Skip to main content

Service Animals: Information on Therapy and Service Dogs

  • Synopsis: Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Definition: Therapy Dogs

A dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas. Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily. A therapy dog's primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that contact. Children in particular enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog might need to be lifted onto, or climb onto, an individual's lap or bed and sit or lie comfortably there.

Main Document

An assistance dog is a dog trained to aid or assist a person. Many are trained by a specific organization, while others are trained by their handler (sometimes with the help of a professional trainer).

Service animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities such as guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks. Although a service animal is most often a dog, it can also be another kind of animal such as a cat, bird, monkey or pig.

Capuchin monkeys have been trained to perform manual tasks such as grasping items, operating knobs and switches, and turning the pages of a book.

Miniature horses are sometimes trained to guide the blind, pull wheelchairs, or as support for persons with Parkinson's disease.

Cats are also sometimes trained to signal their deaf owner for certain sounds, or may naturally be able to predict seizures in a person.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform independently.

Most people are familiar with Service Dogs such as Guide Dogs for those who are blind and Hearing Dogs for those who are deaf. Yet, we often do not realize that, Service animals are not limited to animals that assist people with hearing or sight impairments, but also include those that otherwise assist individuals with disabilities.

Under the ADA, privately owned businesses that serve the public, including restaurants, hotels, stores, taxis, and airlines are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. As such, businesses must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals with them, wherever customers are normally allowed.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), As defined in section 36.104 of the title III regulation, a service animal includes any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability

It is always a good idea, when making hotel reservations, to inform them of your specific disability and that you are being accompanied by a service dog. Even if a hotel or restaurant has a "no pets" policy, this never applies to service animals.

In many areas of the world, assistance dogs are not required to have any sort of "certification" or proof of their training; however, most programs voluntarily certify their dogs, and many wear a harness or cape to identify them.

Typically, a potential service animal undergoes extensive behavioral testing before being accepted into a training program.

Above all, a service animal is not a pet, although the animal is probably loved by its owners. If you see someone with a service animal, always ask for permission before petting or handling it, and be aware that if the animal is working, you may not be allowed to touch it.

Vision & Blindness Impairment Awareness

White awareness ribbonApproximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness. The white awareness ribbon represents blindness.

October is Blindness Awareness Month - World Blindness Awareness Month was established for every October to help people understand the realities of living without sight. As part of Eye Care Awareness Month people are encouraged to have an annual eye exam. October has also been declared Children's Vision Month to encourage parents to book annual eye exams for their children to ensure their eye health.

World Sight Day - A global event that focuses on bringing attention on blindness and vision impairment. It is observed on the second Thursday of October each year.

Coming Dates:
Thu Oct 12 2017
Thu Oct 11 2018
Thu Oct 10 2019
Thu Oct 8 2020

Quick Facts: Service Animal

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits any business, government agency, or other organization that provides access to the general public from barring guide dogs. However, religious organizations are not required to provide such access. Current federal regulations define "service animal" for ADA purposes to exclude all species of animals other than domestic dogs and miniature horses. Other laws, though, still provide broader definitions in other areas. For instance, the Department of Transportation's regulations enacting the Air Carrier Access Act permit "dogs and other service animals" to accompany passengers on commercial airlines. The Fair Housing Act also requires housing providers to permit service animals (including comfort and emotional support animals) without species restrictions in housing.

Latest Service Animals Publications

  1. Owning a Pet is Good for Mental Health Issues
    Emotional Support Animals are now used in treatment and considered part of the normal care for a variety of mental health issues.
  2. Common Service Dog Misconceptions
    A list of common misconceptions that the general public has about service dogs.
  3. A Test of Blind Ambition: 3D Soundscape of What it was Like for Paralympian Libby Clegg Growing Up
    Video clip features 3D audio and asks the viewer to plug in their headphones and close their eyes to get a sense of what it is like to experience the world without sight.
  4. Fake Assistance Dogs - Untrained Pets Posing As Service Dogs
    Service dogs are becoming an increasingly familiar sight in public places, but how many of these dogs are just pets in vests.
  5. Pet Owners Save $11.7B in Health Care Costs
    HABRI findings of new economic study on healthcare cost savings associated with pet ownership.

Full List of Service Animals Documents (54 Items)


     What will I receive?

Money ChartLoan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Abraham LincolnFamous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

Pink awareness ribbonList of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Chart IconBlood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be. Also see information on blood group types and compatibility.