The Rights of Service Animals and their Owners

Ready to learn about Service Animals and the rights their handlers have? 🙂

There are many different types of service animals but rarely do we see the others. I have heard of service monkeys and service miniature horses. However, beginning in March of 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act.) These titles allow service dogs to go wherever their handler is allowed to go. There are a FEW exceptions, but not many if the handler keeps their dog well-behaved and groomed. For example, for sanitary reasons a guide dog can go into a hospital but may not be allowed in the operating room. 

Service dogs can be trained for many different purposes:

  • Guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments
  • Hearing dogs to alert individuals with hearing loss of different noises
  • Dogs for individuals with seizures to help alert them that they may be having a seizure before the individual realizes it AND to help protect them
  • Helping individuals with mental illness to take medications (I just learned this one recently)
  • Calming an individual with PTSD during an anxiety attack
  • Helping individuals with mobility impairments

There are probably several more but those are all that I know of. Service animals are considered “working animals,” not “pets.” This distinction is important because “pets” aren’t allowed in apartment complexes with a “no pet policy,” but service dogs are. The same theory applies for different businesses and public establishments. What I found interesting is through talking to others at the school and reading online Emotional Support animals do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. This might have been the case in the past, I’m not sure, but it’s not the case now. I totally thought they were but then again I think they are still considered “assistance animals,” but “assistance animals” don’t have the same legal rights as “service animals,” do. Ahh terminology!

The law states that a service dog can essentially go anywhere that their handler goes. The law also states that the business owner or manager of the establishment can ask 1) if it’s a service dog required because of a disability and 2) what work or task the dog has been trained to perform. They cannot require the handler to show identification that they are an official or certified working team nor can they interrogate into the person’s disability. HOWEVER, Guide Dogs for the Blind did provide us with a picture, saying that we did graduate from their program and they are accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation. They also provided us ADA cards relevant to guide dogs and cards that state our individual state laws on them as well. I haven’t been asked for identification and frankly since it’s against the law, I’m not sure I would show someone it if I was. However, I still carry it with me most of the time just in case something did go down and I felt that I (keyword: “I”, not “they”) wanted to show them that we were an official team, I could show it to them.

When the service dog is in public, they must be “tethered, leashed or harnessed.”

Okay, now how that all specifically applies to Makiko. When in public, she should be wearing her harness. (She can’t effectively do her job without it and since I won’t be using a cane – not having her in harness is just stupid anyway). There are a few places where I would feel comfortable taking it off when she is resting and not working. These places are family-owned businesses where I know the owner and employees and they know my dog. Outside my apartment complex Makiko is usually not tethered, leashed, or harnessed.. which probably isn’t the smartest idea but it’s her “backyard” and allows her to get some running in and some free time.

There’s a little bit about service dogs, the law, and rights. If you are a person with a service dog and ever feel your rights were violated, you should really file a complaint with the Department of Justice so that the person or organization violating your rights will learn and the next person who comes along won’t have the same problem. That’s my opinion, anyway. 🙂





Published by

Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

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