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Guide Dogs (38)

Labrador Retrievers are currently the most popular breed used for Guide dogs. Most programs use Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, or crosses between Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers as guide dog candidates. Some programs use Labradoodles, Boxers, or Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. It is extremely rare for a private trainer to train a guide dog. Since very few programs would accept outside animals for training, other breeds are very difficult to obtain.

These breeds are chosen for their biddability, intelligence, ability and willingness to work long hours, ability to tolerate stress, good health, and public acceptability or recognition.

Originally guide dogs were primarily German Shepherds. They were selected because they were available (this was right after World War I), they were being very well bred to work, could work very long hours, were easy to train, and were good at working out problems or situations for which they were not trained.

Later most programs switched to Labrador Retrievers because the German Shepherds were not suited for many clients. Shepherds require confident owners with some skill at training and handling dogs. They can be hard headed and become destructive if not given enough mental and physical stimulation. In more recent years their public image has also deteriorated because of poorly trained dogs biting people.

Seeing Eye Dogs are just one "brand" of guide dog. Only guide dogs trained at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ are properly called "Seeing Eye Dogs." The generic term is "guide dog."

"Kiss," who was born in 1927, was later renamed "Buddy." She was trained in Switzerland by Dorothy Harrison Eustis for Morris Frank. He had written to Eustis asking if she could train a guide dog for a blind person after reading an article she had published on a guide dog program in Switzerland. The team completed training with Eustis in 1928 and made their debut in the U.S. the same year. The pair campaigned across the country for the opening of a school to train guides in the U.S. In 1929 the campaign succeeded with the opening of the Seeing Eye in New Jersey.

Eustis based her training program on guide dog programs then in operation in Switzerland and Germany. These programs no longer exist. The Seeing Eye is the oldest continuously operating guide dog school in the world still in operation.

Each guide dog program has its own policies and procedures for acquiring puppy raisers. Nearly all will require that you live close enough to their facility that you can make weekly visits to the facility for training classes. So the first step is to find a guide dog school near you. See the link below of guide dog schools in the U.S. to see if one is near you.
Nearly all programs will require that at least one person work in the home so that the pup is not left alone during the day. Since most puppy raisers are children, this means having at least one parent who is home during the school day and willing to take on responsibility for the puppy's training during that time. There is a link to the Seeing Eye's puppy raiser information below as a representative example of puppy raising programs for guide dogs.

Also check with your local 4H organization. Most have a Guide Puppy affiliate.
Look for a guide dog program near you. Nearly all programs require that their puppy raisers live nearby so they can attend weekly training sessions at the facility. Each program will have their own requirements as to how to apply to be a puppy raiser.

Several organizations for the blind maintain lists of guide dog training schools. Here are a few:
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
American Foundation for the Blind
Guide Dog Users Incorporated (GDUI)
American Council of the Blind (ACB)

Where are guide dogs trained in the U.S.?
International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF)

First and foremost, a guide dog should have rock-solid nerves. He should be calm and confident, obeying even in the midst of chaos. He should not be easily frightened but also should not be ignorant of real danger when it presents itself. Just as you wouldn't want a guide dog who trembled at the sight of a passing car, you would not want one who stood happily in the road as one speed straight toward it. In other words, you want a dog with an abundance of good common sense.

He should be biddable, which means he should have a desire to please his master and to work as a team member, choosing to perform his job out of loyalty even when it is unpleasant and he'd rather be doing something else (like staying home warm in bed instead of out on the streets in the sleet taking his master to the pharmacy for essential medication).

He should be intelligent and trainable. He should be an excellent problem-solver because it is impossible to predict every possible puzzle a dog might encounter in his working life and he must be able to apply what he knows creatively in new situations to make safe and reasonable decisions.

The ability to exhibit "intelligent disobedience" is also prized. A guide dog intelligently disobeys a command to go forward when it would put his master in danger, such as when a car is coming. When the dog refuses the command, it falls to the owner to determine why and then make an informed decision on whether to proceed anyway, wait, or take a different path.

Since the typical guide dog doesn't begin his working life until he is nearly two years old, and he requires very careful rearing and training costing typically $20,000 to $30,000, a good candidate for guide training must be young enough and healthy enough to have a long working life. Guide dog candidates are screened for health issues such as hip dysplasia before they begin formal training.

Guide dogs should also be of an appropriate size: large enough to work in a guide harness (with its ridged handle that signals the owner) yet small enough to fit in small spaces under chairs and tables. Most guide dogs are German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, or Golden Retrievers.

Basically, you can't.

Guide dogs are trained by charitable programs such as the Seeing Eye, specifically for people who qualify as blind. If you are blind, you apply to a guide dog school and if accepted pay a nominal fee for equipment. Some schools retain ownership of the dog for it's life and it must be returned to them when retired.

If you want to adopt a retired guide dog, again, apply at a guide dog school. But these dogs are not sold, just adopted. The waiting lists are typically about three years long and you must pass a rigorous screening to qualify.
There are some Guide schools that do not charge anything for either the animal or the equipment, plus cover the costs for the required 28 days of residential training. Some also offer a yearly stipend to help with vet visits and annual vaccinations.

To puppy raise for the Seeing Eye (the most recognized guide dog school in the world), you must join 4-H, which requires you to be at least 9 years old. You must also have the support of your parents as someone must be at home during the day to care for the puppy and with you at school that means mom or dad.

The actual trainers, as opposed to puppy raisers, are adults.

Find a school near you and volunteer. Meanwhile, go to college and get a degree in animal behavior to make yourself more marketable. Volunteer at animal shelters rehabing dogs to make them adoptable. The more dogs you work with the more your skills will grow. Apprentice with a local dog trainer (guide or otherwise) to learn more dog training skills.

Each dog is an individual. The key to a good trainer isn't as much knowing theory as it is knowing dogs and how they think and being able to communicate effectively with them. Theory on guide dog specific training must be learned from the guide dog school, but the basic foundation of dog training theory is learned by working with many different dogs and needs to be a life-long commitment on your part. Most guide dog programs, such as the Seeing Eye, require a a college degree and an apprenticeship on top of basic dog training skills. For the Seeing Eye, that apprenticeship is three years.

If you pull together the skills needed, the school you volunteer and apprentice with may either hire you or give you a letter of recommendation to work for or apprentice with another school.

Her name was originally "Kiss," but this was changed to "Buddy" by her blind owner, Morris Frank. Frank renamed all of his subsequent guide dogs "Buddy," as well.

A guide dog is a dog individually trained to assist a person who is blind with navigation. They are trained to recognize and navigate around common obstacles such as pot holes, utility poles, curb cuts, mail boxes, and low-hanging branches, among other things.

There are several programs that train dogs to guide the blind. The most well known of these is the Seeing Eye, in Morristown, New Jersey. Only dogs that graduate from the Seeing Eye are properly called "Seeing Eye Dogs," all other dog guides are called "guide dogs."

In some countries the term "guide dog" is also used to refer to assistance animals of all kinds, but in the U.S., the term "guide dog" refers specifically to dogs who assist owners who are legally blind.

Most people who are blind are not totally without vision. Generally, a person is considered blind when their vision is below 20/200. In order to succeed with a guide dog, the person must have too little vision to allow them to try to guide the dog as this would damage the dog's training.

Guide dogs assist people who are blind. They indicate to their blind handler when an obstacle is in their path, usually by stopping and standing still. On command, they will attempt to find a way to navigate around the obstacle.

They can also be trained to find specific places and things on command. Guide dogs generally learn the places where the handler goes regularly, such as home or work. They can also find things like chairs, restrooms, and exits on command.

The first part of guide dog training is usually done by puppy raisers who socialize and habituate pups in their care and teach them basic manners and obedience under the supervision of a trainer from a guide dog school. This process typically takes 12 to 18 months. At the end of that time, guide dog candidates are returned to their schools for advanced training in obstacle avoidance, directed guiding, and intelligent disobedience.

Directed guiding ("left," "right," "forward," "wait") is taught by pairing the commands with the actions. It's the easiest part of the advanced training, but also the most used.

Intelligent disobedience is the process of recognizing when there is an exception to a command and disobeying out of duty rather than disobeying because the dog would rather do something else. For example, if a guide dog is given a command to "forward" into a street, but he sees a car coming, he will intelligently disobey the command to "forward" because it is dangerous to the handler to step in front of a moving car.

Obstacle avoidance is the most important safety skill of guide dogs and the one that most fascinates people curious about guide dogs. Once an obstacle is recognized, the dog is instructed to navigate around that obstacle. He must do so regardless of whether the best path lies to the right or left of the obstacle, and while taking into account not only his own path, but the path of his human partner. Guide dogs are also trained to recognize low hanging obstacles, such as tree branches, that could injure their partner and to navigate around them as well.

Here's one example of how obstacle avoidance might be taught:

Avoiding low hanging tree branches

The trainer approaches a low hanging tree branch with a cane held in front of her face. When the cane hits the tree branch it makes an audible cue to the dog that something has happened. The trainer might also say "ouch" or otherwise indicate an injury has occurred (good acting on the trainer's part is essential for this to work). The team will repeat this exercise with the same tree a few times until the dog is consistently navigating around the branch. Then the trainer finds another branch in another area for additional practice. Because dogs don't generalize well, it is important to practice the same concept (avoid low hanging branches) in several different locations and situations until the dog realizes all low branches and not just specific ones are to be avoided.

When a dog disobeys a command it means he refuses to do it. Intelligent disobedience means he has a valid reason for refusing to do it. For example, if a blind person gives a guide dog a command to "forward" and there is an obstacle in the path that could injure the handler, the dog refuses the forward command. When a guide refuses a command, it is then up to the handler to determine why and work out what to do about it.

Guide dogs are taught intelligent disobedience in a variety of ways. The most common is to use some level of aversive training methods. For teaching intelligent disobedience in a traffic situation, first the dog is taught how to safely cross a road with their trainer. This is done by stopping at the down curb, waiting for a “Forward” command to go forward then walking straight and directly across the road at a good pace to the opposite up curb. Most schools teach their guide dogs to stop at the up curb, indicating to their handler that they have reached the opposite side of the road successfully.

Once a dog can do this and shows no fear of the traffic, the intelligent disobedience portion is trained. Intelligent disobedience means the dog will willfully disobey a “Forward” or other command to move in a particular direction if it would place their handler in harm’s way. Most schools use other guide dog trainers in cars to train the intelligent disobedience in traffic situations. A trainer will sit in the passenger seat of the car with a soft nerf bat or squirt gun full of water and as the dog gets too close to the car, the trainer will gently correct the dog by batting them on the nose with the nerf bat or squirting them with the water gun. Most dogs do not like this and so the next time the car is in their path, the dog will stop to avoid getting to close at which point the trainer working beside the dog will praise and otherwise reward the dog for the correct decision. Once the car has crossed their path, the trainer will then cue to the dog to “Forward” and continue safely across the road to the up curb.

In order to prevent the dog from becoming shy of crossing roads or working alongside traffic, the trainer will set up the situations in the beginning so that the dog sees more situations with no traffic in their path then with a car in their path with a trainer in it that would correct them for getting too close. This ensures that the dog learns that if there is no danger of a car too close, they are still to cross the street quickly and straight across to the up curb.

As the dog improves, the situations are made more difficult until the dog can safely guide their handler from cars coming to close in front, behind and to each left and right side. Now with the new near silent hybrid cars many schools train with these types of cars as well, really teaching the dog to look for dangerous traffic situations that could harm them and their handler.

To teach the dog to avoid bringing their handler too close to an edge on a subway or train platform or other drop off, some schools teach it by having the guide dog trainer walk the dog very close to the edge and if the dog does not stop or turn away the trainer will actually “fall off” the edge, pulling the dog with them! Most dogs again do not like this as they like their trainer and do not want to see them “hurt” nor do they want to fall off the edge themselves so very quickly they learn to stop or turn their trainer away from the drop off that would put them in danger. When the dog makes the correct decision he is always praised and rewarded for doing so.

Guide dogs are better at identifying and navigating around low hanging obstacles and at learning frequently traveled routes by name. The guide dog can also offer suggestions on how to navigate around an obstacle. In a cluttered area, such as a construction zone, a guide dog can negotiate all of the obstacles faster than a person with a cane.
Canes give better information about the details of an obstacle, such as it's specific location, size, dimensions, and shape. While a guide dog would stop for a mail box in the middle of the sidewalk, he has no way to indicate to his handler that it is a mail box. With a cane the handler can quickly identify the obstacle. Canes also give better information on the texture of surfaces and the height of objects, such as chair seats.
People with canes experience far fewer access issues than those with guide dogs. The cost of obtaining and maintaining a cane is much less than that of a guide dog. A cane might be purchased for $50-$100 which is less than most programs charge for guide dogs. The cane requires little or no maintenance while the guide dog typically requires in excess of $6,000 in care (food, vet, supplies) over a lifetime.

A guide dog is much more than a pet. It is a person's eyes. Losing a guide dog is somewhat akin to losing one's sight all over again. Usually there is a transition period during which the old guide retires and a new guide takes his place. However, when a guide dies unexpectedly it can be very disorienting in addition to the grief someone might feel for the loss of a limb. Coping is pretty much the same as for any other great loss. It starts with disbelief, passes through anger and other emotions, and eventually ends with acceptance (hopefully). Since each person is an individual, each will experience the process in their own unique way.

The first guide dog was trained at least as long ago as the middle ages and probably before that as evidenced by woodcuts depicting dogs guiding the blind.

The first modern guide dogs, what we now think of as guide dogs, were trained during and after WWI in response to the need for guides for soldiers blinded in the war.

"Buddy" the guide of Frank Morris was the first Seeing Eye dog, which was founded in 1929. The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog school still in operation.

Eye of the Pacific Guide Dogs and Mobility Services, Incorporated
747 Amana Street, Suite 407
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
Phone: (808) 941-1088
E-mail: info@eyeofthepacific.org
Web site: http://www.eyeofthepacific.org/

Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Inc.
P. O. Box 142
Bloomfield, CT 06002
Phone: (860) 243-5200
E-mail: info@fidelco.org
Web site: http://www.fidelco.org

Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind
1210 Hardscrabble Road
Cassville, New York 13318-1304
Phone: (315) 822-5132
E-mail: freedomdog@wildblue.net
Web site: http://www.freedomguidedogs.org/

Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.
371 East Jericho Turnpike
Smithtown, NY 11787-2976
Phone: (631) 265-2121; 800-548-4337
E-mail: info@guidedog.org
Web site: http://www.guidedog.org

Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.
P. O. Box 151200
San Rafael, CA 94915-1200
Phone: (415) 499-4000; 800-295-4050
E-mail: iadmissions@guidedogs.com
Web site: http://www.guidedogs.com

Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. (Oregon Campus)
32901 Southeast Kelso Road
Boring, Oregon 97009-9058
Phone: (503) 668-2100
E-mail: information@guidedogs.com
Web site: http://www.guidedogs.com/

Guide Dogs of America
13445 Glenoaks Boulevard
Sylmar, CA 91342
Phone: (818) 362-5834; 800-459-4843
E-mail: gdaguidedogs@earthlink.net
Web site: http://www.guidedogsofamerica.org

Guide Dogs of Texas, Inc.
11825 West Avenue, Suite 104
San Antonio, TX 78216
Phone: (210)366-4081
E-Mail: larrytuttle@guidedogsoftexas.org
Web site: http://www.guidedogsoftexas.org/

Guide Dogs of the Desert International
P. O. Box 1692
Palm Springs, CA 92263
Phone: (760)329-6257
E-Mail: info@guidedogsofthedesert.org
Web site: http://www.guidedogsofthedesert.org/

Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Inc.
611 Granite Springs Road
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
Phone: (914) 245-4024; 800-942-0149
E-mail: info@guiding-eyes.org
Web site: http://www.guiding-eyes.org

Kansas Specialty Dog Service (KSDS), Inc.
124 West 7th
P.O. Box 216
Washington, KS 66968
Phone: (785) 325-2256
E-Mail: ksds@ksds.org
Web site: http://www.ksds.org

Leader Dogs for the Blind, Inc.
1039 South Rochester Road
Rochester, MI 48307-3115
Phone: (248) 651-9011; 888-777-5332
E-mail: leaderdog@leaderdog.org
Web site: http://www.leaderdog.org

Pilot Dogs, Inc.
625 W. Town St.
Columbus, OH 43215-4496
Phone: (614) 221-6367
E-Mail: jgray@pilotdogs.org
Web site: http://www.pilotdogs.org

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.
4210 77th St. East
Palmetto, FL 34221
Phone: (941) 729-5665
E-mail: info@guidedogs.org
Web site: http://www.guidedogs.org

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. - Georgia Outreach
1535 Lake Paradise Road
Villa Rica, Georgia 30180
Phone: (770) 459-2051

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. - North Carolina Outreach Program
11 Union Street South, Suite 210
Concord, North Carolina 28026
Phone: (704) 721-5000

The Seeing Eye, Incorporated
Post Office Box 375
Morristown, New Jersey 07963-0375
Phone: (973) 539-4425
E-mail: info@seeingeye.org
Web site: http://www.seeingeye.org/

Upstate Guide Dog Assn.
7926 Routes 5 and 20
Bloomfield, NY 14469
Phone: (585) 624-1074
email: webmaster@ugda.org
website: http://ugda.org

It depends on the age of the dog and where the dog is in training. If he has the fundamentals down and is working on proofing (performing learned behaviors in spite of distraction) then an active place like a busy shopping center might be a good place to find those distractions to practice ignoring.

If it's a pup being socialized and he's confident and outgoing, a busy shopping center gives ample opportunity to meet new people.

The key is to do it at the right points in the dog's development or training. Overfacing a dog by putting them into a situation too stressful or too distracting for them to process will only slow or damage socialization or training.

According to her great-grandniece, Keller Johnson-Thompson, she had several pet dogs but no guide dog:
"Although Helen had many dogs throughout her lifetime, she never used any of them as dog guides, as many blind people do today. But as she made her way through her gardens later in life, several dogs could always be seen at her side. Some of these dogs included a Great Dane named Belle, a Scottie named Darkie, German Shepherds, Collies, and even a Dachshund named Sunshine."

Most guide dog schools operate their own breeding programs. From a pool of puppies bred to become guide dogs, some candidates are chosen to be used in the breeding program instead. Both actual guides and the dogs used to produce them are selected for specific characteristics of temperament, health, and structural soundness.

Most breeding programs have the dams (mother dogs) whelp (deliver puppies) on site in special environmentally controlled whelping rooms. Pups must be kept at a higher than normal temperature during their first weeks.

Neurological stimulation exercises and socialization are begun at birth. As the puppies grow, pathways form in their brains that will affect how they learn in the future. Early stimulation (handling and exposure to new experiences in sites, sounds, smells, and touch) helps to guide how those pathways form.

Once the pups are weaned at about eight weeks, they are placed in homes with families to raise them until they are approximately a year old when they are returned to the training program for advanced training and placement with a blind person.

It was called "Love Leads the Way."

David Permut and Jimmy Hawkins produced this movie and Delbert Mann directed it. It was made for the Disney Channel, and premiered on October 7, 1984. It was based on the book, "First Lady of the Seeing Eye" by Morris Frank and Blake Clark. A German Shepherd named Pilot played Buddy with help from trainer Ron Bledsoe. It was filmed on location in Nashville, Tennessee and Leavenworth, Washington. The running time is 99 minutes. The cast includes Timothy Bottoms, Ernest Borgnine, Glynnis O'Conner, Susan Dey, Patricia Neal, Arthur Hill, Richard Speight Jr, and Ralph Bellamy.

A guide dog is taught a variety of behaviors and signals that the user will then "command" the dog to respond. The dog is also taught intelligent disobedience, such as to disobey a given command that if obeyed would result in harm or death to a user.
The human handler tells the dog where to go. The dog may also learn through repetition paths that are frequently taken by name, such as "home" or "office."

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In the USA and throughout the world, the majority of guide dog programs require handlers to be a minimum of 16 years of age (a high school sophomore) to apply, go through training and be partnered with a guide dog. This age minimum is to ensure that the handler is old enough to be fully responsible for the proper care and well being of their canine partner as well as have enough independent travel and mobility skills to properly keep up on the dog’s extensive training.

There is currently at least one guide dog program in the UK and one in the USA that is open to partnering teenagers as young as 13 years of age with guide dogs. These children go through the same process as any other guide dog applicant for being partnered and trained with a dog, and they must have at least 2-3 regular routes that they will work their dog on to keep up with the dog’s skill and training as well as have support from their family and school system to properly care for and work the dog on a regular basis. Many of the dogs partnered with these younger visually impaired individuals are dogs that are less active and would not meet the more active and demanding needs of an adult guide dog user.

A large portion of the cost is absorbed by volunteer puppy raisers who teach the pups basic manners including where and when to toilet, how to walk on a leash, basic commands like "sit" and "down," and how to live among humans without jumping up, bolting out doors, or mooching food.

Formal training with professional trainers who teach the dogs how to actually guide a person who is blind typically costs around $20,000. If puppy raisers were paid, this cost would probably double. Most guide dog training programs are funded by charitable donations so the cost to the blind owner is modest compared to the actual cost of training these highly skilled dogs.

The majority of guide dog handlers or white cane users utilize one or the other- either a guide dog or a cane at any time. The majority also have normal dexterity in both the left and right hand. Most guide dogs are trained to work on the handler’s left side, leaving the handler’s right hand and arm open for carrying and holding things. Most cane users handle their cane in their dominant hand, either left or right as the case may be. This also leaves the opposite hand and arm open for handling other objects. For those individuals who do not have normal dexterity in both hands or arms, or who have something unwieldy or too heavy, many use a back pack or other bag on their back. Others use fanny packs or similar carrying devices.

It's a common misconception that dogs are color blind. They aren't. Dogs don't see the same range of colors that humans do, but they do see color.

However, guide dogs are trained to automatically stop at all intersections, regardless of traffic lights. The dog is unaware of the lights and is focused only on finding the curb or other obstacle that might be in his master's path. It is then up to the human handler to listen for the sounds of traffic to determine which direction it is going and when it is safe to cross.

The exact testing is up to the individual program training them. Each will set up their own criteria. However, the test would include working in public navigating around common obstacles, including low-hanging obstacles and traffic.

Health testing would include an evaluation of the dog's hip structure by x-ray, chest x-rays, hearing tests, CERF (eye test), thyroid function, and cardiac function as well as a full blood panel to check overall function of internal organs.

It is an unfortunately common mistake to use these terms interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing. Only guide dogs that were trained at the Seeing Eye facility in New Jersey can properly be called "Seeing Eye" dogs. It's like a brand name. There are vehicles and there are Fords. All Fords are vehicles, but not all vehicles are Fords.
The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog training school still in operation in the world. It is the most famous and the most recognized and this is probably why people get confused.

From the official Seeing Eye website:

"Quite frequently, people ask us, "How can I become a Seeing Eye instructor?" Staff instructors are full-time employees who hold college degrees from various fields of study and have successfully completed three years of specialized on-the-job training. They relate well to dogs and people and are physically fit, since their jobs are physically demanding and involve working outdoors in all weather. Some of our current instructors came from teaching, business consulting and rehabilitation fields. Some were in the military and worked with dogs before, and many started out as kennel assistants here at The Seeing Eye."

Pups in the Seeing Eye program are typically 7-8 weeks old when they are sent to live with 4-H families to receive socialization and training in manners and basic obedience. They are typically 14 to 18 months old when they are returned to the Seeing Eye for advanced training.

The Seeing Eye is just one of many programs that train dogs to guide the blind. Individual programs may do their puppy raising differently.

The Seeing Eye is the oldest and most recognized guide dog training program in the world.

No. Most people who are blind prefer to use a blind cane to aid in avoiding obstacles.

Some cities exempt guide dog owners and other service dog owners from scooping laws, but most do not. There is no need for an exemption because blind people are just as capable as sighted people in doing most things, including cleaning up after their dogs.

A person doesn't have to see poop to pick it up. Like anyone else, a blind person knows which end of the dog is which, and the dog only toilets on command so they know the when and where of poopology. A hand is inserted in a plastic poop bag like a glove and the hand is run down the hind leg of the dog to the dump zone. Then the scooper feels around for the warm squooshy stuff, grasps it, and turns the bag inside out. It's exactly the same for a sighted person who walks their dog at night and must scoop in the dark.

Puppy raisers generally receive their wards at about 8 weeks of age and return them to the guide dog center at around 14 months for formal training.

Typically the actual working part of a dogs training takes between 3 and 9 months - after the puppy stage and "being a good pet" training is finished. This is why many organizations use volunteer puppy raisers - it helps get their dogs through the basics with very little expense (most training organizations run on donations alone). Other groups scour rescues and adopt adult dogs who have already gone through the puppy stage... and yet others place their dogs in their future homes as puppies to help the bonding process along.

There are too many programs and independent trainers to accurately count how many guide dogs are in place in the world or even in the U.S.
The most recognized program in the world that trains Guide dogs is the Seeing Eye in Morristown New Jersey.

The Seeing Eye reported in their 2007 annual report that they had 1,760 graduate teams in the field.

Guide dogs are better at identifying and navigating around low hanging obstacles and at learning frequently traveled routes by name. The guide dog can also offer suggestions on how to navigate around an obstacle. In a cluttered area, such as a construction zone, a guide dog can negotiate all of the obstacles faster than a person with a cane.

Canes give better information about the details of an obstacle, such as it's specific location, size, dimensions, and shape. While a guide dog would stop for a mail box in the middle of the sidewalk, he has no way to indicate to his handler that it is a mail box. With a cane the handler can quickly identify the obstacle. Canes also give better information on the texture of surfaces and the height of objects, such as chair seats.

People with canes experience far fewer access issues than those with guide dogs. The cost of obtaining and maintaining a cane is much less than that of a guide dog. A cane might be purchased for $50-$100 which is less than most programs charge for guide dogs. The cane requires little or no maintenance while the guide dog typically requires in excess of $6,000 in care (food, vet, supplies) over a lifetime.

They don't.

The human handler is responsible for listening to traffic and knowing from which direction it is coming. Sometimes you can hear a grinding click sound when the lights change, while in some countries there is an audible beep to tell the blind when the light has changed.

If the handler gives a "forward" command and the dog sees or hears a car coming at them, the dog disobeys the "forward" command. So the dog focuses only on the cars, not on traffic lights.

A person doesn't have to see poop to pick it up. Like anyone else, a blind person knows which end of the dog is which, and the dog only toilets on command so they know the when and where of poopology. A hand is inserted in a plastic poop bag like a glove and then the scooper feels around for the warm squooshy stuff, grasps it, and turns the bag inside out. It's exactly the same for a sighted person who walks their dog at night and must scoop in the dark.

Some cities exempt guide dog owners and other service dog owners from scooping laws, but most do not. There is no need for an exemption because blind people are just as capable as sighted people in doing most things, including cleaning up after their dogs.

See also
How do blind people scoop poop?

Any breed of dog can potentially produce a good hearing dog. However, most hearing dogs are mixed-breed dogs selected for higher than average energy level and a weight of 30 to 40 pounds.

A "hearing ear dog," more commonly referred to as a "hearing dog" is specially trained to assist people who are deaf by signaling them of the presence of common sounds that require attention. Each dog is individually trained to their specific handler's needs. For example, if the handler has an infant, she would want her dog trained to alert her when the baby cries.

Hearing dogs are commonly trained to respond to the following sounds:
a doorbell or knock on a door
a telephone ringing
smoke/fire alarm
tornado siren
alarm clock
the sound of the handler's name being spoken
an oven or microwave timer

Upon hearing a sound the dog is trained to recognize as important, the hearing dog signals his handler, usually by poking or pawing at their leg, then either turns to look in the direction of the noise, or runs back and forth between the source of the noise and the handler to indicate where the noise is.

There is overlap between the two terms. Legally it is not relevant which the service dog does, so long as he does one or the other or some of both. A service dog's legitimacy is not determined based on whether he does one or the other or both. It's a little puzzling why we get so many requests for an explanation of the differences between the two when the differences aren't what matters.

First, what they have in common:
1. must be individually trained (not natural behaviors of dogs such as needing to be walked or turning their head when they hear a sound, emotional support, or companionship)
2. must mitigate the person's disability (ie be something the person's disability prevents or substantially limits them from being able to do for themselves)

A task is an individual, discrete (a complete stand alone unit), specific thing that needs doing. It has one cue and one result. It might be a simple behavior or a complex one with multiple steps, but there is always a single objective. Examples of tasks include: opening doors, picking up dropped items, and notifying the handler of the sound of the doorbell.

Work is a broader term that may include any of the following:
1. a group of related tasks (such as hearing work consisting of signalling for several different individual sounds with a different response for each sound)
2. a trained behavior that has a decision tree where the outcome is not always the same but requires the dog to evaluate different options and choose the correct one (such as guiding around obstacles)

Here are some examples from the human world to demonstrate the differences:

Housekeeping tasks include: doing the dishes, taking out the trash, washing the windows, doing the laundry, doing the dusting, cleaning the toilet. When you take all of these tasks together or some random assortment from the list, you call them "housework." The term "housework" is more broad than "house keeping tasks," but they're both still about the same thing which is cleaning the house.

Secretarial tasks include: filing, answering the phone, typing, making appointments for clients, sending out billing statements. Secretarial work is some combination of the above. It describes generally what a secretary does during the day without listing off what that secretary did on that one specific day in detail.

Notice the item "making appointments for clients?" Depending how that is executed and viewed by the person making the appointments, you could make a case that it is a task with a single result (an appointment is made) or that it is work because it involves a decision tree (when the appointment is made is going to depend on several different factors unique to each appointment that is made). That's because there is no concrete, black and white, hard line between the two terms. They are similar and they overlap. And that's why it makes very little sense to try to determine whether an individual service dog does work or does tasks. The vast majority probably do some of each along a spectrum that has guide dogs doing work nearer one end and wheelchair dogs doing tasks nearer the other.

The answer to this question may be more complicated than you expect. First, there are different definitions of disability in different federal laws. The definition for Social Security Disability Income is not the same as that in the Americans with Disabilities Act (which determines whether you qualify to use a service dog in public places where dogs are not generally permitted). It is possible for an individual to qualify for SSDI and not qualify for a service dog and vice versa. You must evaluate your situation separately for each context.

The definition of disability under the ADA is a legal, not medical, definition. Since a lawyer generally can't diagnose medical conditions and a doctor generally can't interpret the law, you may get stuck somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all out.

We've made a flow chart that incorporates the elements of the definition of disability contained within the ADA to try to help you sort through this question systematically.

You may want to review the legal definition as written by Congress for yourself, or review the entire Americans with Disabilities Act which includes some additional fine points you may notice in our flow chart in other sections.

Ultimately, what we recommend is that you take the flow chart or the written definition with you and discuss it with any doctor who is treating you or has treated you for your disability to get his opinion and to have his opinion entered into your permanent medical records.

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Flowchart to help determine if you qualify for a service dog176.76 KB

The short answer is: No, businesses do not have to permit dogs, including service dogs, in the shopping carts owned by the business.


This is partly an issue of fundamental alteration and partly one of reasonableness. It is also an issue of professionalism and image.

From http://www.ada.gov/t3hilght.htm

Public accommodations must ... make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities, unless a fundamental alteration would result in the nature of the goods and services provided.

The fundamental purpose of the cart is to transport merchandise, not dogs. Co-opting the cart from that purpose to transport a dog changes the nature of the service being provided (the cart).

In addition, the the business is not required to provide services or equipment for the dog, just to permit the dog to accompany the disabled owner the dog is trained to assist.
From http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

9. Q: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

A: No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.

Except for airports, businesses are not required to provide toileting facilities for dogs either. They don't have to provide food, water, or dishes for the dog to eat or drink out of. If they aren't required to do any of that for service dogs in general, why would they be required to provide equipment to transport the dog while in their business?

Consider the scooters, power chairs, electric or manual wheelchairs or other mobility devices many large stores provide for customer use. They are not required to do that. It is a courtesy some stores choose to provide as part of their customer service to make the store more appealing to more potential customers. They aren't required to provide transportation equipment for the human with a disability, and neither are they required to provide it for the person's dog.

Remember that public access laws are about access for the person with a disability. Whether or not the animal is permitted in the cart does not affect the person's access to goods and services. It therefore becomes an issue of reasonableness. The person with the service animal must have some way to manage their dog when in a public accommodation that does not offer shopping carts. (Some examples of accommodations that do not offer shopping carts include restaurants, offices, hospitals, movie theaters, and hotels.) Therefore there must be some reasonable alternative to putting the dog in the shopping cart if the store objects.

If a business gives permission for the individual to use the carts to transport their dog while inside the business, that's between that business and that team. The business can give that permission if they choose to do so but they are not required to do so. Some local health codes may not permit it and some grocery stores or customers in grocery stores may object to having them in the child seat just as some restaurants would object to having them on the table. You can argue whether a dog is different from a diapered child with the business if you like but you still need their permission.

There are two remaining considerations.

First, putting a dog in a cart raises the dog higher than even a traditional sized dog would stand on the floor. This substantially increases the range where hair and dander from the dog can be deposited. Here is a basic formula for calculating where falling things that do not drop straight to the ground may be deposited. Measure the highest point of the dog from the ground. Now in your head mark a point directly below that highest point and inscribe it with a circle of a radius equal to the dog's height from the ground. For example, if the dog's ear tip is three feet above the floor, then hair and dander can be deposited any where within a cone with a three foot radius at the base (on the ground) and a tip at the tip of the dog's ear. In order to prevent hair and dander from falling on fresh food, refrigerated or frozen food (which attract hair and dander), or ready to eat food, the dog must be positioned at all times so that that imaginary cone does not come in contact with those types of food. Raising a dog off the floor increases the bubble you need to maintain between that dog and food.

Second, carrying a dog or putting it in a shopping cart is not professional. It brings into question the legitimacy of the dog as a service dog because so many pet owners treat their dogs like fashion accessories. It also increases skepticism for other kinds of service dogs when businesses start seeing an increase in the number of dogs being brought in that really don't look like service dogs. It makes life especially difficult for those people with legitimate service dogs that happen to be small and significantly increases the likelihood and frequency of access issues for the person putting their dog in the cart.

Also see
Special considerations for owners of small or large service dogs
Is it okay to have a small service dog in your lap in a restaurant or in a pouch/purse/carrier in a restaurant or grocery store?

Generally, no, but in some cases an exception may be made with permission from the business owner.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, access rights are based on "reasonable accommodations." While the US Department of Justice has not issued any guidance one way or the other on this specific issue, you can apply the principle of "reasonableness" to any situation to see whether the ADA permits/requires it or not.

Let's do that here. We have competing interests.
1. The health department has regulations about live animals being near food which makes it illegal in most areas for restaurants and grocery stores to permit pets into their facilities. An exception is made for service animals under reasonable accommodation under the assumption that the risk is minimal.
2. The business has an interest in activities that cost them customers. The public "ick" factor for a dog at or near table level is significantly higher than for one on the floor under the table.
3. A person with a small dog may prefer to keep their dog in their lap, but it is not an absolute necessity.

Reasonable accommodation means that you take ALL interests into account when evaluating a specific situation, not just whether the individual with a disability thinks it is reasonable from their perspective, but whether it is reasonable for all. The first item on our list addresses an issue that falls under "direct threat," because the health department has stated there is a sanitary and health risk of food contamination if live animals are near food. An exception has traditionally been made for service animals based on the long history of guide dogs, who are always on the floor, tucked under tables, and as far away from the food as possible. The risk of food contamination when the dog is on the floor is very minimal. This is where normal pet owners have their pets during human mealtimes, if not completely out of the dining area. Putting a service dog in a lap is significantly pushing the envelope of safety on this issue.

The second item on the list is an example of "undue burden." While some customers may leave because of the mere presence of the service animal, it is not possible to accommodate the disabled patron at all without the service animal. That situation falls in the favor of the person with the service dog. However, in the case of having the dog close to the food, the balance shifts. The business will lose even more customers, but for something that is not strictly necessary. This is unreasonable because it creates an undue (avoidable and excessive) burden for the business person. However, if the business owner has no objection to the dog in a person's lap and is willing to do additional cleaning to satisfy health department regulations, then the business is permitted to make an exception IF THEY WISH. They don't have to.

Now we examine the third item, or an individual service dog owner's wish to have their service dog in their lap. This is not strictly necessary. A small service dog can sit or lie under the table just the same as a service dog of any other size. Their size alone does not make it necessary for them to be in a lap. It is sometimes claimed that this is a safety issue because smaller dogs are at greater risk on the floor than larger dogs. In fact, a small service dog is far safer under the table than is a larger service dog because he is less likely to have body parts extend out from under the table to get trampled. So there is no reason to treat small service dogs differently for safety.

Some owners will claim that their dog is not able to work from the floor. Since there is no legitimate job a small service dog can do that a larger one cannot also do, including "alerting," this is a problem of the owner's own creation. If they failed to train the dog to be able to work from the floor, that is their fault and within their power to correct. It is not reasonable to expect a restaurant to compensate for the handler's lack of foresight or poor choice in dog.

Most legitimate small breed service dogs are perfectly capable of working from the floor, including heeling and long stays, exactly the same as their larger counterparts. There are some limitations, including an increased risk of injury in crowded environments when it may be prudent to lift the dog from the floor and carry it until the crowd thins out. A smaller service dog will not be able to heel as long, as far, or as fast as a larger service dog can. This is an obvious flaw in their use as service dogs that the potential owner should consider carefully when making their choice of a service dog. If you choose a dog with limitations, then you are stuck with those limitations and you are responsible for dealing with the consequences of your choice. There is no task or disability that specifically requires that the dog be tiny. It is a personal preference, a personal choice, with consequences. A person is free to make that choice, but they are not free to inflict added burdens on others because of that choice.

Now we get to the issue of small dogs in shopping carts, pouches, or other carriers that hold the dog high off the floor while shopping in grocery stores. The purpose of the shopping cart is to carry groceries and small children. It is a courtesy provided by the store for its customers because shopping carts will encourage them to stay longer and purchase more. Carts are not there as a convenience to service dog owners. A public accommodation is not required to provide you with equipment to care for or utilize your service dog. If your dog is capable of working without a shopping cart in other venues, such as offices, stores, theaters, etc., then it is capable of doing so in a grocery store as well. If an individual store gives permission for the service dog to ride in the cart it is permitted, so long as it does not also violate health codes.

It is permissible for a service dog to be carried by hand or in a carrier about the owner's chest in SOME areas of a grocery store, such as areas with canned and commercially packaged foods displayed on shelves. It is not reasonable to hold a service dog above the edge of a display of fresh food (such as vegetables or meats) which are in a cooler or bin that you might lean over to reach the food. It is not reasonable to hold the dog above the edge of a buffet style display where customers serve themselves, such as a take-home salad or food bar. This would permit hair and dander to fall onto the food and contaminate it. A rule of thumb is that whatever height the dog is from the floor, that is the distance the dog should be away from any open display of fresh foods. If the dog is three and a half feet off the floor and on the handler's person, then the dog and handler should not get within three and a half feet of the open display. This will prevent hair and dander from being deposited on food in the open display.

By the same token, large dogs that are able to see over the edge of the open display should never be permitted to look over the edge of the display, and should be worked from the side of the handler that is furthest from the display, such that the handler is between the dog and the display.

YES. While businesses are generally permitted only to ask whether the dog is a service animal required because of disability and what the animal has been trained to do, there are instances when more extensive proof can be required.

If you file a complaint about discrimination, proof of disability and proof of training will be required. If you appear in court and you claim to be disabled and claim your dog is a service dog as part of the case you are involved in, then you will have to provide proof that your claims are true. A court will not simply take your word for it.

If you are arrested for trespass for bringing an animal into a place where pets are not permitted, your affirmative defense may be that the animal in question is a service dog, but again, you will have to prove that is the case.

Proof may include:
Medical records from any medical providers treating you for your disability or for aspects of your disability.
SSDI determination.
SD certification from a recognized/accredited program.
Training logs if owner-trained.
Independent evaluation of your dog's training by a qualified trainer.
Certificates attesting to training and temperament, such a training class completion certificates, an obedience title or certificate, a CGC certificate, etc.
Video demonstrations of the dog's training.
In person demonstrations of the dog's training.

See also: http://www.adagreatlakes.org/Publications/Legal_Briefs/BriefNo015Service...

In some specific cases, yes.

For example, if the landlord can show that permitting a dog of a certain breed to reside on the premises would substantially increase his insurance premiums or cause his insurance carrier to drop him, then it would generally be considered an undue burden on the landlord and he can refuse to permit the dog even if it is a fully trained service dog. See attachment.

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2006-06-12 HUD memo on insurance policy restrictions related to reasonable accommodations.PDF16.18 KB

In most countries, Assistance Animals are broken down into three sub-categories: Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Service Animals (everything other than guide or hearing dogs). In the United States, the term Service Animal is used generically to mean any kind of assistance animal, including both guide and hearing dogs.

The Codes of Federal Regulation for the Americans with Disabilities Act defines "service animal" as "any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items."

Generally guide, hearing and service dogs are permitted to accompany their disabled owner everywhere members of the public are allowed, but there are a few exceptions. For example, a member of the public would be permitted in the dining area of a restaurant, but not in the kitchen. Therefore, a guide dog would be permitted to accompany his disabled owner in the dining area of a restaurant.
It is also an important distinction to note that it is the handler who has access rights and not the dog. A guide dog without his blind handler has no particular access rights of his own and neither does a hearing dog or other service dog without his disabled handler.
"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos." -- U.S Department of Justice.
For clarification, contact the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA Information Line at 800 - 514 - 0301 (voice) or 800 - 514 - 0383 (TTY)
In the U.S., according to the Department of Justice's Business Brief concerning Service Animals, business owners/managers can ask 2 specific questions. 1) Is this a service dog required because of a disability? and 2) What task(s) is the dog trained to perform? If these questions are not appropriately answered, the business may exclude the animal, but not the person.
Though service animals of all kinds can legally accompany their disabled handler almost anywhere the handler goes, they can be excluded from areas where their presence would constitute either a fundamental alteration of goods and services available for all or a direct threat to safety. Examples where a service animal might be excluded include:

-Sterile rooms, such as operating rooms, some areas of emergency rooms/departments, some ICU rooms, some ambulances, some delivery rooms (on a case-by-case basis)
-Clean rooms where microchips are manufactured
-Places where food is prepared (though they cannot generally be excluded from dining areas where food is present) (by order of most health departments)
-Open air zoological exhibits, such as open air aviaries (at the zoo's discretion)
-Churches (at the church's discretion)
-Native American Tribal Council Chambers (at the council's discretion)
-Federal Courts (at the judge's discretion)
-Jail or prison cells (at the discretion of the facility director)
-Private clubs (at the club's discretion)
-Private homes (at the home owner's discretion)
So far, this discussion is centered entirely on laws of access in the United States of America. Other countries will have their own laws in place regarding the access rights of individuals accompanied by a service animal.

Do not speak to the dog. Speak to the person instead.

First and foremost, do not distract the dog by petting it, calling to it, meowing or barking at it, or offering it food. The person's health and safety may depend on the dog's ability to concentrate so distracting the dog may result in injury to the person.

You may ASK to pet the dog, but be respectful if the owner says "no." Some service dog owner's will permit petting after they have removed the dog's gear. Others will not. It depends on how the dog was trained, whether the owner has time, and whether the dog is needed to remain on task at the time you ask.

It is natural to be curious about the service dog. It is okay to ask about the dog, but be respectful if the owner appears busy or in a hurry or simply doesn't feel comfortable talking with strangers. Some owners will enjoy talking about their special helper and educating the public about service dogs, but not all will.

It is kind to offer a bowl of water if the dog appears thirsty. However, most service dog owners will not permit their dog to accept treats or food. This is partly due to not wanting to break down the dog's training, and partly because there are, unfortunately, people in this world who will attempt to poison working dogs like service dogs by feeding them poisoned treats.

Discuss this first with your medical caregivers. Do they agree that you are legally disabled (under the ADA) and you need a service dog? You will probably need their support to get the medical documentation a training program would require of you.

Do you have the facilities and financial resources to care for a service dog? Do a budget. Are you able to care for the dog yourself? These are important considerations.

Make a list of the things you cannot do for yourself and write up a paragraph or two describing your lifestyle (are you active or sedentary, for example). Do this before approaching an agency so you'll be prepared to answer their questions and ask some of your own.

Start thinking about what it is that you want this service dog to do to mitigate your disability. In order to be a service dog, the animal must be "individually trained" to "perform one or more tasks which mitigate the disability."

The following do NOT count as trained tasks:

-protection
-emotional support
-companionship (even for agoraphobia or anxiety)

The dog has to actively do something, that you cannot do for yourself,
that also lessens the effects of your disability on your ability to function in the area of major life activities.

First establish you are disabled. Only persons who are legally disabled qualify for a service dog.
Next, contact an organization that trains service dogs. Service Dog Central has an article with links to several lists of service dog trainers around the world, or simply contact Assistance Dogs International for the name of a member organization nearest you.
Though some in the U.S. choose to train their own service dogs or to have a dog trained privately, few have the skills to train such an advanced dog. Therefore most service dogs are from programs that specialize in training service dogs. In most countries other than the U.S. service animals are required to come from ADI accredited programs.

Be sure to check out our series of articles entitled Tips on finding a program or trainer and evaluating the one you've found.

There are several lists of service dog providers on the internet. That's a good place to start, but remember that just because they appear on one of these lists doesn't mean they are qualified or even legitimate. It is still up to you, as the consumer, to do your research and make sure they are what they appear to be.

Service Dog Central also maintains a list of clients from our online community and the programs they've worked with so you can talk with real clients of some programs and get the inside scoop.

Some resources for finding service dog programs:
Assistance Dogs International
The Delta Society
American Dog Trainers Network
Wolfpacks

Resources for finding other dog trainers who might have experience with service dogs:
Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers
National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
Karen Pryor Academy
Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Please note that the above organizations do not screen the programs that they list. You'll have to do that for yourself. I am aware of rip-off organizations in the database, so be careful.

Get additional tips from Delta's National Service Dog Center under Consumer Information for People Considering a Service Dog.

Lists of Guide Dog Schools:
American Foundation for the Blind
National Federation of the Blind
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
American Council of the blind
International Guide Dog Federation

Assistance or service dogs help the disabled. They are generally broken down into three categories, guide dogs, hearing dogs and service dogs (which are for disabilities other than blindness or deafness). There are many kinds of service dogs, almost as many as there are kinds of disabilities.

Some service dogs are mobility dogs for the physically disabled who pick up dropped items, open and close doors, and turn on lights among other things.

There are also dogs that assist with medical-related disabilities, such as neurological, developmental, psychiatric, and diabetic disabilities.

Service dogs are about any breed you can imagine, depending on what job they perform. Larger dogs are used to pull wheel chairs, while smaller dogs might be more convenient for medical alert purposes. It all depends on the specific needs of the person with a disability.

Just about any type of disability might be mitigated by an appropriately trained service dog.

Dogs are highly biddable (enjoy working for people) and trainable. They are readily available and easily cared for. Dogs are capable of performing many useful tasks to help their disabled owners. They are more socially accepted than most other domesticated animals.

As of March 15, 2011, in the US only dogs can be considered service animals under the ADA. That means that only service dogs can be used in public accommodations where pets are not permitted unless permission is given (with some exceptions for specially trained miniature horses). Only dogs can be considered service animals in state services including state owned housing. In most other housing and in commercial flying, service animals can still be of any commonly domesticated species.

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In some cases, yes, but in other cases, no.

The Codes of Federal Regulation for the Americans with Disabilities Act defines "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, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental 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 handler´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 allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and 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."

Under that definition, only specially trained dogs can be service animals. The ADA applies to areas of public access or public places and businesses where pets are not generally permitted. It also applies to state services, including state owned housing. But it does not apply to most other housing.

Under the FHA (covers most housing), Section 504 of the Rehab Act (covers entities receiving federal funds), and the ACAA (covers commercial aircraft, service animals can still be of species other than dogs.

Most other countries recognize only specially trained dogs as service/assistance animals for public access, housing, and flying.

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This is a very complex question. Traditional breeds for service dogs have been German Shepherds (GSD), Labradors, and Golden Retrievers. But nowadays the use of unusual breeds has exploded. Mastiffs are used for mobility work. Chihuahuas are used for diabetic or seizure alert dogs. If the dog has the temperment, skills, and willingness to work; almost any breed could do certain jobs. A corgi wouldn't work out for pulling a wheelchair but but could work as a hearing dog. Breeds like pugs and bulldogs don't always make the best of service dogs due to the pushed in noses--this leads to difficult breathing while walking and a shorter working life. While toy breeds can do some service dog jobs, they are not often taken seriously by store employees and the public, especially if dressed up like someone's child.

Smaller breeds are being used by more disabled people on a fixed income as they eat less and can live happier in a smaller home. A cocker spaniel can alert to a sound just as well as a labrador.

Bully breeds, dobermans, and rottweilers are used as service dogs. This can caused access problems in areas with breed specific legisislation (BSL) aka breed bans. Some cities require service dogs of a banned breed to be muzzled in public. Or you may not be able to purchase a banned breed if you live within city limits.

Housing may also be an issue with a banned breed, or a breed considered "dangerous." In some cases, a landlord can refuse to permit a dog of a certain breed on the premises. See Can a landlord refuse a service dog based on breed?

Although service animals are supposed to be carefully tested for their ability to handle stress (called a temperament test) and should have very steady nerves, ALL animals, no matter how well-behaved, are capable of biting if pushed too hard. However, a temperamentally appropriate dog for service work will not respond violently to the owner being yelled at or the dog being stepped upon or bumped. These are things that can be expected to happen to a service dog during his working life. Yelping, or pulling away from a source of pain, such as being stepped upon, would be an acceptable response, but snapping (ie no physical contact), nipping (light physical contact), or biting would not.

Provocation of a temperamentally appropriate dog for service work would have to be extreme, such as violently striking the handler. A dog that bites with less provocation is probably not temperamentally suited for service work. Any service dog that bites for any reason, including extreme provocation, should be evaluated by a qualified behaviorist before returning to public access work.

In the US, the ADA permits the exclusion from public accommodations of any dog that behaves in a dangerous or threatening manner, and this would certainly include biting, or threatening to bite.

Dogs nap frequently throughout the day. This is true of service dogs as well. Though they are service dogs, they are still dogs and have the same needs as any other dog. A large portion of a service dog's work involves down stays at the owner's side while the owner works at a desk, attends a movie, sits in a waiting room, or eats in a restaurant. This is boring work and service dogs often nap through it. Fortunately, dogs sleep very lightly and are able to quickly rouse themselves and spring into action when needed.

In some countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, yes. In those countries requiring certification, Assistance Dogs International is usually the recognized certifying entity.

In other countries, including the United States, no.

In any case, certification should be done by someone qualified to evaluate service animals (not a regular dog trainer), and it should be based on an evaluation performed in person and in a wide variety of situations.

"Registration" over the internet, accomplished by filling out a form and paying a fee (usually $40-$50), does not qualify a dog as a service dog. It doesn't hold up as proof a dog is a service dog. It's just another rip-off. Save your money and get a real evaluation.

Note: A CGC (Canine Good Citizen certificate), CGN (Canine Good Neighbor certificate), or any of the Good Citizen Dog Schemes certificates do not make a dog a service dog. While any service dog should easily pass a citizenship test, not all dogs who pass the citizenship test will have sufficient training or an appropriate temperament for service work.

Some countries, such as the UK and Australia require service dogs to come from programs recognized by ADI.

In the U.S., there is no national mechanism in place for certifying or licensing service dogs. Some programs certify the dogs they train, but very few will certify dogs trained by others for liability reasons. Certification is not necessary so long as the handler is legally disabled and the dog is legally trained as a service dog (which includes task training).

While a business cannot require certification as a condition of allowing a team to enter their facilities, they may ask what the dog has been trained to do and whether it is required because of a disability. Refusal to answer can result in access denial. If the owner does not answer "the task question" or the dog does not behave appropriately, regardless of whether it has a certificate, the business may have the dog removed.

There are some fly-by-night agencies that will sell "certification" to anyone for a fee: they are a waste of money. Unless the team are examined in person by a qualified evaluator the certificate might just as well be printed on a home computer and laminated, which is exactly what is done by the agencies that sell certification for $40-$250. If you've got to have such a certificate, make your own and save $39 or more.

Remember: certification doesn't make a dog a real service dog any more than a fake ID makes a minor over 21. What makes a dog a real service dog is being trained to perform tasks that mitigate his disabled handler's disability.

According to a study by Paws With a Cause, fewer than one shelter dog in a hundred is capable of becoming a service dog. In their study they found that only one shelter dog in four was even adoptable to start with. Some were reclaimed by owners, while some were ill or temperamentally unsuited to be pets. Only 6.5% of the shelter animals they temperament tested were considered acceptable for service work and were taken for further screening. This 6.5% of shelter dogs had improved chances of adoption even if they did not make it through training to become service dogs because of the work done by the program in evaluating them. That 6.5% weren't necessarily saved but were definitely helped.

Seventy-five percent of the dogs taken for further testing wash out due to hip or elbow dysplasia which wouldn't put them out of the running for a good pet home but would make it cruel to the dog to place them in a working home.

Of the 1.5% of dogs who meet both temperament and health requirements, only 1 in 8 is actually able to complete the training. Those that wash out during the training phase can easily be rehomed into pet homes because the training they do receive makes them excellent well-mannered companions. The waiting list for these dogs is usually years long.

One in 500 makes it from shelter to a job as a service dog, but for each dog that makes it as a service dog seven more are also saved. Animals who make it part way through the program are better trained and more adoptable because of participating in the program. The program also takes an active role in finding the dog a forever home.

When a dog disobeys a command it means he refuses to do it. Intelligent disobedience means he has a valid reason for refusing to do it. For example, if a blind person gives a guide dog a command to "forward" and there is an obstacle in the path that could injure the handler, the dog refuses the forward command. When a guide refuses a command, it is then up to the handler to determine why and work out what to do about it.

Some retired service animals continue to live with their disabled owners or are rehomed with family members as pets.

Some programs have a policy of offering first option to adopt a retired service animal (assuming the disabled hander cannot keep it) to the person who raised it as a puppy.

Other service animals are adopted to loving homes where they live out their final years as beloved pets.

They don't mean to offend, they're just curious. They aren't really interested in your personal condition as much as they are in service dogs and what they can do. They want to hear Lassie stories. They want to tell you their stories about dogs they've loved.

Dealing with curiosity from members of the public is part of using a service dog. Write up some answer that you feel comfortable with and memorize it so you can just spill it out as needed without having to think. If I'm in a hurry I just give a couple of sentences explaining the sorts of things service dogs do and then explain that I appreciate their interest but am in a hurry and don't have time to chat. I don't give any personal information of my own, and people have always been satisfied with that answer.

If I have time and feel like it, especially when I am approached by children, I'll do some educating about service dogs. Things like "ask before petting," "don't distract," and so on.

You can also avoid conversations by not making eye contact with strangers. If you walk into a store with your eyes held up looking at the back wall of the store and move purposefully, you are less likely to be approached because your body language is saying, "I'm busy."

You can also print off brochures, such as the one available from the Delta Society, and just hand that to them to answer their questions.
http://www.deltasociety.org/Document.Doc?id=239 (This is a two-color, three-fold brochure in PDF format)

Please note that businesses are permitted to ask about your service dog, whether you require one because of a disability and what the dog is trained to do for you. They can refuse access if you don't answer, but you certainly don't have to answer a casual bystander who is simply curious.

No. A Muslim person is required to carefully wash and change clothes before praying after contacting a dog's saliva, but a taxi driver should not be exposed to such contact from a service animal, which is highly trained and well-behaved. It is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for a taxi driver to refuse to carry a passenger because they have a service animal.

A service dog is only a service dog when it is partnered with a person with a disability. If you are not disabled, then your pet cannot become a service dog unless you donate him for training as a service dog for someone who is disabled.

Yes. When they are home and their gear is removed they can act like regular dogs. Because service dogs work so hard and have such stressful jobs, it is very important for them to have "down time" and exercise.

Humans have a certain affinity for the young of any species. We have selected through breeding for dogs who maintain a certain juvenile appearance and behavior. Adult wolves do not lick each other in this way. Domestic dogs do because it is something puppies do. Puppies (including wolf puppies) do it to stimulate an adult to regurgitate food for them. Wee pups are not able to chew meat, so adult dogs/wolves chew and partially digest the food for them, regurgitating it for them when needed. Baby birds do something similar when they hold their mouths straight up and wide open. It stimulates the adult birds to feed them. Human babies cry to be fed.

Obviously there is no need for an adult dog to ask for regurgitated food, but we have inadvertently bred this behavior into them while trying to capture other puppyish behaviors.

A therapy dog is not a service dog. It is one that is tested, registered, and insured to go with its owner to visit facilities like hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up patients. Note that like other pets, therapy dogs are only permitted where they are invited. You still have to have permission from the hospital to visit, so it pays to check with the facilities you would like to visit and see what they require. Some will only accept therapy dogs registered with a specific organization.

The top three therapy dog organizations in the U.S. are:
Delta Society
Therapy Dogs International
Therapy Dogs Incorporated

In the UK it's Pets As Therapy (PAT)

Each has it's own test and registration requirements, and each provides liability insurance for its members.

Therapy dog registration is based primarily on temperament. The obedience requirements are minor: walk on a loose leash, sit, down, and come when called are about it. For most well-behaved pets, an eight week course would be sufficient to prepare for a therapy dog test.

German Shepherd Dog Height & Weight Standards
from the F.C.I. Standard

Adult Males:
Height at the wither 60 cm to 65 cm (23.62 inches - 25.59 inches)
Weight 30 kg to 40 kg. (66.14 pounds - 88.18 pounds; Midrange = 77 pounds)

Adult Females:
Height at the wither 55 cm to 60 cm (21.65 inches - 23.62 inches)
Weight 22 kg - 32 kg (48.5 pounds - 70.55 pounds; Midrange = 59.5 pounds)

Average German Shepherd Growth Chart by Weight & Age
Please note: these are averages. Your puppy may grow faster or slower, larger or smaller. Consult your vet for an accurate evaluation of your puppy's development.

 
MALE
 
FEMALE

Age in
Months

Kilogram
(kg.)

Pound
(lb.)

% of
Total

Kilogram
(kg.)

Pound

1
4.2
9.2
12.10
3.3
7.2

2
9.0
19.9
26.18
7.5
16.6

3
14.2
31.3
41.18
12.1
26.7

4
19.0
41.8
55
16.4
36.2

5
22.9
50.6
66.57
20.0
44.0

6
26.1
57.4
75.52
22.7
50.1

7
28.4
62.6
82.36
24.7
54.4

8
30.1
66.4
87.36
26.1
57.5

9
31.5
69.4
91.31
27.1
59.7

10
32.7
72.0
94.73
27.9
61.5

11
33.7
74.3
97.76
28.6
63.1

12
34.5
76.0
100
29.1
64.2

It's a common misconception that dogs age seven years for every year a human ages. This is based on dividing the average dog life expectancy by the average human life expectancy. The problem is that at some points in a dogs life he ages more rapidly than his human counterpart and at other times more slowly.

Dogs typically reach maturity at about 18-24 months. Therefore, it is more accurate to calculate a dog's first two years at 10.5 dog years per year. Eighteen months would be nearly 16 and 24 months would be 21. In adulthood, dogs age more slowly. On average, large dogs age more rapidly than smaller dogs. Dogs even age different rates depending on what breed they are.

Pedigree Dog Age Calculator


For the arithmatically inclined, here are a set of equations for calculating a human equivalent for your dog's age.

These formulas are based on comparing the average life expectancy of an American (80) with the average life expectancy of a dog based on breed. They start with the assumption that a dog of 2 years (24 months) is the equivalent of a 21-year-old human.

for up to age 2: 10.5*Age
Age 2 and above: 21+ [58/(BreedLifeExpectancy-2)]*(Age-2)
Use this chart to get the BreedLifeExpectancy for the calculation above.

These formulas appear to be the same ones used by the Pedigree calculator above. These formulas are included because the Pedigree calculator does have it's limits. According to the formulas, a 14 year old German Shepherd is equivalent to a 103 year old person. While few humans live to 100 and few German Shepherds live to 14, it is possible. Pedigree's calculator choked on that one in testing.

A [b]service dog[/b] is individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of his owner. Training typically takes 18-24 months. Because of his advanced training, a service dog is considered medical equipment and is permitted to accompany his disabled owner to many places where pets are not permitted.

An [b]emotional support animal[/b] belongs to a person who is disabled. The person's doctor has determined that the presence of the animal is necessary for the disabled person's mental health and written a prescription stating the pet is necessary in the person's home, despite any "no pets" regulation of the landlord, for the person's health. Little or no training is required. The owner of an emotional support animal has no more right than any other pet owner to take their emotional support animal with them other to keep one in a home where pets are not permitted or to fly with one in a cabin when pets are not permitted.

A [b]therapy dog[/b] is a pet that has been trained, tested, registered, and insured to accompany his owner to visit patients and residents of facilities like hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the people living there. A well-behaved pet can typically complete training in about 8 weeks. A therapy dog is legally a pet. It is not permitted to go anywhere that pets aren't without permission from the facility owner. The objective of registration is to show facility managers that this dog is well behaved, safe around people, and insured against liability. It is not a license to walk into a hospital or nursing home without permission.

In short: service dog works to help the owner perform tasks he cannot perform on his own because of his disability, an emotional support animal works to improve the health of his owner who is disabled, and the therapy animal works with his owner to improve the health of others.

A dog’s sense of hearing is significantly greater than a human’s. Studies have shown that dogs are capable of perceiving frequencies about twice that of a normal human and can pick up and distinguish sounds roughly four times that of humans. This means that dogs can hear many sounds on frequencies that humans cannot even begin to detect and what a human can hear at 20 feet a dog can hear at roughly 80 feet.

A dog’s sense of smell is said to be approximately 1,000 times more sensitive than a human’s. While humans have 5 million olfactory receptors, dogs have about 220 million, an immense difference. This article goes into detail about the structure and process of the dog’s olfactory system: http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/U/UNP-0066/

Field of vision

Dogs' eyes are placed on the sides of the head. Because of this, they have a visual field of 250 degrees compared with the human field of 190 degrees. This means dogs have the advantage of 60 degrees more peripheral vision than humans.

The central or binocular field of vision in dogs is approximately half of that of humans. The binocular field is where the visual field of both eyes intersect. It's where we can focus and judge the distance of an object. In parts of the field where only one eye can see we don't have good focus and can't judge distance, but we can see movement, color, and shapes. Humans accommodate (focus on items at different distances) better than dogs because of the shape of our lenses, and our greater number of color receptors.

Dogs like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds (breeds commonly used as guide dogs) have a binocular overlap of about 75 degrees compared to about 120 degrees in the human. This is because the humans eyes are set on the front of the head, whereas the dog's eyes are set about 20% apart. Snub nosed dogs have a smaller field of vision.

Receptor cells

There are two types of vision receptor cells: rods, which detect light and dark, and cones, which detect color. Humans have more cones but dogs have more rods. Because dogs have no fovea (or area with 100% cones), it is estimated their eye for detail is 6 times poorer than that of a human. On the other hand, because they have so many more rods than humans, dogs can see in light five times dimmer than humans can.

Rods are the vision receptors that detect dark and light. Think of them as receptors that see black and white television. Though they are not able to distinguish color, they are better than cones at distinguising light from dark, and in perceiving light even when it is dim. Dogs have many more rods than humans have, making their night vision superior to ours.

Color vision

It is a common misconception that dogs are color blind. They are not. They simply see color less strongly than we do (because we have more color receptors) and they only have two kinds of color receptors compared to our three.

Humans posess a macula or central retina area that is 100% cones, whereas the central portion of the dog's retina containes only 20% cones. Therefore, humans are five times more receptive to colors than dogs in the area where the eyes focus best.

Human vision is trichromatic which means our cones come in three colors: 'red', 'green', and 'blue-violet.' Dogs have only two types of cones. Their dichromatic (two color) color vision is similar to that of a human with red-green color-blindness. They distinguish best between yellow and blue, which is why agility obstacles are usually painted in those colors.

Acuity

A dog's visual acuity is approximately 20:80, compared to our 20:20. That means that what we can see clearly at 80 feet a dog can only see clearly when it is within 20 feet. However, certain breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers (commonly used as guide dogs) are bred for better vision and may have visual acuity close to a human's acuity.

Night vision

Dogs start with an advantage in having more rods (light receptors) than humans have. They also have a larger pupil than humans have, which lets more light enter the eye.

Dogs posses a tapetum, a mirror-like structure in the back of the eye that reflects light. This structure bounces the light waves back at the retina a second time, increasing the retina's chance to collect the light. It is the tapetum which causes dogs eyes to glow in the dark.

The tapetum, incidentally, is responsible for the blue glow in dogs eyes when they look right at the camera as a flash goes off. Humans produce "red eye" because the flash is reflected off blood vessels in the back of the eye, but dogs produce "blue eye" (or sometimes green or yellow eye) because of the light reflecting off the tapetum. The exact color reflected off the tapetum depends in part on the color of the dog.

Motion detection

Again because of their high number of rods, dogs are superior to humans in detecting motion. They can even see the flicker as the picture reloads on a television. When dogs recognize a person on sight, it is more likely because he recognizes the typical movements of that person than that he actually recognizes a face.

A therapy dog is not a type of service dog.

Therapy dogs are trained, registered, and insured by a therapy dog program. They visit institutions such as hospitals, schools, and nursing homes, only when invited, for the purposes of cheering up or educating people in those institutions.

A person with a therapy dog has no right to demand access to places where pets are not generally permitted, or to have pet fees, such as deposits, waived. They must have permission from the facilities they visit before they can enter.

Some therapy dog programs include:
The Delta Society
Therapy Dogs International (TDI)
Therapy Dogs, Inc.

In the United States, the legal definition of blindness is visual acuity of not greater than 20/200 in the better eye with correction or a field not subtending an angle greater than 20 degrees.

So what does that mean?

Most people are aware that a person with normal, clear vision sees 20/20. What this means is that the person can see at 20 feet what a normally sighted person can see at 20 feet. Lots of people don't see this well, but their vision can usually be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses (and some with laser surgery) to 20/20. That's what the "correction" clause in the definition of legal blindness means. Even if your vision is 20/200 without your glasses, if it is better with glasses, you are not legally blind.

So what does 20/200 mean? A person with 20/200 vision has to be 20 feet away or closer to something that a person with normal (20/20) vision can see from 200 feet away. This is the equivelent to not being able to see the big "E" on the top of a Snellen eye chart. So, while a person with 20/200 (or worse) vision can see some things, like big shapes, colors, movement, they can't see it in any great detail unless they are very close to it.

The second part of the definition is visual field. Remember, you only need to qualify under one of the parts, although some people qualify under both. A person with normal vision has clear vision in the center, with gradually fuzzier vision that is mostly only good for catching movements and bright colors that shift your eyes focus to whatever it is that got your attention. This fuzzy outer vision is called peripheral vision. Some people, especially people with retinal degeneration diseases like Retinitis Pigmentosa, gradually lose this outer vision as their retina dies. They can still have clear central vision, but because it is so narrow it is restricted to a very small area, like looking through a toilet paper tube. This is called "tunnel vision" and a person is considered legally blind if this tunnel is narrower than 20 degrees.

Another way to have a restricted visual field is through central vision loss, like in macular degeneration. In macular degeneration, vision is lost from the inside out. The person still has peripheral vision, but as stated before, peripheral vision is not very clear. I am not sure how much of central vision needs to be obstructed before a person is considered legally blind, but I would assume it would be very little.

Another way to have a restricted visual field is to have permanent (from retinal degeneration, as in diabetes) or floating (as in people affected by toxoplasmosis in utero) blind spots that obscure vision. These block out spots in both central and peripheral vision.

Most legally blind people are not totally blind, as is commonly thought. Most blind people do have some degree of useful vision.

The answer to this question may be more complicated than you expect. First, there are different definitions of disability in different federal laws. The definition for Social Security Disability Income is not the same as that in the Americans with Disabilities Act (which determines whether you qualify to use a service dog in public places where dogs are not generally permitted). It is possible for an individual to qualify for SSDI and not qualify for a service dog and vice versa. You must evaluate your situation separately for each context.

The definition of disability under the ADA is a legal, not medical, definition. Since a lawyer generally can't diagnose medical conditions and a doctor generally can't interpret the law, you may get stuck somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all out.

We've made a flow chart that incorporates the elements of the definition of disability contained within the ADA to try to help you sort through this question systematically.

You may want to review the legal definition as written by Congress for yourself, or review the entire Americans with Disabilities Act which includes some additional fine points you may notice in our flow chart in other sections.

Ultimately, what we recommend is that you take the flow chart or the written definition with you and discuss it with any doctor who is treating you or has treated you for your disability to get his opinion and to have his opinion entered into your permanent medical records.

AttachmentSize
Flowchart to help determine if you qualify for a service dog176.76 KB

There are several resources for interested sighted people who want to learn braille.

If you just want to see what the basic letters and numbers are, visit the American Foundation for the Blind's Braille Bug website. http://www.afb.org/braillebug/

If you want a more intensive series of lessons that will teach you all of the symbols, contractions and special rules, take a look at the Shodor Foundation's Braille Through Remote Learning website. http://brl.org

If you have a close family member who is blind, you can take a correspondence course from the Hadley School for the Blind. http://hadley.edu

If, after these introductions, you decided that you want to become a certified braille transcriber, you may go through the certification program offered by the Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/nls/bds/courses/index.html

Braille uses several contractions and special symbols to save space. For example, the word braille, when written in braille, is the three letters brl. This is a braille contraction. Some common words like "the" and "and" have a one-character symbol. Common letter combinations like "er" and "ie" also have special symbols. If you look at a sign for a public restroom, you will see that it has only seven letters. This is because "st" is one of the common letter combinations that has its own symbol.

Learning braille is a lot like learning print. Neurologists using FMRI scanners have discovered that skilled braille readers use the same parts of their brains (including the vision parts of the brain!) as sighted people do when they read print.

Young blind children are encouraged to explore different textures with their fingers, much as sighted children are taught to recognize different two-dimensional shapes as preparation for learning the shapes of letters. There are storybooks with tactile pictures and braille text. Even if the child is too young to read the book, following along as an adult reads the story can help the child make the connection between spoken language and the writing on the page. A blind child may spend part of the school day in a resource room with a braille teacher, and the rest of the day with sighted peers doing the same reading and writing activities as the other children, except in braille. Some of the blind child's learning materials will be different from those of his/her peers, to introduce the special symbols and contractions used in braille, but most of them will be the same.

Adults who originally learned to read print but lost their sight later in life have much less work to do. They already know how to read, they just need to use a different alphabet plus a few extra symbols. Some people get braille lessons at an adjustment-to-blindness training program, and some elect to use self-study or correspondence courses. The braille skills and reading speed of people who learn to read braille as adults is tied to how often and for how long they practice their skills.

A blind person's ears don't function any better than a sighted person's ears do, but blind people learn to use their hearing more effectively. It is a learned skill rather than a heightened sensitivity.

When served a meal, a blind person may ask where the different foods are located on the plate. The most common way to describe the location of a particular food on a plate is to think of the plate as the face of an analog clock. The part closest to the diner is 6 o'clock, the far edge is 12 o'clock, the left side is 9 o'clock, and so on. The blind person may also probe discreetly across the plate with a fork. It is fairly easy to distinguish different foods this way.

There are three main tools used by blind and low vision computer users.

The most common is screen reading software, which is a program that, as you might guess, reads out loud what is on the screen. Screen readers don't always work with every other program, or every website, but they are a powerful tool for accessing digital information without needing to ask for the assistance of a sighted person.

In addition to the robot-voice output, some screen readers can also send information to a refreshable braille display. A refreshable braille display is a row of braille cells. Each cell has movable pins that rise up or fall back down to make the shapes of braille characters. Some refreshable braille displays, intended for use with cell phones and pagers, have enough cells to display just one or two words at a time, and some of the larger ones can display up to 80 braille characters at a time.

If the person still has some usable vision, they may elect to use screen magnification software. Screen magnifiers don't just make everything bigger. They can smooth the edges of text, change colors, and add other effects to the display to make it easier for a person with limited vision to use. Some magnifying programs also have a built-in screen reader, or are designed to be compatible with another screen reading program.

Also on the market are braille notetakers. Braille notetakers are computers that are designed to be accessible to blind people. They can best be described as a halfway point between a PDA and a laptop. They usually do not have any kind of visual display, but have audio output and a built-in refreshable braille display. Popular software packages for braille notetakers allow web browsing, email, audiobook playback, word processing, and even GPS navigation.

Being completely blind, with no light perception whatsoever, is extremely rare. Most blind people still get some visual input ranging anywhere from only being able to perceive very bright lights, to quite a lot of vision (the 20/200 threshold of legal blindness).

Most people who have absolutely no light perception are that way because the connection between their eyes and their brain is completely cut off. This is usually because the eyes have been removed, because the optic nerve has been completely severed, or because of brain damage. These people will not see black. Seeing is what your brain does with signals that your eyes send to the brain. If there is no signal, nothing is seen. A good question to ask yourself is, "What can I see with my elbow?" You don't see black with your elbow. You don't see with it at all. There are some exceptions to this.

Sometimes people who are totally blind will "see" flashes of light or color that aren't there. It's just a biological glitch, kind of like the flashes or sparkles people with normal vision see temporarily if they get hit on the head.

Sometimes people who experience vision loss later in life (but not people who were born blind) have a type of non-psychotic hallucination called Charles Bonnet Syndrome. People who have CBS know that the odd things they see are not real, they are simply a brain glitch, and they do not affect any other senses. The hallucinations are usually of tiny versions of everyday objects or people. Because this usually happens to older people, people who have not been told by their doctors about the possibility of CBS may fear that they are developing dementia. Fortunately, CBS is not harmful or degenerative, and is simply a small annoyance that people adjust to over time.

A handicapped stall is not intended to be used solely by people with disabilities. However, since it is the only stall many with disabilities can use, it is important to make it as available for them as possible.

Simple courtesy and common sense suggest the following rules for use of the handicapped stalls in restrooms:

1. If you are pregnant or chaperoning very small children and have a real need for the extra space, AND if no one with a disability is presently in need of it, then use it.

2. If there are other stalls available and do not have a specific need that will prevent you from using a regular stall, then use the regular stall. Use the regular stall even if you would prefer more space and even if you are the only one in the restroom. A person in a wheel chair could come in right behind you and be left waiting even though other stalls are available, just because the only one in the whole restroom she can use is occupied by someone who doesn't even need it.

3. If there are no other stalls available and no person with a disability requiring the special stall is present, then you may use it.

4. If there is a line waiting and someone in the line is disabled and in need of the special stall, that person should be moved to the head of the line and allowed to use the special stall as soon as the current occupant leaves it.

A [b]service dog[/b] is individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of his owner. Training typically takes 18-24 months. Because of his advanced training, a service dog is considered medical equipment and is permitted to accompany his disabled owner to many places where pets are not permitted.

An [b]emotional support animal[/b] belongs to a person who is disabled. The person's doctor has determined that the presence of the animal is necessary for the disabled person's mental health and written a prescription stating the pet is necessary in the person's home, despite any "no pets" regulation of the landlord, for the person's health. Little or no training is required. The owner of an emotional support animal has no more right than any other pet owner to take their emotional support animal with them other to keep one in a home where pets are not permitted or to fly with one in a cabin when pets are not permitted.

A [b]therapy dog[/b] is a pet that has been trained, tested, registered, and insured to accompany his owner to visit patients and residents of facilities like hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the people living there. A well-behaved pet can typically complete training in about 8 weeks. A therapy dog is legally a pet. It is not permitted to go anywhere that pets aren't without permission from the facility owner. The objective of registration is to show facility managers that this dog is well behaved, safe around people, and insured against liability. It is not a license to walk into a hospital or nursing home without permission.

In short: service dog works to help the owner perform tasks he cannot perform on his own because of his disability, an emotional support animal works to improve the health of his owner who is disabled, and the therapy animal works with his owner to improve the health of others.

A psychiatric service animal is individually trained to perform tasks that the owner cannot perform because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Psychiatric service animals, like all other service animals, assist their disabled handlers by performing these tasks. However, while the owner of an emotional support dog must also be disabled, the emotional support dog is not trained to perform tasks to mitigate the owner's disability.

Therapy animals are sometimes confused with psychiatric service animals or emotional support animals. However, therapy animals are something entirely different. A therapy animal is one that is trained, tested, registered, and insured to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes. A person with a therapy animal has no particular right under the ADA to take their animal anywhere pets are not permitted. If the owner wishes to visit a facility like a hospital or nursing home, they must first seek out and receive the permission of administrators at the facility they wish to visit.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which regulates and enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
"The Department is proposing new regulatory text in § 36.104 to formalize its position on emotional support or comfort animals, which is that ''[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional wellbeing are not service animals.'' The Department wishes to underscore that the exclusion of emotional support animals from ADA coverage does not mean that persons with psychiatric, cognitive, or mental disabilities cannot use service animals. The Department proposes specific regulatory text in § 35.104 to make this clear: ''[t]he term service animal includes individually trained animals that do work or perform tasks for the benefit of individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric, cognitive, and mental disabilities.'' This language simply clarifies the Department's longstanding position."
The ADA gives the disabled owner of a service dog the right to be accompanied by his or her service dog to most places where the public are permitted, even if dogs are not generally allowed. However, the owner of an emotional support dog has no particular right to public access and must ask permission of the management to enter with an emotional support animal.
Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, a qualified person with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation in the form of a modification of rules against the keeping of pets in order to keep EITHER a service animal or an emotional support animal.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, a qualified person with a disability may be accompanied in the cabin of an air craft by either a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal if they have the proper documentation from their doctor.

These are basic templates that someone might use as a guidance for writing to his or her landlord requesting an exception to "no pets" rules to accommodate an emotional support animal. Please feel free to use and change these samples to suit your own needs.

The first sample is for a person already living in a rental unit and wanting to get a new emotional support animal. The second sample is for someone who already has an emotional support animal and is wanting to acquire a new rental unit.

Existing landlord, new ESA

May 26, 2008

Adelaide Bonfamille, Building Manager
231 Main Street
Dallas, TX 03909

Dear Mrs. Bonfamille:

I am a tenant at 231 Main Street in unit #363. I have a psychiatric disability that hinders my ability to live alone. Although the rules say that there is a 'no pets' policy, my doctor has prescribed an emotional support animal to ensure my emotional well being. I am therefore requesting a reasonable accommodation under the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 3601, et seq.).

I have attached verification from my psychiatrist of my disability and the functional limitations I experience, as well as my doctor's prescription for an emotional support animal to help me compensate for my disability.

As my doctor's letter states, because of my disability, I am unable to sleep, stop shaking, socialize, hold a job or care for myself because of my severe anxiety. I am asking that you modify your existing pet rules to permit me to have an emotional support animal as recommended by my doctor. The presence of a companion animal would help me greatly in living through the troubles that I face every day by providing needed companionship, emotional support and a reason for living.

Please send your reply in writing about this request for accommodation within ten business days or by June 9th. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to receiving your reply.

Sincerely,
Norville Rogers

Existing ESA, new landlord

May 26, 2008

Adelaide Bonfamille, Building Manager
231 Main Street
Dallas, TX 03909

Dear Mrs. Bonfamille:

I am applying to become a tenant at 231 Main Street in unit #363. I have a psychiatric disability that hinders my ability to live alone. Although the rules say that there is a 'no pets' policy, my doctor has prescribed an emotional support animal to ensure my emotional well being. I am therefore requesting a reasonable accommodation under the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 3601, et seq.).

I have attached verification from my psychiatrist of my disability and the functional limitations I experience, as well as my doctor's prescription for an emotional support animal to help me compensate for my disability. I have also included references attesting to my emotional support animal's good behavior, and a pet resume.

As my doctor's letter states, because of my disability, I am unable to sleep, stop shaking, socialize, hold a job or care for myself because of my severe anxiety. I am asking that you modify your existing pet rules to permit me to keep my emotional support animal, Scooby, as recommended by my doctor. The presence of a companion animal would help me greatly in living through the troubles that I face every day by providing needed companionship, emotional support and a reason for living.

Please send your reply in writing about this request for accommodation within ten business days or by June 9th. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to receiving your reply.

Sincerely,
Norville Rogers

No.

Intentionally choosing a dog who doesn't do what the vast majority of dogs do naturally, just to come up with something to teach it to justify it as a service dog is silly. People aren't going to fall for it.

Aside from the silliness factor, it is mean-spirited to the dog to make him do something he obviously doesn't want to do just to exploit a perceived loop hole.

The vast majority do, but that isn't want makes them service dogs.

The vast majority of doctors wear shoes, but wearing shoes doesn't make them doctors.

Please remember that we cannot offer legal advice here. These are the steps others have used with success. They may work for you too or they may not. If you need legal advice on your specific situation, you should consult a qualified attorney.

1. Get a prescription from your doctor.

Consult a doctor for an evaluation on whether you have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Ask the doctor if he or she believes the presence of an emotional support animal would be necessary for your mental health. If the doctor believes you are disabled and you need an emotional support animal (ESA), ask him/her to write a letter addressed to your landlord to that effect or to write you a prescription for an emotional support animal.

2. Print out the Bazelon article Fair Housing Information Sheet # 6 Right to Emotional Support Animals in "No Pet" Housing

3. Write a "request for accommodation" letter

4. Send a copy of the prescription and the Brazelon info sheet, along with your letter, to the landlord. Send this CERTIFIED, RETURN RECEIPT.

5. Assuming you have already spoken with your landlord and been denied, do not speak to the landlord informally about this again. Insist that all discussion on the matter be by mail or email (so you have a record of who said what and when).

These steps resolve the issue for most people. If it does not work for you, consider filing a complaint with HUD or hiring an attorney to file a civil suit against the landlord.

Consider carefully how filing suit might effect your relationship with your landlord. It may be healthier to find a different place to live that is more accepting of ESAs.

Most people who have filed suit have reported that whether they win or not the experience was the most stressful event of their lives.

In most cases: yes, but there are exceptions.

Most cases involving housing and persons with disabilities are covered under the Fair Housing Amendments Act. Some are covered under section 504 of the Rehab Act, and some under the Americans with Disabilities act.

To learn whether any of these laws applies in your own situation, consult a qualified attorney, your state's Attorney General, your state's Human Rights Commission, or the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Housing (10)

In some specific cases, yes.

For example, if the landlord can show that permitting a dog of a certain breed to reside on the premises would substantially increase his insurance premiums or cause his insurance carrier to drop him, then it would generally be considered an undue burden on the landlord and he can refuse to permit the dog even if it is a fully trained service dog. See attachment.

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2006-06-12 HUD memo on insurance policy restrictions related to reasonable accommodations.PDF16.18 KB

Generally, no, but there are a few exceptions. Most often this situation is covered under the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), assuming it's a regular type of landlord (a private business or person who owns at least four residential units, ie houses/apartments). Churches are exempt as are a few others.

Plain English version of the FHAA: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/yourrights.cfm
(Scroll down to "Additional Protection if You Have a Disability," not quite half way down the page)

Legal version of the FHAA: http://www.justice.gov/crt/housing/title8.php

Short version of the relevant passage:

§ 3604. Discrimination in the sale or rental of housing and other prohibited practices.
[I]it shall be unlawful ... to discriminate in the sale or rental ... to any buyer or renter because of a handicap of ... any person associated with that buyer or renter.

In my own experience, typically all that is needed is a phone call to let the landlord know that a person with a disability will be visiting and will be accompanied by their service dog. This is NOT required, but is a simple courtesy that can save headaches on both sides. Landlords appreciate knowing in advance (when possible) that a service dog will be visiting because it prepares them to answer questions from other tenants along the lines of, "Why is it Susie Jones gets to have a dog and I'm not allowed?"

Here's a sample letter I made up for a tenant with a service animal requesting an exemption to a "no pets" rule: http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/285 A tenant with a visitor with a service dog might be able to take some ideas from it and tweak it to work for their purposes if needed.

In most cases: yes, but there are exceptions.

Most cases involving housing and persons with disabilities are covered under the Fair Housing Amendments Act. Some are covered under section 504 of the Rehab Act, and some under the Americans with Disabilities act.

To learn whether any of these laws applies in your own situation, consult a qualified attorney, your state's Attorney General, your state's Human Rights Commission, or the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is a complicated question that should be answered by a qualified attorney. Some Federal laws, such as the Fair Housing Amendments Act, Section 504 of the Rehab Act, or Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act may protect some people with disabilities from being evicted because of a service dog. Not all rental housing is covered by a disability law. A qualified attorney can determine whether you qualify under any of these laws and whether or not your landlord is exempted under them.

Contrary to popular belief, some landlords ARE exempt from the regulations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act. The exceptions include (a) buildings with four or fewer units where the landlord lives in one of the units, and (b) private owners who do not own more than three single family houses, do not use real estate brokers or agents, and do not use discriminatory advertisements. The FHAA also does not apply to publicly owned (government owned) housing or to section 8 housing. Other laws, such as Section 508 of the Rehab Act and Title II of the ADA may apply in some cases. Consult a qualified attorney to learn which laws if any apply in your specific situation.

Service animals are not pets. However, you should still notify the landlord from the start that you have a service animal.

Bear in mind that regulations in housing are not the same as they are for public access. Though a business cannot ask you for proof of disability or proof of training for the service animal, a landlord may. This is because the duration of the relationship between landlord and tenant is much greater than that between merchant and customer.

In a situation where the landlord has a "no pets" policy in place, you are required to submit a letter requesting a reasonable accommodation making an exception to the "no pets" rule to permit you to keep a service animal.

Access in housing is different than public access. While they could not ask for proof of training in a grocery store, they may be able to in a landlord/tenant situation. This is because the duration of the relationship between landlord and tenant is much longer than that between merchant and customer.

Here is a sample letter requesting a modification in pet policies to permit a person with a disability to have a trained service dog reside with them: http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/285

If the dog is an emotional support animal, rather than a service animal, use this sample letter instead: http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/215

This is a sample Letter to share with your doctor as an example of the letter needed from a physician for housing. It should be on the doctor's letterhead and dated less than a year previous to it's submission to the landlord. Choose the format appropriate for your need, either ESA, or SD below.

It is YOUR choice whether to reveal the specific diagnosis or nature of your disability. However, the landlord has a right to request information about how this accommodation will mitigate your disability. In the case of a service dog, it would be similar to the task question that can be asked in public accommodations. Simply modify the sample as needed to suit your individual needs.


for an ESA

[date]

Dear [Housing Authority/Landlord]:

[Full Name of Tenant] is my patient, and has been under my care since [date]. I am intimately familiar with his/her history and with the functional limitations imposed by his/her disability. He/She meets the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Due to [name of disability], [first name] has certain limitations regarding [list limitations]. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his/her ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit you own and/or administer, I have prescribed [first name] obtain a pet or emotional support animal. The presence of this animal is necessary for the mental health of [first name] because its presence will alleviate her symptoms of [list symptoms] by [list benefits].

Sincerely,

Name of Doctor


for a service dog

[date]

Dear [Housing Authority/Landlord]:

[Full Name of Tenant] is my patient, and has been under my care since [date]. I am intimately familiar with his/her history and with the functional limitations imposed by his/her disability. He/She meets the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Due to [name of disability], [first name] has certain limitations regarding [list limitations]. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his/her ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit you own and/or administer, I support [first name]'s decision to obtain a service animal. A service animal will help to mitigate his/her disability and improve independence and quality of life.

Sincerely,

Name of Doctor

Sample Letter from a doctor (should be on the doctor's letterhead)

[date]

Dear [Housing Authority/Landlord]:

[Full Name of Tenant] is my patient, and has been under my care since [date]. I am intimately familiar with his/her history and with the functional limitations imposed by his/her disability. He/She meets the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Due to [name of disability], [first name] has certain limitations regarding [list limitations]. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his/her ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit you own and/or administer, [first name] uses a service animal which is individually trained to perform tasks which mitigate her disability, including [list tasks].

Sincerely,

Name of Doctor

This is a basic template that someone might use as a guidance for writing to his or her landlord requesting an exception to "no pets" rules, or pet restriction rules, to accommodate a service animal. Please feel free to use and change this sample to suit your own needs.

August 1, 2008

Adelaide Bonfamille, Building Manager
231 Main Street
Dallas, TX 03909

Dear Mrs. Bonfamille:

I am a tenant at 231 Main Street in unit #363. I have a disability and a service animal as defined Under the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 3601, et seq.). Scooby, my service dog, is trained to open doors and retrieve items I cannot retrieve for myself.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act requires that landlords modify "no pets" policies or policies restricting types of pets to permit trained service animals to reside with their disabled handlers. I am therefore requesting that you modify those rules to permit me to have my trained service dog reside with me.

I have attached verification from my doctor that I am disabled and use a service animal.

Please send your reply in writing about this request for accommodation within ten business days or by August 11. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to receiving your reply.

Sincerely,
Norville Rogers

Sample doctor's letter to accompany request for accommodation

Wanting to get around "no pets" policies really isn't the right reason for getting a service dog. Persons with disabilities get service dogs because they need help to live independent lives.

The legal requirements for having a service dog can be rigorous. The landlord can require proof of disability and proof the dog is trained as a service dog. In one court case, a judge even ruled that a landlord can require the tenant to submit to examination by a doctor of the landlord's choosing to determine disability.

Forcing a landlord to accept a dog in spite of a "no pets" rule can lead to hostile feelings between landlord and tenant. It can become very stressful knowing the landlord is constantly on the lookout for any excuse possible to terminate the residency. There may also be criminal penalties for making false claims. In some states this includes fines and/or jail time.

It is usually more prudent to persuade the landlord to accept the pet with a Pet resume or find pet-friendly housing.

Laws (20)

There is overlap between the two terms. Legally it is not relevant which the service dog does, so long as he does one or the other or some of both. A service dog's legitimacy is not determined based on whether he does one or the other or both. It's a little puzzling why we get so many requests for an explanation of the differences between the two when the differences aren't what matters.

First, what they have in common:
1. must be individually trained (not natural behaviors of dogs such as needing to be walked or turning their head when they hear a sound, emotional support, or companionship)
2. must mitigate the person's disability (ie be something the person's disability prevents or substantially limits them from being able to do for themselves)

A task is an individual, discrete (a complete stand alone unit), specific thing that needs doing. It has one cue and one result. It might be a simple behavior or a complex one with multiple steps, but there is always a single objective. Examples of tasks include: opening doors, picking up dropped items, and notifying the handler of the sound of the doorbell.

Work is a broader term that may include any of the following:
1. a group of related tasks (such as hearing work consisting of signalling for several different individual sounds with a different response for each sound)
2. a trained behavior that has a decision tree where the outcome is not always the same but requires the dog to evaluate different options and choose the correct one (such as guiding around obstacles)

Here are some examples from the human world to demonstrate the differences:

Housekeeping tasks include: doing the dishes, taking out the trash, washing the windows, doing the laundry, doing the dusting, cleaning the toilet. When you take all of these tasks together or some random assortment from the list, you call them "housework." The term "housework" is more broad than "house keeping tasks," but they're both still about the same thing which is cleaning the house.

Secretarial tasks include: filing, answering the phone, typing, making appointments for clients, sending out billing statements. Secretarial work is some combination of the above. It describes generally what a secretary does during the day without listing off what that secretary did on that one specific day in detail.

Notice the item "making appointments for clients?" Depending how that is executed and viewed by the person making the appointments, you could make a case that it is a task with a single result (an appointment is made) or that it is work because it involves a decision tree (when the appointment is made is going to depend on several different factors unique to each appointment that is made). That's because there is no concrete, black and white, hard line between the two terms. They are similar and they overlap. And that's why it makes very little sense to try to determine whether an individual service dog does work or does tasks. The vast majority probably do some of each along a spectrum that has guide dogs doing work nearer one end and wheelchair dogs doing tasks nearer the other.

The answer to this question may be more complicated than you expect. First, there are different definitions of disability in different federal laws. The definition for Social Security Disability Income is not the same as that in the Americans with Disabilities Act (which determines whether you qualify to use a service dog in public places where dogs are not generally permitted). It is possible for an individual to qualify for SSDI and not qualify for a service dog and vice versa. You must evaluate your situation separately for each context.

The definition of disability under the ADA is a legal, not medical, definition. Since a lawyer generally can't diagnose medical conditions and a doctor generally can't interpret the law, you may get stuck somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all out.

We've made a flow chart that incorporates the elements of the definition of disability contained within the ADA to try to help you sort through this question systematically.

You may want to review the legal definition as written by Congress for yourself, or review the entire Americans with Disabilities Act which includes some additional fine points you may notice in our flow chart in other sections.

Ultimately, what we recommend is that you take the flow chart or the written definition with you and discuss it with any doctor who is treating you or has treated you for your disability to get his opinion and to have his opinion entered into your permanent medical records.

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Flowchart to help determine if you qualify for a service dog176.76 KB

YES. While businesses are generally permitted only to ask whether the dog is a service animal required because of disability and what the animal has been trained to do, there are instances when more extensive proof can be required.

If you file a complaint about discrimination, proof of disability and proof of training will be required. If you appear in court and you claim to be disabled and claim your dog is a service dog as part of the case you are involved in, then you will have to provide proof that your claims are true. A court will not simply take your word for it.

If you are arrested for trespass for bringing an animal into a place where pets are not permitted, your affirmative defense may be that the animal in question is a service dog, but again, you will have to prove that is the case.

Proof may include:
Medical records from any medical providers treating you for your disability or for aspects of your disability.
SSDI determination.
SD certification from a recognized/accredited program.
Training logs if owner-trained.
Independent evaluation of your dog's training by a qualified trainer.
Certificates attesting to training and temperament, such a training class completion certificates, an obedience title or certificate, a CGC certificate, etc.
Video demonstrations of the dog's training.
In person demonstrations of the dog's training.

See also: http://www.adagreatlakes.org/Publications/Legal_Briefs/BriefNo015Service...

On July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising the Department’s ADA regulations, including a revised definition of “service animal.” This final rule was published in the Federal Register September 15, 2010, and the effective date is six months after that publication (March 15, 2011).

Read more about the changes here:
http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/297

The Codes of Federal Regulation for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 state,

"Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items."

This definition is currently under review. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" indicating the Department's intent to modify this definition to read:

"Service animal means any dog or other common domestic animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, assisting an individual during a seizure, retrieving medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and assisting individuals, including those with cognitive disabilities, with navigation. The term service animal includes individually trained animals that do work or perform tasks for the benefit of individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric, cognitive, and mental disabilities. The term service animal does not include wild animals (including nonhuman primates born in captivity), reptiles, rabbits, farm animals (including any breed of horse, miniature horse, pony, pig, or goat), ferrets, amphibians, and rodents. Animals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals."

As of July 2009, this change has not been made officially and has not gone into effect.
Some other laws, especially some state laws, may use a different legal definition of "service animal." Consult a qualified attorney to learn which law and which definition apply in your specific situation.

There are several qualifications to having a service dog.

1. You must be disabled. Under ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; OR (2) has a record of such an impairment; OR (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

2. Your dog must be very good with basic obedience and be able to pass a Canine Good Citizen test or similar.

3. Your must be able to pass a Public Access Test (PAT) to show that they can behave in public and not bark at skateboards, vacuum up the floor, etc. These are available at www.iaadp.org and other service dog websites. They can be administered by a dog trainer (more qualified) or by a friend(less qualified).

4. Very important-your dog must be specially task-trained to mitigate your disability. A list of tasks can be found at www.iaadp.org but it is not an exhaustive list. Giving comfort and kisses are not tasks, these are natural things dogs do. Tasks may include guiding the blind, alerting the deaf to noises, mobility work, alerting to blood sugar drops, picking up items, pulling a wheelchair, alerting to panic attacks and many more.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "The term service animal includes individually trained animals that do work or perform tasks for the benefit of individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric, cognitive, and mental disabilities." However, "[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals."

So yes, there are service animals for people with mental disabilities but like all other types of service dog they must be trained to perform tasks in order to qualify as service animals.

Remember that just having a mental illness doesn't make a person disabled. An impairment such as mental illness must substantially limit a person's ability to function in order to be considered a disability.

According to Service Dog Central, "It is not enough to have a mental illness to qualify as a person with a disability under the ADA. According to the NIMH, 26.2% of adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental illness in any given year, but only 6% are severely mentally ill. So more than three quarters of those with a diagnosed mental illness are not disabled by that illness and would not qualify to use a service animal even if they would benefit from one."

No. The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to state and municipal courts, but not to federal courts. Each federal court judge may decide whether to permit a service animal to enter his or her court.

U.S. federal law recognizes an animal as a service animal once it is trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of a disabled owner, without regard for how that animal got trained. It is therefore possible to train a service dog without a license. However, in some states only licensed trainers from recognized programs are afforded the same public access rights as people with disabilities with fully trained service dogs. Consult your state's Attorney General for information on whether private trainers have public access rights for training. If not, you may only train in facilities that have given you permission.

In the U.S., yes, but in most other countries, no. Regardless of who trains the dog he must be correctly trained. Few pet owners would have the level of skill required to produce a true working dog.

A service dog must receive adequate training in three areas: obedience, tasks, and public access. He should be reliable in obeying commands at least 90% of the time on the first command.

He should sit, down, come, stay, and heel properly. Dogs must show manners including:
no aggression
no inappropriate barking
no biting
no snapping/growling
no inappropriate jumping on strangers
no begging
no inappropriate sniffing of people.

Many people don't understand what proper heeling is, and it's actually the hardest thing to train a dog to do properly. It doesn't mean pulling a dog around on a leash. It means the dog knows where he is supposed to be relative to the person and maintains that position with a loose leash, or with no leash at all. Typically this position is next to the handler's left leg, with the dog's ear at about level with the leg and without varying more than 24 inches in any direction from that position regardless of how the handler moves (starting, stopping, turning, stepping back, etc.).

By legal definition, he must be trained to perform tasks which mitigate his handler's disability. In order to mitigate the disability, these tasks must be something the handler cannot do because of his disability. For example, opening doors for a person unable to use her hands. Any dog, no matter how well trained, who does not perform tasks that mitigate his disabled owner's disability, is not a service dog. Note that the owner must be legally disabled. That means they have an impairment that substantially limits their ability to function in things considered to be of central importance to people's lives, like seeing, hearing, thinking, walking, and using their hands.

Finally, the dog's training must be proofed and generalized so that he continues to work reliably, obeying commands on the first command at least 90% of the time when working in distracting environments, such as stores or restaurants. Proofing (distraction training) is actually the bulk of service dog training and it starts at home and at the dog training facility with distractions like food, toys and noises. Once the proofing is solid the dog is taken to various venues for generalization, or learning to apply what he has learned in different locations.

The ADA does not give public access rights to trainers. That means that unless your state gives public access rights to trainers and also recognizes private trainers or owner-trainers (as opposed to trainers for recognized programs), then you must ask permission of a store or restaurant before entering with a service-dog-in-training. See link below for information on state laws concerning service animals.

Minimum Standards for Service Dogs
IAADP Minimum Standards for Public Access
Minimum Standards for Training Service Dogs

A psychiatric service animal is individually trained to perform tasks that the owner cannot perform because of a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Psychiatric service animals, like all other service animals, assist their disabled handlers by performing these tasks. However, while the owner of an emotional support dog must also be disabled, the emotional support dog is not trained to perform tasks to mitigate the owner's disability.

Therapy animals are sometimes confused with psychiatric service animals or emotional support animals. However, therapy animals are something entirely different. A therapy animal is one that is trained, tested, registered, and insured to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes. A person with a therapy animal has no particular right under the ADA to take their animal anywhere pets are not permitted. If the owner wishes to visit a facility like a hospital or nursing home, they must first seek out and receive the permission of administrators at the facility they wish to visit.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which regulates and enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
"The Department is proposing new regulatory text in § 36.104 to formalize its position on emotional support or comfort animals, which is that ''[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional wellbeing are not service animals.'' The Department wishes to underscore that the exclusion of emotional support animals from ADA coverage does not mean that persons with psychiatric, cognitive, or mental disabilities cannot use service animals. The Department proposes specific regulatory text in § 35.104 to make this clear: ''[t]he term service animal includes individually trained animals that do work or perform tasks for the benefit of individuals with disabilities, including psychiatric, cognitive, and mental disabilities.'' This language simply clarifies the Department's longstanding position."
The ADA gives the disabled owner of a service dog the right to be accompanied by his or her service dog to most places where the public are permitted, even if dogs are not generally allowed. However, the owner of an emotional support dog has no particular right to public access and must ask permission of the management to enter with an emotional support animal.
Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, a qualified person with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation in the form of a modification of rules against the keeping of pets in order to keep EITHER a service animal or an emotional support animal.
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, a qualified person with a disability may be accompanied in the cabin of an air craft by either a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support animal if they have the proper documentation from their doctor.

Check that country's Consular Information Sheet to find contact information of who to ask for that specific country. You can also check Service Dog Central. See links below.

Service Dog Central's collection of international assistance dog laws
Consular Information Sheets
Service Dog Central's information on international travel with a service or assistance animal

Service animals are those which are individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of a disabled owner. If the owner is not disabled or the dog is not trained to mitigate the owner's disability, then the dog is not a service dog. Additionally, animals with attack training can be barred from any facility that bans weapons, concealed or otherwise.

Certification means that the dog has been tested and shown to meet certain minimum standards.

Most countries only recognize service animals from approved programs. In those countries the programs certify their own dogs.

There are no standards or procedures for certifying a service animal under U.S. federal law. Certification is not required as a condition of using an animal as a service animal. However, the person using the animal must meet the legal (not medical) definition of "disability" and their dog must be individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the owner's disability. They must also have sufficient training to behave appropriately in public (no barking, making unwanted contact with other members of the public, or disrupting business by misbehaving). Service animals who pose a direct threat to others by growling, lunging, or otherwise menacing people can be barred from public access.

Fake certification is for sale over the Internet. You can check whether a certificate is from a legitimate service dog program or a scam business selling fake certification by doing a Google search on the name of the certifying agency. If it's a scam, it will be apparent from a quick review of their website because they will sell their certification to anyone for a fee without ever actually training or evaluating the dog themselves. These organizations prey on the disabled, selling them something they don't need for $40-$250 that they could produce at a copy center for under $5 (if they did need it, which they don't). They are a haven for pet owners wanting an easy way get a pet into motels, on planes, or to take Fifi shopping on a lark. These businesses do a great disservice to real service dog teams by bluffing business owners into accepting ill-behaved pets as trained service animals and by taking money out of the pockets of the disabled themselves. These fakers in turn diminish the reputation of real teams by behaving inappropriately.

Real service animals don't need certification. A business may verify an animal is a service animal by asking whether it is required because of the person's disability and what the dog is trained to do to mitigate that disability. They may ask this regardless of whether a dog is "certified," and an owner who refuses to answer can be barred from the facility.


A license is something that all dogs are required to have. Individual states, counties or cities may provide licenses in accordance with their own laws or ordinances. Service animals are not exempt from any licensing requirements of local authorities. If dogs residing inside the city limits are required to wear a city license tag, then this also applies to service dogs. In some states, counties, or cities, special service animal licenses are available in lieu of a regular dog tag, but they cannot be required as a condition of access. Some localities also waive the licensing fees for service animals, but this varies.


Service animal registration is a scam. It is a for profit business. It's purpose is to make money at the expense of gullible people with disabilities and those who just want it easier to break laws. Registration means nothing because the dog is never evaluated, never even seen by the agency issuing the registration. It's just a piece of paper that any idiot can buy for between $40 and $250 dollars and that could just as easily be printed on a home computer for a few cents. Registration scams exist primarily to help pet owners pass off their pets as service animals so they can get them on airplanes, into motels, and into stores with them. Real service animals don't need this kind of registration.

It depends on what you mean by "work." If you mean specific behaviors or a set of specific behaviors, that the dog is trained to perform that mitigate your disability, such as guiding, then the dog may be a service dog.

Unfortunately, some people look for loopholes to excuse them from actually having to qualify either as disabled or as having a trained service dog. They try to convince themselves that the training requirement doesn't apply if the dog does something that benefits them, such as getting them out of the house for exercise. However, wishing something doesn't make it so.

The ADA generally applies to the public areas of schools. There are exceptions, including schools owned by religious entities that do not receive federal funding.

Public areas of schools generally include administrative offices, the gymnasium during a public sporting event, the auditorium during a public exhibition, or the cafeteria during a public fund raising pancake supper. The class rooms themselves are generally not considered public areas of the school and therefore would not be covered under Title III of the ADA.

If a parent wishes his or her child to attend public school with a service animal, the first step would be to add the service animal to the child's IEP (Individual Education Plan), under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). If the school is not willing to permit the service animal, the parent(s) can appeal to the Department of Education.

Official IDEA site
reference to guide dog
Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Complaints against public schools should be addressed first to the local school district and then to the state department of education.

Colleges and universities (and other postsecondary education institutions such as vocational-technical schools) operate with considerable autonomy and with some state supervision. Therefore, you should start by contacting your state department of higher education to find out how they can help you resolve your problem.

How to File a Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights

Title I of the ADA applies to the workplace. It's not exactly the same as Title III which applies to public accommodations in that access is not necessarily automatic. You may have to provide your employer with proof of your disability and need for a service animal in the form of a letter from your treating physician. Other state and federal laws may also apply in some instances.

Additional Reading:

A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Service Employers
Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Issues involving employment and service animals should be directed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To find the EEOC office near you, check the EEOC web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/offices.html.
You also can call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000/1-800-669-6820 (TTY).

You can find these items with a simple internet search, but before you do, consider this:

Special gear like harnesses, vests or capes, or special ID or notes from doctors do not make a dog a service dog. Trying to pass off a dog that isn't actually trained as a service dog and actually working for a person with a disability or faking a disability is illegal and may result in prosecution, fines, jail time and/or loss of future benefits.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines disability in the Codes of Federal Regulations:

"Disability means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment."

The "third prong" is "being regarded as having such an impairment."

The premise is that even if a person isn't disabled, if they can convince others to think they are, perhaps by telling them so and using a service dog, then that makes the disabled under the ADA and they actually do qualify for a service dog. Yes, it's circular logic and not actually true.

Several courts have ruled that a service dog must be individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of their handler. Without an actual disability, there is no disability to mitigate, and no tasks that can be trained that mitigate the non-existing disability. Without trained tasks that mitigate the disability, the dog is not a service dog.

The ADA wasn't meant to create a privileged class that has rights over and above those of other citizens. On the contrary: it was created in an attempt to give those with fewer rights than other citizens a leg up to a more equitable existence. A blind person who uses a guide dog is using that dog to compensate for his lack of sight. A guide dog is a poor substitute for actually being able to see, but it is one of the better compensations available. Legitimately disabled people would gladly retire their service dogs to pet status in exchange for being able to do for themselves the simple things in life that everyone else takes for granted.

People mean-spirited enough to dig for a ridiculous loop hole like this one deserve every legal consequence of impersonating a person with a disability in order to gain rights or benefits not due them. Fortunately, there are laws in place to punish such people with fines, prison terms, and/or loss of future benefits (such as Medicare, Social Security Benefits, Food Stamps, etc.).

Generally guide, hearing and service dogs are permitted to accompany their disabled owner everywhere members of the public are allowed, but there are a few exceptions. For example, a member of the public would be permitted in the dining area of a restaurant, but not in the kitchen. Therefore, a guide dog would be permitted to accompany his disabled owner in the dining area of a restaurant.
It is also an important distinction to note that it is the handler who has access rights and not the dog. A guide dog without his blind handler has no particular access rights of his own and neither does a hearing dog or other service dog without his disabled handler.
"Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos." -- U.S Department of Justice.
For clarification, contact the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA Information Line at 800 - 514 - 0301 (voice) or 800 - 514 - 0383 (TTY)
In the U.S., according to the Department of Justice's Business Brief concerning Service Animals, business owners/managers can ask 2 specific questions. 1) Is this a service dog required because of a disability? and 2) What task(s) is the dog trained to perform? If these questions are not appropriately answered, the business may exclude the animal, but not the person.
Though service animals of all kinds can legally accompany their disabled handler almost anywhere the handler goes, they can be excluded from areas where their presence would constitute either a fundamental alteration of goods and services available for all or a direct threat to safety. Examples where a service animal might be excluded include:

-Sterile rooms, such as operating rooms, some areas of emergency rooms/departments, some ICU rooms, some ambulances, some delivery rooms (on a case-by-case basis)
-Clean rooms where microchips are manufactured
-Places where food is prepared (though they cannot generally be excluded from dining areas where food is present) (by order of most health departments)
-Open air zoological exhibits, such as open air aviaries (at the zoo's discretion)
-Churches (at the church's discretion)
-Native American Tribal Council Chambers (at the council's discretion)
-Federal Courts (at the judge's discretion)
-Jail or prison cells (at the discretion of the facility director)
-Private clubs (at the club's discretion)
-Private homes (at the home owner's discretion)
So far, this discussion is centered entirely on laws of access in the United States of America. Other countries will have their own laws in place regarding the access rights of individuals accompanied by a service animal.

It depends on the age of the dog and where the dog is in training. If he has the fundamentals down and is working on proofing (performing learned behaviors in spite of distraction) then an active place like a busy shopping center might be a good place to find those distractions to practice ignoring.

If it's a pup being socialized and he's confident and outgoing, a busy shopping center gives ample opportunity to meet new people.

The key is to do it at the right points in the dog's development or training. Overfacing a dog by putting them into a situation too stressful or too distracting for them to process will only slow or damage socialization or training.

Remember that a vest doesn't make a dog a service dog. Claiming a dog is a service dog when you are not disabled, or when the dog is not individually trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disability is a criminal offense that can result in fines and or jail time.

Most legitimate teams get their vests from the programs that train their dogs. Those who are qualified to train dogs for themselves (ie have the experience and skill), generally know where to get the gear.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires zoos to modify their policies regarding outside animals to permit the use of a service animal. However, the zoo is permitted to restrict service animals from open air exhibits, such as aviaries visitors can enter and interact with the exhibits.

The short answer: It is up to the individual business to decide whether or not to permit their shopping carts to be used for transporting dogs, including service dogs. They are not required to permit it and in some cases might not be able to permit it even if they wanted to due to local health codes.

Also see
Must stores permit a service dog to ride in a shopping cart?
Is it okay to have a small service dog in your lap in a restaurant or in a pouch/purse/carrier in a restaurant or grocery store?
Special considerations for owners of small or large service dogs

Don't choose aisle seating. People crawl over you to get down the row or trip over your dog in the aisle because they aren't looking where they are going or can't see the dog because the lights are down. Choose putting him on the floor under your feet even if it is a squeeze over putting him in an aisle.

Center of the row is generally best because fewer people will try to squeeze past to seats on the other side of you. If there is a seat available next to an empty wheelchair slot, that's ideal because you can put your dog out of foot traffic in the wheel chair slot. Take a light colored towel or rug for him to lie on. They're hard to see in the dark and the light colored mat makes them a bit more visible. It also keeps them from getting sticky from sodas spilled on the floor.

Oh, and if any performers will be going out into the audience, give the director a heads up a dog will be there. Mr. Mephisto from Cats would have gotten quite a shock whizzing around a wall to stare at us with glowing eyes if he hadn't been warned in advance that he'd come face-to-face with a German Shepherd (who was harmless). Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie came close to creaming my dog at another performance walking down the aisle in the dark singing. That's how I learned the hard way not to put them in the aisle.

The first clue is the animal's demeanor and behavior. A service animal should be very well behaved and obedient. A dog who wanders around at the end of the leash aimlessly probably isn't a service animal.
If you still aren't certain, you can ask the animal's owner if it is a service dog. Businesses are permitted to ask whether an animal is a service animal, and what tasks the animal is trained to perform that the human handler cannot do for themselves. The business is not, however, permitted to ask for information about the specific nature of the person's disability or other invasive questions. If an animal is not trained to perform tasks to mitigate the handler's disability, then it isn't a service animal under the ADA.
Guide dogs usually wear a special leather harness that helps them to guide their owner. In addition to the harness, the owner will also use a leash for controlling and directing the dog. Most other types of service animal wear some sort of marking such as a vest or cape, or special gear, like a harness. However, not all service dogs will wear special markings. Under the ADA, they aren't required to be marked. Unfortunately, the presence or absence of a cape or gear alone doesn't make it clear whether or not an animal is really a service animal.
Unfortunately there are unscrupulous people who buy gear over the Internet to try to pass their pets off as service animals. Sadly, this is also true with certification. Anyone can forge their own certification or purchase fake certification over the Internet for their pets. Many states have begun taking steps to prosecute those who falsely claim their pets as service animals with stiff fines and jail time.

A service animal can be removed from a business when its presence constitutes a fundamental alteration of the goods or services offered by the business. For example, a service dog that howls during a concert interferes with the performance of the concert and can be excluded. A service animal that misbehaves and makes unwanted contact with other patrons or is otherwise disruptive due to poor behavior can be removed. If a service animal is removed, the business must still offer their goods and services to the owner of the service animal, even if the animal itself must remain outside.

Service animals can also be removed if they pose a direct threat to the safety of others by barking, lunging, growling, snarling, or lunging at others.

No. Churches are exempt from the ADA. The only exception would be if the church opened their facilities for a public event, such as a bazaar or pancake supper where items are sold and the general public are permitted to enter.

Service animals should be permitted in the waiting areas of emergency rooms.

However, it is at the discretion of treating physicians whether a service animal should be permitted in a treatment area. This determination must be made on a case-by-case basis based solely on whether the presence of that particular animal, in that particular place, at that particular time poses a direct threat to a person. It cannot be a perceived threat ("sometimes dogs bite") or based on past experience ("another service dog acted up") but must be a cognizable real threat ("I have a patient with serious open wounds and the presence of any loose dog hair or dander may cause dangerous infection of the wounds").

A service animal may also be excluded if its presence fundamentally alters the ability of the hospital to provide emergency services, for example if there isn't room to safely work around the dog without tripping or slowing treatment.

While many programs train their dogs to ride escalators there are many accidents each year involving sudden toe amputation. In the U.S., wherever there is an escalator there is also an elevator. It is generally safest to take the elevator instead to avoid risk of injury to the dog.

The Americans With Disabilities Act generally requires businesses, including food establishments, to modify policies to permit service animals to accompany their disabled handler wherever the general public are allowed. The general rule of thumb where food is involved is that where special clothing is not required a service animal must be permitted. Where special clothing is required, such as food preparation areas, a service animal may be excluded and in fact must be excluded if necessary to comply with health statutes or ordinances.

Since a typical patron of a restaurant isn't asked to don a hairnet, latex gloves and an apron while in the dining area of the establishment, a service animal (including a guide dog) should be permitted to accompany a disabled handler there.

It's time to go to corporate headquarters. But don't call them. Send them your complaint in writing and request a written reply within 10 business days. Why? Because you are now at the point where you need to carefully document your interactions with them. If you talk to them in person or on the phone and there is a later dispute about who said what, it will be their word against yours. In a case of discrimination like this, if it comes down to your word against theirs your case will be dropped (it's your burden to prove discrimination occurred).

Send them a copy of this document:
http://www.ada.gov/svcanimb.htm

And suggest they consult the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA information line (800 - 514 - 0301) to learn about their rights and obligations under federal laws that protect the disabled, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you do not receive a reply within 15 business days, send your letter again, but this time send it certified, return receipt requested. That will prevent them from claiming they never received your letter, and put them on notice you are serious.

If it still isn't resolved, go to your state's human rights commission. You could complain to the U.S. Department of Justice, but it takes about three times as long to get a case through them as it does to get the case handled at the state level. The DOJ is also very selective about which cases they take on and won't take on yours unless they see a pattern of discrimination (receive complaints from several different people each having a similar experience).

You can find information about contacting your state's human rights commission, attorney general, and a bunch of info on various state laws at Service Dog Central's collection of service dog law information:
http://www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/51

Throughout the process it is essential that you maintain your cool. Be very polite. Remember that anything you write, say or do could be examined by a judge if this complaint goes to court. You'll want to show by your behavior that you were being reasonable and they were being unreasonable.

You always have the option to pursue it privately in civil court, but the last time I got an estimate on a case I was quoted $7,000 up front in attorney's fees. If you go through a government enforcement agency, such as your state's human rights commission or the U.S. Department of Justice, that agency will pick up the costs of taking it to court instead of you.

A service dog may generally accompany his disabled handler any where in a public accommodation where the public are permitted with certain exceptions. The service animal may be excluded if it poses a direct threat or fundamental alteration of the services offered by the public accommodation.

For example, on a case-by-case basis a ambulance crew may decide not to permit a service animal in the treatment area of an ambulance if lack of space means the dog would interfere with the necessary movement of personnel providing emergency care. That might be a "fundamental alteration" if the presence of the dog prevents the emergency workers from performing their jobs.

A service animal might be excluded from an area that requires special clothing, such as a hospital ICU (Intensive Care Unit), or a computer "clean room," where the tiniest particle can ruin the manufacture of computer chips. A service animal might be excluded from an area where zoo exhibits can come in direct contact with human visitors, such as an aviary. On a case-by-case basis, a service animal might be removed if its presence is frightening a zoo exhibit to the point of harming the exhibit.

Service animals may also be excluded from places that are not public accommodations, including but not limited to worship services of a church, private clubs, some Native American facilities, and military bases.

The exceptions are few, but they do exist. The keys in evaluating whether a service animal should be permitted in a given area are:

1. Would the presence of this specific animal pose a direct (known and not just hypothesized) threat in this specific instance, not based on past experiences with other service animals or dogs in general?
2. Would the presence of this specific animal fundamentally alter the goods or services provided by the public accommodation?
3. Is there some reasonable accommodation possible? Reasonable accommodation is the art of compromise. Is there is a readily achievable solution which permits the person with a disability to access goods and services, and which does not constitute an undue hardship on the business?

The short answer is: No, businesses do not have to permit dogs, including service dogs, in the shopping carts owned by the business.


This is partly an issue of fundamental alteration and partly one of reasonableness. It is also an issue of professionalism and image.

From http://www.ada.gov/t3hilght.htm

Public accommodations must ... make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities, unless a fundamental alteration would result in the nature of the goods and services provided.

The fundamental purpose of the cart is to transport merchandise, not dogs. Co-opting the cart from that purpose to transport a dog changes the nature of the service being provided (the cart).

In addition, the the business is not required to provide services or equipment for the dog, just to permit the dog to accompany the disabled owner the dog is trained to assist.
From http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

9. Q: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

A: No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.

Except for airports, businesses are not required to provide toileting facilities for dogs either. They don't have to provide food, water, or dishes for the dog to eat or drink out of. If they aren't required to do any of that for service dogs in general, why would they be required to provide equipment to transport the dog while in their business?

Consider the scooters, power chairs, electric or manual wheelchairs or other mobility devices many large stores provide for customer use. They are not required to do that. It is a courtesy some stores choose to provide as part of their customer service to make the store more appealing to more potential customers. They aren't required to provide transportation equipment for the human with a disability, and neither are they required to provide it for the person's dog.

Remember that public access laws are about access for the person with a disability. Whether or not the animal is permitted in the cart does not affect the person's access to goods and services. It therefore becomes an issue of reasonableness. The person with the service animal must have some way to manage their dog when in a public accommodation that does not offer shopping carts. (Some examples of accommodations that do not offer shopping carts include restaurants, offices, hospitals, movie theaters, and hotels.) Therefore there must be some reasonable alternative to putting the dog in the shopping cart if the store objects.

If a business gives permission for the individual to use the carts to transport their dog while inside the business, that's between that business and that team. The business can give that permission if they choose to do so but they are not required to do so. Some local health codes may not permit it and some grocery stores or customers in grocery stores may object to having them in the child seat just as some restaurants would object to having them on the table. You can argue whether a dog is different from a diapered child with the business if you like but you still need their permission.

There are two remaining considerations.

First, putting a dog in a cart raises the dog higher than even a traditional sized dog would stand on the floor. This substantially increases the range where hair and dander from the dog can be deposited. Here is a basic formula for calculating where falling things that do not drop straight to the ground may be deposited. Measure the highest point of the dog from the ground. Now in your head mark a point directly below that highest point and inscribe it with a circle of a radius equal to the dog's height from the ground. For example, if the dog's ear tip is three feet above the floor, then hair and dander can be deposited any where within a cone with a three foot radius at the base (on the ground) and a tip at the tip of the dog's ear. In order to prevent hair and dander from falling on fresh food, refrigerated or frozen food (which attract hair and dander), or ready to eat food, the dog must be positioned at all times so that that imaginary cone does not come in contact with those types of food. Raising a dog off the floor increases the bubble you need to maintain between that dog and food.

Second, carrying a dog or putting it in a shopping cart is not professional. It brings into question the legitimacy of the dog as a service dog because so many pet owners treat their dogs like fashion accessories. It also increases skepticism for other kinds of service dogs when businesses start seeing an increase in the number of dogs being brought in that really don't look like service dogs. It makes life especially difficult for those people with legitimate service dogs that happen to be small and significantly increases the likelihood and frequency of access issues for the person putting their dog in the cart.

Also see
Special considerations for owners of small or large service dogs
Is it okay to have a small service dog in your lap in a restaurant or in a pouch/purse/carrier in a restaurant or grocery store?

Generally, no, but in some cases an exception may be made with permission from the business owner.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, access rights are based on "reasonable accommodations." While the US Department of Justice has not issued any guidance one way or the other on this specific issue, you can apply the principle of "reasonableness" to any situation to see whether the ADA permits/requires it or not.

Let's do that here. We have competing interests.
1. The health department has regulations about live animals being near food which makes it illegal in most areas for restaurants and grocery stores to permit pets into their facilities. An exception is made for service animals under reasonable accommodation under the assumption that the risk is minimal.
2. The business has an interest in activities that cost them customers. The public "ick" factor for a dog at or near table level is significantly higher than for one on the floor under the table.
3. A person with a small dog may prefer to keep their dog in their lap, but it is not an absolute necessity.

Reasonable accommodation means that you take ALL interests into account when evaluating a specific situation, not just whether the individual with a disability thinks it is reasonable from their perspective, but whether it is reasonable for all. The first item on our list addresses an issue that falls under "direct threat," because the health department has stated there is a sanitary and health risk of food contamination if live animals are near food. An exception has traditionally been made for service animals based on the long history of guide dogs, who are always on the floor, tucked under tables, and as far away from the food as possible. The risk of food contamination when the dog is on the floor is very minimal. This is where normal pet owners have their pets during human mealtimes, if not completely out of the dining area. Putting a service dog in a lap is significantly pushing the envelope of safety on this issue.

The second item on the list is an example of "undue burden." While some customers may leave because of the mere presence of the service animal, it is not possible to accommodate the disabled patron at all without the service animal. That situation falls in the favor of the person with the service dog. However, in the case of having the dog close to the food, the balance shifts. The business will lose even more customers, but for something that is not strictly necessary. This is unreasonable because it creates an undue (avoidable and excessive) burden for the business person. However, if the business owner has no objection to the dog in a person's lap and is willing to do additional cleaning to satisfy health department regulations, then the business is permitted to make an exception IF THEY WISH. They don't have to.

Now we examine the third item, or an individual service dog owner's wish to have their service dog in their lap. This is not strictly necessary. A small service dog can sit or lie under the table just the same as a service dog of any other size. Their size alone does not make it necessary for them to be in a lap. It is sometimes claimed that this is a safety issue because smaller dogs are at greater risk on the floor than larger dogs. In fact, a small service dog is far safer under the table than is a larger service dog because he is less likely to have body parts extend out from under the table to get trampled. So there is no reason to treat small service dogs differently for safety.

Some owners will claim that their dog is not able to work from the floor. Since there is no legitimate job a small service dog can do that a larger one cannot also do, including "alerting," this is a problem of the owner's own creation. If they failed to train the dog to be able to work from the floor, that is their fault and within their power to correct. It is not reasonable to expect a restaurant to compensate for the handler's lack of foresight or poor choice in dog.

Most legitimate small breed service dogs are perfectly capable of working from the floor, including heeling and long stays, exactly the same as their larger counterparts. There are some limitations, including an increased risk of injury in crowded environments when it may be prudent to lift the dog from the floor and carry it until the crowd thins out. A smaller service dog will not be able to heel as long, as far, or as fast as a larger service dog can. This is an obvious flaw in their use as service dogs that the potential owner should consider carefully when making their choice of a service dog. If you choose a dog with limitations, then you are stuck with those limitations and you are responsible for dealing with the consequences of your choice. There is no task or disability that specifically requires that the dog be tiny. It is a personal preference, a personal choice, with consequences. A person is free to make that choice, but they are not free to inflict added burdens on others because of that choice.

Now we get to the issue of small dogs in shopping carts, pouches, or other carriers that hold the dog high off the floor while shopping in grocery stores. The purpose of the shopping cart is to carry groceries and small children. It is a courtesy provided by the store for its customers because shopping carts will encourage them to stay longer and purchase more. Carts are not there as a convenience to service dog owners. A public accommodation is not required to provide you with equipment to care for or utilize your service dog. If your dog is capable of working without a shopping cart in other venues, such as offices, stores, theaters, etc., then it is capable of doing so in a grocery store as well. If an individual store gives permission for the service dog to ride in the cart it is permitted, so long as it does not also violate health codes.

It is permissible for a service dog to be carried by hand or in a carrier about the owner's chest in SOME areas of a grocery store, such as areas with canned and commercially packaged foods displayed on shelves. It is not reasonable to hold a service dog above the edge of a display of fresh food (such as vegetables or meats) which are in a cooler or bin that you might lean over to reach the food. It is not reasonable to hold the dog above the edge of a buffet style display where customers serve themselves, such as a take-home salad or food bar. This would permit hair and dander to fall onto the food and contaminate it. A rule of thumb is that whatever height the dog is from the floor, that is the distance the dog should be away from any open display of fresh foods. If the dog is three and a half feet off the floor and on the handler's person, then the dog and handler should not get within three and a half feet of the open display. This will prevent hair and dander from being deposited on food in the open display.

By the same token, large dogs that are able to see over the edge of the open display should never be permitted to look over the edge of the display, and should be worked from the side of the handler that is furthest from the display, such that the handler is between the dog and the display.

YES. While businesses are generally permitted only to ask whether the dog is a service animal required because of disability and what the animal has been trained to do, there are instances when more extensive proof can be required.

If you file a complaint about discrimination, proof of disability and proof of training will be required. If you appear in court and you claim to be disabled and claim your dog is a service dog as part of the case you are involved in, then you will have to provide proof that your claims are true. A court will not simply take your word for it.

If you are arrested for trespass for bringing an animal into a place where pets are not permitted, your affirmative defense may be that the animal in question is a service dog, but again, you will have to prove that is the case.

Proof may include:
Medical records from any medical providers treating you for your disability or for aspects of your disability.
SSDI determination.
SD certification from a recognized/accredited program.
Training logs if owner-trained.
Independent evaluation of your dog's training by a qualified trainer.
Certificates attesting to training and temperament, such a training class completion certificates, an obedience title or certificate, a CGC certificate, etc.
Video demonstrations of the dog's training.
In person demonstrations of the dog's training.

See also: http://www.adagreatlakes.org/Publications/Legal_Briefs/BriefNo015Service...

YES. While businesses are generally permitted only to ask whether the dog is a service animal required because of disability and what the animal has been trained to do, there are instances when more extensive proof can be required.

If you file a complaint about discrimination, proof of disability and proof of training will be required. If you appear in court and you claim to be disabled and claim your dog is a service dog as part of the case you are involved in, then you will have to provide proof that your claims are true. A court will not simply take your word for it.

If you are arrested for trespass for bringing an animal into a place where pets are not permitted, your affirmative defense may be that the animal in question is a service dog, but again, you will have to prove that is the case.

Proof may include:
Medical records from any medical providers treating you for your disability or for aspects of your disability.
SSDI determination.
SD certification from a recognized/accredited program.
Training logs if owner-trained.
Independent evaluation of your dog's training by a qualified trainer.
Certificates attesting to training and temperament, such a training class completion certificates, an obedience title or certificate, a CGC certificate, etc.
Video demonstrations of the dog's training.
In person demonstrations of the dog's training.

See also: http://www.adagreatlakes.org/Publications/Legal_Briefs/BriefNo015Service...

If a person with a disability requests in writing to their employer for “reasonable accommodations in the work place” for their disability and a letter from a medical doctor as well as the letter from the disabled individual states that a service dog is required as an accommodation in the work place for the individual to be able to work more effectively and the place of work is not put under any undue hardship by said request, then yes, service dogs are permitted in the workplace.

There is no federal law in the U.S. that gives service animal trainers the right to access public schools with their trainees. Some, but not all, states have such rights for trainers. However, they would only apply to the public areas of a public school, such as the gymnasium during a basketball game where any member of the public is permitted to attend.

In order to take a trainee into private areas of the school, where the general public are not permitted, such as classrooms while school is in session, the trainer would need to get permission from the school administrator first.

The ADA generally applies to the public areas of schools. There are exceptions, including schools owned by religious entities that do not receive federal funding.

Public areas of schools generally include administrative offices, the gymnasium during a public sporting event, the auditorium during a public exhibition, or the cafeteria during a public fund raising pancake supper. The class rooms themselves are generally not considered public areas of the school and therefore would not be covered under Title III of the ADA.

If a parent wishes his or her child to attend public school with a service animal, the first step would be to add the service animal to the child's IEP (Individual Education Plan), under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). If the school is not willing to permit the service animal, the parent(s) can appeal to the Department of Education.

Official IDEA site
reference to guide dog
Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Complaints against public schools should be addressed first to the local school district and then to the state department of education.

Colleges and universities (and other postsecondary education institutions such as vocational-technical schools) operate with considerable autonomy and with some state supervision. Therefore, you should start by contacting your state department of higher education to find out how they can help you resolve your problem.

How to File a Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights

Title I of the ADA applies to the workplace. It's not exactly the same as Title III which applies to public accommodations in that access is not necessarily automatic. You may have to provide your employer with proof of your disability and need for a service animal in the form of a letter from your treating physician. Other state and federal laws may also apply in some instances.

Additional Reading:

A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Service Employers
Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Issues involving employment and service animals should be directed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To find the EEOC office near you, check the EEOC web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/offices.html.
You also can call the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000/1-800-669-6820 (TTY).

Training (22)

Service dogs can come from many different backgrounds. Some are intentionally bred for service work, some are career change dogs bred for other work, some are rescues, and yes, some started out as pets.

However, the odds of any given dog having all the "right stuff" and actually completing training to become a service dog are about 1 in 100. The vast majority of pets, even lovely, well-behaved pets, aren't going to be suited, though it is possible.

No. It's handy but doesn't really mitigate a disability even for a person with social issues who feels uncomfortable excusing themselves when they need to leave the room. Why? Because they still must be able to excuse themselves, they just use the dog as the excuse. Actually no training is required. Most dogs will react positively when you ask them if they need to go out. Even if the dog doesn't naturally react, you can still act like he gave you some subtle signal, or just plain say you need to potty your dog without coming up with a justification for doing so. The potty excuse, even when trained, is a bonus, not a task. However, a person with anxiety that severe would definitely have need of several real tasks so it's no barrier to such a person being able to have a service dog who coincidentally can be used as an excuse to get out of awkward situations.

Each guide dog program has its own policies and procedures for acquiring puppy raisers. Nearly all will require that you live close enough to their facility that you can make weekly visits to the facility for training classes. So the first step is to find a guide dog school near you. See the link below of guide dog schools in the U.S. to see if one is near you.
Nearly all programs will require that at least one person work in the home so that the pup is not left alone during the day. Since most puppy raisers are children, this means having at least one parent who is home during the school day and willing to take on responsibility for the puppy's training during that time. There is a link to the Seeing Eye's puppy raiser information below as a representative example of puppy raising programs for guide dogs.

Also check with your local 4H organization. Most have a Guide Puppy affiliate.
Look for a guide dog program near you. Nearly all programs require that their puppy raisers live nearby so they can attend weekly training sessions at the facility. Each program will have their own requirements as to how to apply to be a puppy raiser.

Several organizations for the blind maintain lists of guide dog training schools. Here are a few:
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
American Foundation for the Blind
Guide Dog Users Incorporated (GDUI)
American Council of the Blind (ACB)

Where are guide dogs trained in the U.S.?
International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF)

To puppy raise for the Seeing Eye (the most recognized guide dog school in the world), you must join 4-H, which requires you to be at least 9 years old. You must also have the support of your parents as someone must be at home during the day to care for the puppy and with you at school that means mom or dad.

The actual trainers, as opposed to puppy raisers, are adults.

The first part of guide dog training is usually done by puppy raisers who socialize and habituate pups in their care and teach them basic manners and obedience under the supervision of a trainer from a guide dog school. This process typically takes 12 to 18 months. At the end of that time, guide dog candidates are returned to their schools for advanced training in obstacle avoidance, directed guiding, and intelligent disobedience.

Directed guiding ("left," "right," "forward," "wait") is taught by pairing the commands with the actions. It's the easiest part of the advanced training, but also the most used.

Intelligent disobedience is the process of recognizing when there is an exception to a command and disobeying out of duty rather than disobeying because the dog would rather do something else. For example, if a guide dog is given a command to "forward" into a street, but he sees a car coming, he will intelligently disobey the command to "forward" because it is dangerous to the handler to step in front of a moving car.

Obstacle avoidance is the most important safety skill of guide dogs and the one that most fascinates people curious about guide dogs. Once an obstacle is recognized, the dog is instructed to navigate around that obstacle. He must do so regardless of whether the best path lies to the right or left of the obstacle, and while taking into account not only his own path, but the path of his human partner. Guide dogs are also trained to recognize low hanging obstacles, such as tree branches, that could injure their partner and to navigate around them as well.

Here's one example of how obstacle avoidance might be taught:

Avoiding low hanging tree branches

The trainer approaches a low hanging tree branch with a cane held in front of her face. When the cane hits the tree branch it makes an audible cue to the dog that something has happened. The trainer might also say "ouch" or otherwise indicate an injury has occurred (good acting on the trainer's part is essential for this to work). The team will repeat this exercise with the same tree a few times until the dog is consistently navigating around the branch. Then the trainer finds another branch in another area for additional practice. Because dogs don't generalize well, it is important to practice the same concept (avoid low hanging branches) in several different locations and situations until the dog realizes all low branches and not just specific ones are to be avoided.

It depends on the age of the dog and where the dog is in training. If he has the fundamentals down and is working on proofing (performing learned behaviors in spite of distraction) then an active place like a busy shopping center might be a good place to find those distractions to practice ignoring.

If it's a pup being socialized and he's confident and outgoing, a busy shopping center gives ample opportunity to meet new people.

The key is to do it at the right points in the dog's development or training. Overfacing a dog by putting them into a situation too stressful or too distracting for them to process will only slow or damage socialization or training.

A large portion of the cost is absorbed by volunteer puppy raisers who teach the pups basic manners including where and when to toilet, how to walk on a leash, basic commands like "sit" and "down," and how to live among humans without jumping up, bolting out doors, or mooching food.

Formal training with professional trainers who teach the dogs how to actually guide a person who is blind typically costs around $20,000. If puppy raisers were paid, this cost would probably double. Most guide dog training programs are funded by charitable donations so the cost to the blind owner is modest compared to the actual cost of training these highly skilled dogs.

From the official Seeing Eye website:

"Quite frequently, people ask us, "How can I become a Seeing Eye instructor?" Staff instructors are full-time employees who hold college degrees from various fields of study and have successfully completed three years of specialized on-the-job training. They relate well to dogs and people and are physically fit, since their jobs are physically demanding and involve working outdoors in all weather. Some of our current instructors came from teaching, business consulting and rehabilitation fields. Some were in the military and worked with dogs before, and many started out as kennel assistants here at The Seeing Eye."

Pups in the Seeing Eye program are typically 7-8 weeks old when they are sent to live with 4-H families to receive socialization and training in manners and basic obedience. They are typically 14 to 18 months old when they are returned to the Seeing Eye for advanced training.

The Seeing Eye is just one of many programs that train dogs to guide the blind. Individual programs may do their puppy raising differently.

The Seeing Eye is the oldest and most recognized guide dog training program in the world.

There is no federal law in the U.S. that gives service animal trainers the right to access public schools with their trainees. Some, but not all, states have such rights for trainers. However, they would only apply to the public areas of a public school, such as the gymnasium during a basketball game where any member of the public is permitted to attend.

In order to take a trainee into private areas of the school, where the general public are not permitted, such as classrooms while school is in session, the trainer would need to get permission from the school administrator first.

It typically takes 18 to 24 months to fully train a public access service animal. However, something like a hearing dog that the owner doesn't need to use outside the home might be trained in as little as 6 months.

First and foremost, he must learn to ignore distractions. He must also learn all the things that a dog learns to live among humans, such as where and when to toilet, not to beg or pester, and basic house manners.

Guide dog candidates are intentionally selected from among animals who already have a low prey drive which makes them naturally less likely to chase things like squirrels. They are selected to have calm personalities and sound nerves as well as good physical health .

U.S. federal law recognizes an animal as a service animal once it is trained to perform tasks that mitigate the disability of a disabled owner, without regard for how that animal got trained. It is therefore possible to train a service dog without a license. However, in some states only licensed trainers from recognized programs are afforded the same public access rights as people with disabilities with fully trained service dogs. Consult your state's Attorney General for information on whether private trainers have public access rights for training. If not, you may only train in facilities that have given you permission.

In the U.S., yes, but in most other countries, no. Regardless of who trains the dog he must be correctly trained. Few pet owners would have the level of skill required to produce a true working dog.

A service dog must receive adequate training in three areas: obedience, tasks, and public access. He should be reliable in obeying commands at least 90% of the time on the first command.

He should sit, down, come, stay, and heel properly. Dogs must show manners including:
no aggression
no inappropriate barking
no biting
no snapping/growling
no inappropriate jumping on strangers
no begging
no inappropriate sniffing of people.

Many people don't understand what proper heeling is, and it's actually the hardest thing to train a dog to do properly. It doesn't mean pulling a dog around on a leash. It means the dog knows where he is supposed to be relative to the person and maintains that position with a loose leash, or with no leash at all. Typically this position is next to the handler's left leg, with the dog's ear at about level with the leg and without varying more than 24 inches in any direction from that position regardless of how the handler moves (starting, stopping, turning, stepping back, etc.).

By legal definition, he must be trained to perform tasks which mitigate his handler's disability. In order to mitigate the disability, these tasks must be something the handler cannot do because of his disability. For example, opening doors for a person unable to use her hands. Any dog, no matter how well trained, who does not perform tasks that mitigate his disabled owner's disability, is not a service dog. Note that the owner must be legally disabled. That means they have an impairment that substantially limits their ability to function in things considered to be of central importance to people's lives, like seeing, hearing, thinking, walking, and using their hands.

Finally, the dog's training must be proofed and generalized so that he continues to work reliably, obeying commands on the first command at least 90% of the time when working in distracting environments, such as stores or restaurants. Proofing (distraction training) is actually the bulk of service dog training and it starts at home and at the dog training facility with distractions like food, toys and noises. Once the proofing is solid the dog is taken to various venues for generalization, or learning to apply what he has learned in different locations.

The ADA does not give public access rights to trainers. That means that unless your state gives public access rights to trainers and also recognizes private trainers or owner-trainers (as opposed to trainers for recognized programs), then you must ask permission of a store or restaurant before entering with a service-dog-in-training. See link below for information on state laws concerning service animals.

Minimum Standards for Service Dogs
IAADP Minimum Standards for Public Access
Minimum Standards for Training Service Dogs

The American's with Disabilities Act does not apply to service dogs in training. Some states have laws which permit trainers to take service-dogs-in-training to the same places fully trained service dogs can go. However, most states require service-dogs-in-training to be accompanied by a trainer from a recognized program for training service dogs and that they carry credentials which they show on request.

Most service dog trainers are volunteers. Those who are in paid positions receive an average wage of $10.60 (U.S.) per hour ($21,200 per year). It isn't a good job if income is important, but it can be very rewarding in other ways.
Guide dogs are placed at significantly below fair market value for the amount of work that goes in to them. Part of the difference in what they cost and what the blind person is charged for them comes from charitable donations. Part comes from donations of time. most of a guide dog's training is done by volunteers.

Those that do the finishing training and the instruction of the blind person in how to use the guide dog might make about $10 per hour.

In short, if you are worried about how much money you'll make, working at a guide dog school probably isn't for you. It simply isn't a high paying job.

Be sure to check out our series of articles entitled Tips on finding a program or trainer and evaluating the one you've found.

There are several lists of service dog providers on the internet. That's a good place to start, but remember that just because they appear on one of these lists doesn't mean they are qualified or even legitimate. It is still up to you, as the consumer, to do your research and make sure they are what they appear to be.

Service Dog Central also maintains a list of clients from our online community and the programs they've worked with so you can talk with real clients of some programs and get the inside scoop.

Some resources for finding service dog programs:
Assistance Dogs International
The Delta Society
American Dog Trainers Network
Wolfpacks

Resources for finding other dog trainers who might have experience with service dogs:
Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers
National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
Karen Pryor Academy
Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Please note that the above organizations do not screen the programs that they list. You'll have to do that for yourself. I am aware of rip-off organizations in the database, so be careful.

Get additional tips from Delta's National Service Dog Center under Consumer Information for People Considering a Service Dog.

Lists of Guide Dog Schools:
American Foundation for the Blind
National Federation of the Blind
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
American Council of the blind
International Guide Dog Federation

All puppies, whether they are intended to become service dogs, other working dogs, or pets, should be socialized.

Socialization involves introducing the puppy to new people and animals. Socialization should be carefully planned so that the pup experiences nothing that scares him. He should meet people of all ages, including children. He should meet people of as many different ethnicities as possible.

He should not meet strange dogs until his veterinarian says he is sufficiently immunized. Even then he should meet only puppies his age and very calm adults known to enjoy and not just tolerate puppies. The puppy should never be permitted to pester adult dogs. The best place to meet similar puppies is in a puppy kindergarten class.

He should also meet other domesticated animals, like cats, pet birds, and rodents, and farm animals if available.

A sample socialization schedule is available online. Please note that on this schedule puppies only enter public accommodations on field trips, with other puppies and under the supervision of program trainers.

The puppy should not be taken out for socialization or habituation in any situation where the trainer is not in control of what the pup will encounter and can give the pup the trainer's undivided attention. Pups should not be taken to work or school during primary socialization.

Some programs encourage their puppy raisers to take their puppies everywhere. These programs experience a very high failure rate. Carefully planned and supervised socialization results in a greater success rate.

No. Socialization has nothing to do with going to new places. Socialization means introducing the puppy to new people and to other animals.

Getting them used to new places is called habituation. Habituation should be done on a carefully planned schedule. Young puppies are not ready to go everywhere. They should visit only carefully controlled venues known to be calm. A fearful experience at a young age, and particularly during a fear imprint period, can permanently damage a pup's confidence.

A dog becomes a full service dog when he meets the requirements of a full service dog.

1. He is reliably obedience trained.
2. He is task trained
3. He is distraction trained for public access.

Most programs evaluate their candidates before placing them as full service dogs with a public access test. Public access training involves teaching the dog to perform the tasks and obedience commands he has already learned, despite distractions commonly found in public accommodations. Since it is the last phase of training, passing a public access test is used by those programs as an indicator the dog is ready to work.

There are three basic areas of training for a service dog: manners, obedience with proofing (aka public access skills), and task training. This training typically takes 18-24 months.

While a pet may be taken for a walk to toilet, a service dog must be prepared to toilet on command, on any surface. A friendly pet greeting visitors to the home may be cute, but a service dog must ignore everyone but his owner. That means he must ignore them when they call to him or offer him food. He must ignore food he finds on the floor, and food that falls right next to him, as well as food that is left unguarded right at eye-level.

A pet might be asked to lie down and praised for doing it for a whole minute. A competition obedience dog is expected to do it for five minutes, even when the owner leaves the room. A service dog, on the other hand, may be called upon to hold a down stay for up to four hours at a time.

Organizations such as Assistance Dogs International and the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners require a minimum of 120 hours of training for each dog trained by a member or member organization. Remember that this is a minimum and reflects the amount of training required of an experienced trainer to produce results and does not reflect the amount of training it would take a first time service dog trainer to achieve the same or similar results.

The Delta Society has published a comprehensive guide to the "Minimum Standards for Service Dogs," available for download in PDF format. This document breaks down all the core skills every service dog has in common. Individual tasks can be constructed by applying one or more of these core skills to specific situations either alone or in combination with other skills.

"Heeling," which, contrary to popular believe does not mean "let's go," is probably the most difficult thing to teach a dog. For them it is an abstract concept, to maintain a relative position to the handler, regardless of how the handler might move. It is as much an exercise in attention as anything else. If the handler moves forward, the dog also moves forward, maintaining his position relative to the handler's hip or the wheel of his chair. If the handler steps back, the dog also steps back, still aligned with his handler. When the handler turns, the dog also turns: automatically. No additional commands are given to direct the dog once he is instructed to remain in heel position.

"Proofing," is the most time consuming part of training a working dog like a service dog. It means patiently inoculating a dog against distractions, one distraction at a time. Proofing is usually started with the dog in a sit-, down-, or stand-stay, and then progresses to distractions while heeling and during recalls. Distractions may start out as mild as clapping one's hands and progress until the dog will remain on command even while other dogs are playing around him or fighting, while a squirrel or cat dashes by, while bystanders offer food and call to him, and when his leash is dropped, all at the same time. A service dog is of no real use to his partner if he cannot be relied upon to resist distractions.

"Task training," again contrary to popular belief, is the easiest part of training a service dog. Once he has a firm foundation in core skills, heeling/attention, and proofing, putting together trained tasks is as easy as teaching a dog a neat trick. At their core that's what tasks really are, from a training stand-point. That's why task training is the test of whether a dog is actually a trained service dog. If the trainer hasn't been able to teach the dog legitimate tasks, then that means the owner probably hasn't got the basic training skills needed to adequately prepare him for obedience and public access either.

Each dog and each handler are individuals. What may be a task for one person, wouldn't necessarily be a task for another person, even if they have the exact same disability. For example, carrying medications in a pack for a person capable of carrying the medications in a purse, pocket or pack of their own would not be a legitimate task because it is convenient but not truly needed. You can add on as many bonus conveniences as you like later but you should start with tasks you actually need. That's the whole reason for having a service dog in the first place.

Shopping lists of tasks don't work because they short circuit the natural process of choosing tasks for training by encouraging the selection of trained behaviors that are useful, easy to train, or otherwise appealing but not truly needed. A person reads a check list of possible tasks and selects any that might apply to them, rather than ones they truly need. Need, and need alone should drive the selection of tasks. Not what anyone else has done and not what is possible.

There are several pieces to the puzzle in defining a task.

1. It must be trained, and not a natural behavior of the dog (such as
showing affection).
2. It must be to compensate for something the person cannot do for
themselves due to their disability, and something which cannot be
compensated for using ordinary means (such as using an actual alarm
clock instead of training the dog to act like an alarm clock).
3. It must mitigate the person's disability by making it possible for
them to do something they could not otherwise do in terms of a daily
life activity.

Medical providers, friends, and family, who know you well, are in the best position to help you identify what exactly you can and cannot do because of your disability. Those are your impairments. The help you need because of your impairments are your needs. Tasks meet your needs in overcoming your impairments. So start with impairments, then needs, and *then* consider tasks.

Travel (11)

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which regulates the Americans with Disabilities Act, "People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal." See the Business Brief below for additional information, or call the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA information line toll-free at:

800 - 514 - 0301 (voice)

800 - 514 - 0383 (TTY)

Yes, on flights originating and arriving at points in the U.S. or U.S. territories. The Air Carrier Access Act requires air carriers to permit service animals to travel in the cabin with their disabled handlers unless an animal physically does not fit in the space allotted to the traveler and there is no other space on board to accommodate them. If the animal will not fit in the cabin, the air carrier must offer to transport the animal as cargo free of charge.

No. "People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons, or treated less favorably than other patrons." (See ADA business brief link below.) Requiring them to stay in a certain room when other guests are permitted other rooms would be treating the person with a disability less favorably than other patrons.

You can verify this information yourself by calling the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA information line at: 800 - 514 - 0301 (voice)
or
800 - 514 - 0383 (TTY)

Most people ask for bulkhead seating, and most airlines automatically offer bulkhead seating, assuming that the extra leg room will make the animal more comfortable. This isn't always the case. For those animals able to fit at least partly in the under seat storage, there may actually be more room in a regular seat. There may be additional under seat storage in the last seat on the plane, but be aware that close to the engines it will be noisy and may make some service animals uncomfortable.

Once you know what type of aircraft you will be flying check with Seat Guru for insider tips on which seats are the best. Remember that service animals are not allowed in exit rows, which, unfortunately, are usually the rows with the most leg room.

"For a service dog, there must be a physician's statement which certifies as to the disability, and that the service dog provides assistance having to do with that disability and documentation of training, or a certificate of training as a service dog by a training program accredited by Assistance Dogs International, Inc., or a service dog training program with equally rigorous administrative, operational and training standards."

Please note that the doctor cannot certify as to the dog's training. You'll need separate documentation for that.

Hawaii is rabies free. The purpose of the original 120 day quarantine was to protect the state from the import of rabies into the state. An alternate method to protect the state from the import of rabies has been established. It typically requires 6 or more months of preparation.

The exact same procedure is required of all dogs entering Hawaii, regardless of whether they are pets or service animals. The only differences between pets and service animals is that pets MIGHT be held up to 5 days and service animals are typically released the same day, and the import fee is waived for qualified service animals.

Emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals are often not accepted as recognized service animals, so make arrangements establishing whether your dog will be accepted before departure.

Hawaii Department of Agriculture
Animal Quarantine Station
99-951 Halawa Valley Street
Aiea, Hawaii 96701-5602
Telephone (808) 483-7151
FAX (808) 483-7161
E-mail: rabiesfree@hawaii.gov

NOTE: Failure to meet all of the requirements can result in a 120 day quarantine at a fee of $17.80 per day.

You will need (for pets OR for service animals):

1. Rabies vaccinations: Pet must have been vaccinated at least twice in its lifetime against rabies. Vaccinations must have been administered at least 90 days apart. The most recent vaccination is current and was not administered less than 90 days before entry to Hawaii. The date, brand, and lot number of the vaccine must be indicated on the pet's vaccination certificate and health certificate. You need the two most recent rabies certificates.

2. Microchip: The animal must be microchipped, verified by a veterinarian.

3. OIE_FAVN blood test: The animal must have an OIE-FAVN rabies blood test no more than 36 months old or less than 120 days old. The result must be greater than or equal to 0.5 IU/ml and must have been done at either Kansas State University or the DOD Food Analysis and Diagnostic Laboratory in Texas. A copy of this test result must be presented that shows the pet's microchip number.

4. Documentation: you'll need to submit documentation that arrives in Hawaii at least 10 business days prior to your animal's arrival. This documentation includes an import permit, rabies vaccination certificates (2 most recent) and blood test results, with the appropriate fee.

You'll also need to plan to arrive at an airport that accepts animal imports, such as Honolulu International Airport.

Read complete details in the two official links below.

Guide and Service Dogs
Checklist for 5-day-or-less Program

See also CROWDER v KITAGAWA

It is polite to bring with you your own bed cover and use it in place of the hotel's bed cover to keep it free of dog hair.
Do not wash your dog in the hotel's bath tub or use the hotel's towels on your dog. Disposable bath wipes are available for freshening your dog between baths and are suitable to use when traveling.

Do not leave your service dog unattended in your hotel room. He may surprise housekeeping.

Take a collapsible crate with you for emergencies. A basic sport crate that will fold small enough to fit in your luggage is available for as little as $25.

That depends on the country of departure's laws and the country of arrival's laws. Some countries require all dogs, including guide and service dogs, to enter the country as cargo.
Check Consular Information Sheets for the individual countries involved to find where to check the regulations for dog import/export. See the link below for Consular Information Sheets.

Service animals are generally permitted to accompany their disabled owners any place where the general public are permitted to go, including hotels and motels. Lodging establishments are not permitted to charge extra for the service animal or to require a deposit. However, the owner of the service animal would still be responsible for any damages done to the facilities.
A representative of the hotel or motel is permitted to inquire as to what the dog is trained to do to mitigate the owner's disability. If the dog is not trained to perform specific tasks, then it is not a service dog and they are not required to permit it.

In order to fly with an Emotional Support Animal in the cabin of the aircraft with you, you will need a special letter from a licensed mental health professional.


These requirements for the letter are excerpted from http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/20030509.pdf

The letter:
* must not more than one year old
* must be on the professional's letterhead
* must be from a mental health professional

and must state all of the following:

1. That the passenger has a mental health-related DISABILITY. Note it is not just a mental illness diagnosis, but a mental illness which SUBSTANTIALLY LIMITS ONE OR MORE MAJOR LIFE ACTIVITIES. Airlines are not permitted to require the documentation to specify the type of mental health disability, e.g., panic attacks.

2. That the presence of the animal is NECESSARY to the passenger's health or treatment.

3. That the individual writing the letter is a licensed mental health professional and that the passenger is under his or her care. The individual writing the letter should clearly indicate what type of mental health care professional they are (psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, et cetera).

NOTE: Airlines may also require documentation including the date, type, and state of the mental health professional's license.

"The purpose of this provision is to prevent abuse by passengers that do
not have a medical need for an emotional support animal and to ensure that
passengers who have a legitimate need for emotional support animals are
permitted to travel with their service animals on the aircraft."

http://www.regulations.gov/freddocs/04-24371.htm


SAMPLE LETTER

(on professional's office letterhead)
DATE

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

(Patient's name) is currently under my professional care for treatment for mental illness. His/her mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities. I have prescribed an emotional support animal as part of the treatment program developed for (patient's first name). The presence of this emotional support animal is necessary for (patient's first name)'s mental health.

I am licensed by the state of (state) to practice (medicine/psychiatry/therapy--choose applicable). My license number is (license number).

Please allow (patient's full name) to be accompanied by his/her emotional support animal in the cabin of the aircraft, in accordance with the Air Carrier Access Act (49 U.S.C. 41705 and 14 C.F.R. 382).

Sincerely,
(doctor's name and title)

Most people ask for bulkhead seating, and most airlines automatically offer bulkhead seating, assuming that the extra leg room will make the animal more comfortable. This isn't always the case. For those animals able to fit at least partly in the under seat storage, there may actually be more room in a regular seat. There may be additional under seat storage in the last seat on the plane, but be aware that close to the engines it will be noisy and may make some service animals uncomfortable.

Once you know what type of aircraft you will be flying check with Seat Guru for insider tips on which seats are the best. Remember that service animals are not allowed in exit rows, which, unfortunately, are usually the rows with the most leg room.

Generally speaking, no.

Service animals can generally accompany their disabled handler in the cabin of an aircraft with few exceptions. Those exceptions may include some exotic species and large animals. If a service animal is excluded from the cabin for any reason, and the airline has facilities for transporting the animal in cargo, then they should offer to do so for free.

If the service animal is too large to fit in the handler's foot space, and the plane is full, then the person can be required to purchase a second seat to provide sufficient foot space for their service animal. If there are empty seats on the aircraft, ask to be placed next to an empty seat instead.