The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created on July 26, 1990, to protect those with physical and mental disabilities from discrimination and rights infringement. It claimed that everyone has the right to work, take part in local and state government, and be a decent part of society. “Equal rights” – simple yet important philosophy.
In order to get protection from the ADA, the person has to be diagnosed or have a record or history of physical or mental illnesses that limit basic life activities. Sometimes, a person’s relatives can apply to the ADA if they are not able to do it on their own.
The ADA does not list all types of illnesses that the term “disability” includes. It can be both physical, visibly noticeable ones (like blindness or impaired mobility) and those connected with mental health (anxiety, depression, etc.)
What Is a Service Dog?
Service dogs are animals taught to help and do tasks for people with disabilities. They can help deaf people, guide those with vision problems, comfort somebody during the anxiety attack, remind them to take medications, etc.
Service dogs are not pets, they are trained to be working animals. Each dog is taught to assist in tasks directly related to the owner’s disability.
Service dogs are allowed in every place that is opened to public visits. They can accompany their owners to grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, schools, parks, and other public areas. Remember, workers at the establishment you are visiting cannot demand a doctor’s letter, note, a document that confirms the person’s disability, training certificate, or any other type of documents. In addition, they also cannot ask to demonstrate how exactly a service dog helps its owner. This information is strictly personal!
The only two questions that can be asked are:
Note that those questions can be asked only if it is appropriate and disability is not apparent. E.g., if a service dog is guiding a blind person, it would be rude to talk about their service dog with them.
No, emotional support animals and service animals are different. Emotional support animals (ESA) are not trained to give people comfort and emotional support, so the ADA does not claim them as service animals.
Emotional support animals are more like moral support and companions for those with anxiety, depression, and other mental disabilities. On the other hand, service dogs are trained to, e.g., warn people with anxiety about upcoming panic attacks or remind someone with depression to take pills, etc.
That is why ESA does not usually have as many rights as service dogs. They are still allowed on flights and rented houses. However, stores, hotels, cafes, etc., can refuse to let you in with them (which they wouldn’t be able to do with a service animal).
No, cats cannot be service animals. They are too small and are not as easy to train as dogs. Only dogs and miniature horses can become service animals. However, cats are often registered as Emotional Support Animals to provide emotional help to their handlers.
No, service dogs are not exempt from local registration. If your city demands all dogs to be licensed and registered, you must do this with your service animal.
Yes, if there are rules regarding animal control and health in your city, your service dog must also comply and, accordingly, be vaccinated
A service animal should always be under the control of its owner (so, a tether, harness, or leash should be used). The only exception is the situation where those items do not let the dog do its duties and help the handler. In this case, the owner should control their animal through voice, signs, signals, or other control methods. If the owner cannot control their animal, he/she can be asked to leave the public place he/she is visiting.
No, it is forbidden by the ADA rules for service dogs. A person with a service animal cannot be treated differently than the other customers, as well as isolated from them. Moreover, the establishment has no right to force a person to stay in a special “pet-friendly” area just because they have a service dog.
No, an establishment can never charge you extra for staying with your service animal. If the hotel has a fee for visiting with pets, it does not include those who are staying with service animals. Moreover, the hotel cannot make you pay for cleaning up the dog hair or dander shed. However, if the dog causes damage, the owner has to take full responsibility and make restitution.
Yes, a service dog can follow their owner at self-service food zones. In addition, they can accompany the handler in cafeterias at their workplace or school campuses.
No, service animals are not allowed to sit and be fed at the table. A service dog has to accompany its owner and sit next to him/her, but still, only people are allowed to sit at the table.
The ADA rules for service animals do not require either an ID card, vest, or special harness for a service dog. However, a lot of handlers choose to have those accessories with them in order to show the public that their dog is indeed a service animal and is on duty. In this way, there would be fewer questions, and the dog won’t be disturbed in public. The accessories mentioned above are a great help in setting boundaries so the owner can avoid excessive attention and uncomfortable interactions at the establishments.