MENUHomeNewsTopics A - Z

Service and Therapy Animals for People with Disability

  • Synopsis: Last Revised/Updated: 2018-01-02 - Service and therapy animals are animals that are individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities.

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).

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.

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.

Quick Facts: Service Animals

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) 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.

Home Page

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

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

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

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™