New Rules for Service Animals and the ADA

New Rules for Service Animals and the ADA

The Department of Justice is muddying the waters of the disabled and the use of service animals in the new definitions for what a service animal must be. In the past people have used animals of all types. Everything from a gerbil to a donkey for a wide range of disabilities including mobility, psychiatric, seizure alert, diabetic and hearing dogs.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

New Service Animal definition injures the disabled

Our current definition for service animal under the ADA is, “Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, *or other animal* individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.”

The new definition is, “Service animal means any *dog* that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”

I, for one, agree with the definition that service animals should just be DOGS. I would love to have your thoughts on the subject as I am sure there are many opinions out there.

I welcome your comments and concerns. Please comment below.

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Doctor Radio | Denver Dog Works


Dr. Robert Forto the training director for Dog Works Training Centers, is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and The Dog Doctor Radio Show

16 Responses to New Rules for Service Animals and the ADA

  1. Michelle says:

    Sorry, I don’t agree that only dogs should be considered. Some paralyed ppl use Capuchin monkeys to do all kinds of things for them. I’ve even seen miniature horses used in the same capacity as service dogs. While I realize that the old definition was too broad, the new one is way too narrow and may truly hurt those who use other animals to get thru life

    • Michelle says:

      I missed the last part about emotional support, etc, also not being considered. Sooo, a soldier who has PTSD and has been made able to function by a service dogs no longer may call it a service dog. What about depressed ppl or those who have agoraphobia so bad that they haven’t left the house in years who now, with a service dog/animal, have the courage to get out into the world? Just because we can’t “see” the disablity doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t suffer and if the service animal brings a good quality of life to the person, why is it wrong to consider it a service animal?

      • Michelle
        The disabilities you are describing still fall under the umbrella of psychiatric service dogs. If we pick apart every disability, then every person on the planet would qualify for a service dog.

        It’s better that qualified trainers utilize the determining factors that the ADA is outlining.

        I think the ADA is merely putting on paper what many of us trainers are seeing, a lot of new listings of uses for service dogs just because people want to take their dog everywhere with them.

      • JB says:

        I am an agoraphobic and I do agree with Michelle on a service dog giving emotional support. I also have a grand-daughter with
        M.D. (SMA) who has a certified service dog. I think any new laws should revolve around the animal being trained and the certication of the animal. All service animals should have to wear a tag issued by the ADA. Too many people are walking around with their pets claiming they are service animals just so they can take their animals with them for convience.I see this on a daily basis.

  2. I am the lead training advisor for Dog Works Training Centers, Service/Therapy division. I’d like to thank Robert for diligently posting this article.

    I agree with the new definitions as they actually erase the ability for those “wishing” to take their pets with them everywhere – and clearly defining the appropriate disabilities with individuals who truly benefit from having a service dog.
    Dogs have been trained for over 200 years in the capacity of service to humans. They have the most proven track record, bloodlines, compatability, reliability and social acceptance. Not too mention that we(humans) have genetically altered the outcome of canines to suit several purposes for our benefits. Other animals have not been manipulated in this fashion and therefore are quite unpredictable.

  3. 9/22/10

    There is still a lot of confusion with the new laws and there are legal webinars happening nationally to educate folks on this. Dogs and miniature horses are in, all other animals are out, WHEN this goes into effect. Emotional support/companion dogs don’t qualify as service dogs because they comfort the individual with a disability. A service dog has to be trained to provide a task/service to the person with a disability. Service women and men who have PTSD, TBI and other disabilities can still access service animals that are trained to assist them. Laws pertaining to housing are different and you may be legally protected to have a comfort animal that you otherwise would not be protected under the ADA. Interestingly, a person with a service animal can take their service animal wherever the public is allowed however regarding employment, you have to have permission from the company to have your service dog as an accomodation.Hope this is helpful, Lorre Mendelson

  4. PwD says:

    First not all the information is up about Service Animals. Although it has stated that Dogs are the only service animals allowed. The New Regulation also put a provision which is further down the page for Mini Horses. Yes it’s Dogs and Mini Horses that are service animals while other types are not.

    As for the Capuchin monkeys which is from an organization they are In Home Service Animals henceforth doesn’t apply to the Title II or III. Their own comments when there was public comments about the proposal (which I read) stated that they couldn’t provide the safety, health out in public which they agreed with the Americans Vet. Association group. That is why they just in home service animals.

    Now as for Emotional Support Animals The ADA never ever covered these animals however the FHA as well as the ACAA does. Nevertheless ESA are not PSD (Psychiatric Service Dogs). ESA are comfort animals, calming animals and has no actual training in task work where as the PSD have had formal task training.

    With that said Do I agree with the New Regulations. Yes and No. Oh boy I sound like a politician. I do like the fact that they restricted exotic animals as many of these animals aren’t appropriate in public settings. It’s taking these animals out of their environment and adding undue stress.

    Although I do believe that Domestic House Cats should be included as these animals are capable of being trained task work.

    What I do like about the new regulations is the fact that they put in specific sections: Owner Trainers which are just as capable of training. And Breed Restrictions exemptions. And a few other things too. And yes I have trained over 25 years and have seen it all.

  5. Casey Thompson says:

    I still have a question. As far as notification, what are the rights of say, a hotel, to request certification paperwork from a person with a service dog. Up to this point, we have been told we cannot ask for any documentation unless we see a “service dog” misbehaving or causing commotion. This, I believe, is what has opened it up for anyone to take a dog anywhere and “claim” it is a “service dog”. Any well behaved dog would pass as long as it didn’t bark, or cause a disturbance. Has this issue been addressed in the new law, or are we still unable to ask for documentation for proof of certification?

    • teamineka says:


      It is my understanding that the new rules brought forth by the Department of Justice in regards to the ADA is that a business (hotel, restaurant, etc.) can still ask; “what is your service animal used for.” How a person handles that is up to them. We tell our clients to say: “My dog is a psychiatric service dog…” and that is it. Nothing more, nothing less.

      In regards to documentation: I have been lobbying for years for a national certification; what I call a service dog “drivers license”. This would be uniform just like our drivers licenses are. Think about it. If you have a DL from Colorado and move to Texas, the rights to drive are the same. True you may have to take a test again in your new state but the items on the test are about the same from state to state. This is what we need for service dogs–a standardized test for the dogs that must be passed and along with that a uniform ID card.

      A private business still and always has had the right to refuse service to anyone, even if it is a service dog team.

      Thank you for your comment,


  6. KEVIN ALMOND says:


    • teamineka says:

      I agree with you. It is unfortunate, but each of the different federal agencies work under their own rules (ie. ADA, Section 8 housing, HOAs, individual employers, etc.). The recent rules from th Department of Justice regarding the ADA state that service animals can only be specially trained dogs and mini horses.

      Thank you for your comment,

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