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Steps to certify my dog as a service dog?

Is it possible for my dog to become a service animal? If so, what steps should I take?

What are service animals?

Service animals are:

  • Dogs

  • Any breed and any size of dog

  • Trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability

Service animals are not:

  • Required to be certified or go through a professional training program

  • Required to wear a vest or other ID that indicates they’re a service dog

  • Emotional support or comfort dogs, because providing emotional support or comfort is not a task related to a person’s disability


Examples of Service Animal Tasks

A person who uses a wheelchair may have a dog that is trained to retrieve objects for them.

A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to perform a task to remind them to take their medication.

A person with PTSD may have a dog that is trained to lick their hand to alert them to an oncoming panic attack.

A person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.

Can my dog become a service dog?

Step 1: Determine if you have an eligible disability

To qualify for a Service Dog under the ADA, a qualifying condition—whether physical or mental—is necessary, impairing major life activities like work or socializing. Physical disabilities, such as visual impairment and limited mobility, are eligible, while Psychiatric Service Dogs can assist with conditions like anxiety and PTSD. To confirm eligibility for psychiatric disabilities, a letter from a Licensed Mental Healthcare Practitioner (LMHP) is typically required. The letter should include:

  1. written on the licensed healthcare professional’s letterhead

  2. dated and signed by the professional

  3. contain the professional’s contact information, license number, license date, and state of licensure

  4. contain the professional’s opinion on whether you have a mental or emotional disability that can qualify for a psychiatric service dog

Step 2: Training your Service Dog

To qualify as a Service Dog under the ADA, a dog must be individually trained for tasks related to the handler's disability. Training standards are not officially regulated in the U.S., allowing handlers to train their dogs independently. While no specific minimum training hours are mandated, some suggest around 120 hours over six months, with approximately 30 hours in public settings for exposure to distractions. Wearing relevant accessories is optional but can help signal the dog's role to the public. The key focus is on teaching specific tasks to assist with the handler's disability, such as guiding the visually impaired, alerting to medical issues, or providing support during panic attacks.

Step 3: Pass a public access test

In addition to training your dog to perform tasks that assist with your disability, it is important for a service dog to be able to comport itself appropriately in public by passing a public access test.

Public Access Criteria:

  • No aggressive behavior towards people and other animals.

  • Refrain from sniffing behaviors unless released to do so.

  • No solicitations for food or affection while on duty.

  • No over-excitement and hyperactivity in public.

  • Able to tolerate novel sights and sounds in various public settings.

  • No unruly behavior or excessive barking.

  • No relieving themselves in public without being given a specific command.

Asking if a Dog is a Service Animal

If you are working at a business or state/local government facility and it is unclear to you whether someone’s dog is a service dog, you may ask for certain information using two questions.

You may ask:

·       Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

·       What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

You are not allowed to:

·       Request any documentation that the dog is registered, licensed, or certified as a service animal

·       Require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability

Because service animals are not required to wear vests, a dog that is wearing a vest is not necessarily a service animal. The dog still needs to be trained to perform a task for a person with a disability to be a service animal.


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