Service animals are animals trained to assist people with disabilities in the activities of normal living. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as "...any...dog (or miniature horse) individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a 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."
This definition acknowledges that:
- An individual must have a disability as defined by the ADA, and
- The accompanying animal must be trained to do specific tasks directly related to the individual’s disability.
If an animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government or an animal training program.
See also: Service, emotional support and therapy animals
Assistance animals: Rights of access and the problem of fraud (PDF)
Clinic poster: Do you have an assistance animal? (PDF)
FAQ: Considering partnership with a service dog (PDF)
Assistance animals: Counsel clients, prevent fraud (on-demand webinar)