A wheelchair bound student of our Seattle dog training school working to try to task train her pet dog for service work.
The Americans with Disability Act (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.” The key to this definition is TRAINED. A TRAINED service dog has public access rights provided under the ADA.
The ADA defines a disability as:
- “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”
Major Life Activities
Major life activities include:
- caring for oneself
- performing manual tasks
- interacting with others
Emotional Support Dog
While there is no official government definition of Emotional Support Dog it is generally thought of as a dog that provides emotional support to a person with a medical condition that is not necessarily disabling.
Emotional support dogs have NO public access rights under the ADA because they are not TRAINED to assist their handlers. The Department of Justice is looking into formalizing the definition of Emotional Support Dog to state that “[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or promote emotional wellbeing are not service animals” which would still mean that they have NO PUBLIC ACCESS RIGHTS.
While there is no official government definition of Therapy Dog it is generally thought of as a PET dog that provides emotional or physical support to OTHER people. Therapy dogs have NO public access rights under the ADA because they are not TRAINED to mitigate the symptoms of their handler’s disability.
Psychiatric Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Dog
Unlike emotional support dogs, the psychiatric service dog is TRAINED to mitigate the symptoms of a disabled person. An emotional support dog is NOT TRAINED and is typically used to assist a person with a medical condition that is not to the point of being disabling to the handler.
Service Dog Trained Task
Service dogs must be TRAINED to mitigate the symptoms of a disabled person. The key to it qualifying as a trained task it must be something the person would otherwise have difficulty performing on their own.
Examples of Service Dog Trained Tasks:
- Retrieving dropped items
- Finding help when incapacitated
- Reminding to take medication
- Bracing for going down stairs
- Waking from sleep