International Assistance Dog Week

August 4-10, 2019 is International Assistance Dog Week (IADW)!

IADW was created to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability related limitations.
The goals of IADW are to:

  • Recognize and honor assistance dogs
  • Raise awareness and educate the public about assistance dogs
  • Honor puppy raisers and trainers
  • Recognize heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs in our communities

During this week I would like to take the time to go over Assistance dogs titles, jobs, and rights under the law.  

Service Dogs

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.  

Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.

The ADA does not have any requirements concerning where or how a dog is trained to allow the owner to be involved in the process and allow availability to training.  However Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

  • When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

  • Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.

  • A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
  • Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
  • People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
  • If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.
  • Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal.

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a dog or other common domesticated animal that provides support to its disabled handler through companionship, non-judgmental regard, affection and/or being a distraction from the issues of daily life.  While typically dogs or cats, emotional support animals may include other species. However, before any animal can be determined to be an ESA, their owner must first be diagnosed with a mental disability that significantly limits one or more of their daily major life activities by a qualified mental health professional.

While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals.

In a residential environment. emotional support animals are subject to any communities species regulations including registration, vaccination and prohibitions.

The DOT’s rules for the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) enable emotional support animals to travel for free, in-cabin with their disabled handler.  However, the DOT’s rules for air travel allow for more restrictions on what qualifies as an ESA when compared to HUD’s rules for FHA.  “Unusual” animals can not be used as ESA’s under the DOT’s rules including snakes, reptiles, rodents, spiders and ferrets.  Miniature horses, pigs and monkeys may also be denied ESA status by the air carrier.  Because of widespread abuse, increasingly air carriers are also requiring credible proof of animal training to grant service.
Separately, the DOT’s rules for public transportation (mass transit bus, commuter rail, ferries, etc.) covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II do not mandate providers make exceptions for emotional support animals.  It is left up to the local provider to allow emotional support animals on the same basis as service dogs, to classify them as pets under their same pricing/policies or to ban them completely.
However, neither the ACAA or ADA Title II protections cover ESAs in hotels, inns or any forms of transient lodging. Handlers should seek pet-friendly locations during their travels away from their residence.   These locations may legally charge a pet-fee for emotional support animals, limit the types of animals and place additional requirements on their handlers.

Therapy Animals

Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.  

Therapy dogs also receive training but have a completely different type of job from service dogs. Their responsibilities are to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers. These dogs have stable temperaments and friendly, easy-going personalities. Typically, they visit hospitals, schools, hospices, nursing homes and more. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a variety of people while they are on-duty including petting the therapy dog.
Therapy dogs may also visit schools, daycares, group homes and rehabilitation centers. Their roles vary from dogs who give learning disabled children the confidence to read out loud, to actively participating in physical rehabilitation therapy. In some cases, a therapy dog will work in an establishment exclusively, such as a psychotherapy practice.
Therapy dogs may be trained by just about anyone, but must meet set standards to be certified and registered and actively participate in the program. They are usually handled by their owners, but in some cases of Animal Assisted Therapy, the therapy dog may be handled by a trained professional.
To learn more about becoming a Therapy Team you can visit Pet Partners of Tennessee Valley the Pet Partners Community Group founded by Legend Acres.  

Assistance Dog Handler Responsibilities

The handler is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal. If a service animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the person with a disability does not control the animal, a business or other entity does not have to allow the animal onto its premises. 
  • Uncontrolled barking, jumping on other people, or running away from the handler are examples of unacceptable behavior for a service animal. A business has the right to deny access to a dog that disrupts their business. For example, a service dog that barks repeatedly and disrupts another patron’s enjoyment of a movie could be asked to leave the theater. 
  • Businesses, public programs, and transportation providers may exclude a service animal when the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. If a service animal is growling at other shoppers at a grocery store, the handler may be asked to remove the animal.  
  • Both service and emotional support animals may be excluded from the workplace if they pose either an undue hardship or a direct threat in the workplace.  
  • The animal must be housebroken. 
  • The ADA does not require covered entities to provide for the care or supervision of a service animal, including cleaning up after the animal.  
  • The animal should be vaccinated in accordance with state and local laws.
Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.  If employees, fellow travelers, or customers are afraid of service animals, a solution may be to allow enough space for that person to avoid getting close to the service animal.Most allergies to animals are caused by direct contact with the animal. A separated space might be adequate to avoid allergic reactions.If a person is at risk of a significant allergic reaction to an animal, it is the responsibility of the business or government entity to find a way to accommodate both the individual using the service animal and the individual with the allergy. 

To learn more about training for Assistance Dogs you can contact Legend Acres online at
 at 931-232-6044 or email to schedule your free assessment and learn more about the assistance dog training programs at Legend Acres.  

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Legend Acres
Boarding, Training, Lessons
Kristi May MS, CVPM, LVMT, BSA, AHT, ABCDT, CHA Cert Riding Lesson Instructor, CHA EFM, Cert Equine Nutrition, Cert Animal Cognitive Behavior
152 Hurricane Creek Road
Stewart, TN 37175
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