FAQ's

What is a Service Animal?
What Species Of Animal Can Be A Service Animal?
How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?
I have always had a clearly posted "no pets" policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?
What Is An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)? 
What Species Of Animal Can Be An Emotional Support Animal?
What Training Is Required For An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?
Will I Need A Letter That Prescribes an Emotional Support Animal?
What Is A Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA)?
What Is A Therapy Animal?
What Species of Animal Can Be A Therapy Animal?
What Is A Companion Animal?
Where Can I Take My Service Animal?
What are the Disability Requirements?
Must A Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Be Certified or Registered?
Does a Service Dog Require Professional Training To Be Registered?
Can I charge maintenance or cleaning fees for customers who bring service animals into my business?
Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?
What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?
Can I exclude an animal that doesn't really seem dangerous but is disruptive to my business?
Are there circumstances in which a business can ask me to leave with my Service Dog?
What can a business ask or require when I'm accompanied by my Service Dog?
Are Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals required to wear special patches, harnesses, or equipment?
What are the benefits of registration?
When registering, I'm not sure which service "type" I should select.
What Are The Pet Photo Requirements?
Who Do I Contact If My Service Animal Is Denied Access?

 What is a Service Animal?

The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
     
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:
 
Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure
  • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
  • Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance
  • Helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
  • Wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone

A service animal is not a pet.

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 What Species Of Animal Can Be A Service Animal?

Effective March 2011, the only animal allowed as a service animal is any breed of dog, small horse, or pig.  There are also other animals that be service animals such as monkeys, etc.   Any animal can be an Emotional Support Animal.  

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 How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

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 I have always had a clearly posted "no pets" policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?

Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your "no pets" policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your "no pets" policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

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 What Is An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is any animal that belongs to a person who is emotionally or psychologically (psychiatrically) disabled. Some people refer to them as a "Comfort Animal", but that term isn't recognized in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The person's doctor (a licensed mental health professional or LMHP) has determined that the presence of the animal is necessary for the person's mental health and that they are considered disabled as a result. The LMHP must also write a letter of prescription stating the dog is necessary for the normal day to functioning of the disabled person. The letter must be very specifically written to be acceptable to property managers and airlines.

Under current ADA and Fair Housing laws, an ESA is ONLY protected as follows:

  • An ESA may fly in the cabin of a commercial or private airline with their disabled handler, and the handler does not have to pay a pet or other fee.  Check with the airline for the type of animal allowed in the cabin.  A very specific prescription letter from a licensed mental health profession is ALWAYS required by airlines, as well as advance notice in most cases that the passenger will be flying with an ESA.

  • Landlords and property managers must make reasonable accommodations for tenants or prospective tenants with ESAs, even if the apartment, house, college dorm, or other residence does not allow pets. Reasonable fees may be asked of the client, similar to a pet fee. Besides requiring a letter of prescription. Property managers/landlords may require that the (prospective) tenant's mental health professional complete and sign a Third Party Verification form.
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 What Species Of Animal Can Be An Emotional Support Animal?

Any animal can be an Emotional Support Animal.  The animals do not require any special training but they must have good social skills and not be aggressive to people or other animals.   

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 What Training Is Required For An Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

Although your ESA should be obedience trained to make it manageable in public settings, no specific training is required. It is the very presence of the ESA that reduces the negative symptoms associated with a person's emotional or mental health disorder/disability.

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 Will I Need A Letter That Prescribes an Emotional Support Animal?

Yes, if you plan to take advantage of the protections provided by the ADA and Fair Housing Act. Airlines have very specific requirements around this, as do most property managers.

This letter must be written by an emotionally/psychologically disabled person's Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) that prescribes an ESA to enable the person to function normally. The letter must be written on the letterhead of the LMHP, contain very specific statements regarding the client, and list the licensing information of the LMHP in order to be acceptable to airline companies and property managers.
An emotionally/psychologically disabled person who has or wants to obtain an emotional support animal can register their dog without a letter of prescription, but will need to present the letter of prescription to fly with their ESA or to qualify for no pet housing.

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 What Is A Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA)?

A psychiatric service animal is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia.  A psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability.  Their function is not to provide emotional support, but to perform tasks which enable their partner to function in ordinary ways the non-disabled take for granted.  Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations) signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy.

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Some psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

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 What Is A Therapy Animal?

A therapy animal is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, and to people with learning difficulties and stressful situations such as disaster areas.  Many different types of animals are used as therapy animals.   The most common are dogs, cats, and horses.  They are NOT considered service or emotional support dogs and have absolutely no protections under the ADA.

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 What Species of Animal Can Be A Therapy Animal?

Many kinds of animals are used in therapy including birds, cats, dogs, horses, rabbits, and other small animals.

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 What Is A Companion Animal?

Companion Animals are kept for companionship and enjoyment as pets, as opposed to working service animals, which perform useful or necessary tasks.   Companion animals are considered pets and they have no protections under the ADA.

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 Where Can I Take My Service Animal?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.  The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.   In addition, these public and private entities may NOT:

  • Charge the disabled handler a fee because of their service animal.
  • Position or seat the handler and service animal away from other patrons to intentionally separate them.
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 What Are The Disability Requirements?

The ADA Restoration Act was signed into law September 25, 2008 by President George W. Bush. It went into effect January 1, 2009. The main purpose of the ADARA of 2008 is to correct interpretations of the ADA by the SCOTUS and reassert Congress' original intent, particularly with regard to the definition of "disability".  With respect to an individual, the term 'disability' means:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
  • A record of such an impairment; or
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment

Major Life Activities:

  • Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
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 Must A Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Be Certified or Registered?

No. Although service dogs are NOT required by law to be registered, registration eliminates most hassles and confrontations from the public.

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 Does A Service Dog Require Professional Training To Be Registered?

No. Although by definition, a Service Dog/Animal is trained to perform tasks assisting someone who is disabled, that training can be completed by anyone, anywhere. Training does not need to be facilitated by an expert or professional trainer. Many people have trained their own animals or have been assisted by friends and family, and there are numerous resources to help the home trainer. Most important is that the training enables the animal to perform the tasks required to assist its disabled handler and be well controlled in public.

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 Can I Charge Maintenance or Cleaning Fees For Customers Who Bring Service Animals Into My Business?

No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel's policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

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 Am I Responsible For The Animal While The Person With A DIsability Is In My Business?

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.

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 What If A Service Animal Barks Or Growls At Other People, Or Otherwise Acts Out Of Control?

You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

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 Can I Exclude An Animal That Doesn't Really Seem Dangerous But Is Disruptive To My Business?

There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal--that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.

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 Are There Circumstances In Which A Business Can Ask Me To Leave With My Service Dog?

Yes, although these are very limited circumstances. A service animal can be excluded from a facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded.

For example, if a disabled handler is not adequately controlling or attending to a misbehaving service animal (who is barking, unruly, defecating or urinating in the area, etc., the handler may be legally asked to remove the service dog. 

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 What can a business ask or require when I'm accompanied by my Service Dog?

By law, public entities (businesses and their representatives) are allowed to question a disabled handler to verify that they qualify to enter with a service animal. The handler may be asked to verbally confirm that he is disabled and that the dog is a service animal. The public entity, may not ask about the person's disability.  The handler may be asked what major like task the animal is trained to perform for the handler.

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 Are Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals Required To Wear Special Patches, Harnesses, or Equipment?

The ADA does not require any special equipment, clothing, or patches to identify your animal as a Service Dog.  We encourage all clients to make their dog look like a legitimate service dog, including an appropriate vest or harness, service animal patches, and the ID card visibly displayed - clipped to the harness or leash.

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 What Are The Benefits Of Registration?

The biggest benefit of registering your dog as a Service Dog is that the documentation, photo IDs, and Service Dog patches we'll send you make your disability and Service Dog visibly official. That means fewer businesses will question you, and you'll have documented reinforcement for the ones that do. No more long, drawn out explanations, justifications, or denials.

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 When registering, I'm not sure which service "type" I should select.

There are several service types offered:   ESA (Emotional Support Animal), Guide, Hearing Alert, In Training, Medical Alert, Medical Assistance, Mobility, PSA (Psychiatric Service Animal), Seizure Alert.

Medical Assistance covers a broad range of services, so that's a safe type to select. Otherwise, it's whatever makes most sense, with respect to the actual service performed by the dog. This is not a legal, nor life changing decision.

We also provide ID cards for therapy animals.

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 What Are The Pet Photo Requirements?

We need one clear color photo of your Service Dog/Animal. We prefer digital or scanned images that predominantly show the animal's head. These images can be emailed to us as an attachment. We prefer large images so we can crop and enhance, as necessary. The email address is photos@registermyserviceanimal.com

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 Who Do I Contact If My Service Animal Is Denied Access?

You should explain that the ADA (or state law if it provides greater protection) protects your right to be accompanied by your service animal in places of public accommodation. If that doesn't get you admitted, you should ask to speak to the manager or supervisor, and then repeat the explanation to the supervisor. If you are still denied, you can politely offer to call the police to have them explain the law.

If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

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