glad to help!




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