US Dept of Justice
Americans with Disabilities Act
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Answers... to the questions you should never ask.

You don't look disabled. What is your disability?

Judging any disability by its visibility is discrimination.

Something, that my team of board-certified medical doctors, who are intimately familiar with my history, first identified using utilizing professionally acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and then developed a comprehensive treatment plan to mitigate the significant issues it causes on my daily life activities. 

A prescribed individually task trained service animal is one of the components of their treatment plan. 

I legally refuse to this answer question with any further detail.

Any business adamant on disclosing the handler’s medical history specifics is violating civil rights laws against harassment and interference with a working service dog team. 

Service dogs are frequently prescribed by licensed medical professionals as part of a treatment plan to mitigate their patient’s physical, sensory or mental health disabilities.

Where is Liberty’s certification paperwork or registration?

There is no national government registration of service dogs.

There are fraudulent individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Liberty has a current and comprehensive set of the vaccinations as required for the public’s health and safety.

Voluntarily, she has passed independent training assessments by professional experts for both obedience and disability-task work organizational standards.  

Disability discrimination and harassment are offenses punishable with criminal and civil liabilities.  We are fully prepared and willing to provide all documentation to any court with proper jurisdiction.

Do you receive Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

No.  An individual does not have to qualify or receive Social Security disability benefits to gain the civil rights protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carrier Access Act, the Rehab or other local disability discrimination defense.


The main difference between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the fact that SSDI is available to workers who have accumulated a sufficient number of work credits, while SSI disability benefits are available to low-income individuals who have either never worked or who haven’t earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI.

 

What is SSDI?

Social Security Disability Insurance is funded through payroll taxes. SSDI recipients are considered “insured” because they have worked for a certain number of years and have made contributions to the Social Security trust fund in the form of FICA Social Security taxes. SSDI candidates must be younger than 65 and have earned a certain number of “work credits.” (To learn more, see our article on SSDI and work credits.) After receiving SSDI for two years, a disabled person will become eligible for Medicare.

Under SSDI, a disabled person’s spouse and children dependents are eligible to receive partial dependent benefits, called auxiliary benefits. However, only adults over the age of 18 can receive the SSDI disability benefit.

There is a five-month waiting period for benefits, meaning that the SSA won’t pay you benefits for the first five months after you become disabled. The amount of the monthly benefit after the waiting period is over depends on your earnings record, much like the Social Security retirement benefit.

Approval rates for SSDI are higher on average than they are for SSI. There are a number of possible reasons for this. First, SSDI are more likely than SSI applicants to have a higher income and insurance coverage, which means they’re more likely to have seen a doctor for their medical problems. (It’s very difficult to win disability without seeing a doctor regularly.) Also, judges and claims examiners give more credibility to applicants who have a long work history, which most SSI applicants don’t have.

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income is a program that is strictly need-based, according to income and assets, and is funded by general fund taxes (not from the Social Security trust fund). SSI is called a “means-tested program,” meaning it has nothing to do with work history, but strictly with financial need. To meet the SSI income requirements, you must have less than $2,000 in assets (or $3,000 for a couple) and a very limited income.

Disabled people who are eligible under the income requirements for SSI are also able to receive Medicaid in the state they reside in. Most people who qualify for SSI will also qualify for food stamps, and the amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. SSI benefits will begin on the first of the month when you first submit your application.

SSI applicants are somewhat more likely to be female as fewer women are eligible for SSDI benefits (about 71% of women compared to 79% of men), generally because women have fewer qualifying years of work (over 60% of men have worked at least part of every year of their adult life, while only 41% of women can say the same).

How can I make my pet a service animal too?

  • #1 Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.  Disability Fraud is real and some people like to brag about their exploits.

  • #2 No online company can provide you with legal documentation, registration or identification for a service animal.  There is no national government database of service animals.  A limited number of states offer local government registration databases and identification, but most don’t
  • #3 An individual must meet the legal definition of disabled as determined by a licensed medical profession which they have an ongoing relationship with and have a stated treatment plan to mitigate the limitations of their disability.
  • #4  Self diagnosis and establishment of self determined treatment plan NEVER converts a family pet into a service animal.   There are no shortcuts to gaining the legal civil rights of being accompanied by a medical assistance animal in public access locations or reasonable accommodation situations.

Where do you buy service animal letters, prescriptions, identification, gear, etc?

Sadly, there are numerous online sources interested in helping with the proliferation of service animal – disability fraud by selling placebo letters, prescriptions, registrations, identification, gear, etc.

We recommend talking with your treating medical professional, understanding the context of disability civil rights laws and seeking gear only from trusted vendors.

Does the government or private insurance pay for the expense of your service animal?

Private insurance coverage for qualifying disabled patients rarely includes for service animals acquisition, training, health or feeding.

Military service veterans can qualify for assistance under specific programs regulated by the Department of Veteran Affairs.  However, the vast majority of disabled Americans utilizing service animals as part of the medical treatment plan bear all costs directly.

Some targeted, nonprofit associations like American Disability Rights, Canine Companions for Independence and Canine Assistants help defray the expenses associated with service animals.  Sadly, there are a growing number of fraudulent organizations masking their identities as helping disabled Americans.

We strongly recommends that if you’re interested in supporting any nonprofit, you confirm its profile with Guidestar or history with the Internal Revenue Service.

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Interference... is a crime.

"We require Liberty to demonstrate her task(s) for access to our business."

We legally refuse.  Businesses are not allowed to ask for or require task demonstrations.

If any service animal is obviously not under the total control of the disabled handler, they both should exit, either voluntarily or by any request of management. 

Otherwise, disability discrimination and harassment, either by employees or members of the public, are offenses punishable with criminal and civil liabilities.

Full Public Access Required

Liberty is not a pet, therapy or emotional support animal.  Liberty is an individually task trained service dog.

The regulations Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits the discrimination on the basis of disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

ADA Title II: State and Local Government Activities

Title II covers all activities of State and local governments regardless of the government entity’s size or receipt of Federal funding. Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).

ADA Title II: Public Transportation

The transportation provisions of title II cover public transportation services, such as city buses and public rail transit (e.g. subways, commuter rails, Amtrak). Public transportation authorities may not discriminate against people with disabilities in the provision of their services. 

ADA Title III: Public Accommodations

Title III covers businesses and nonprofit service providers that are public accommodations, privately operated entities offering certain types of courses and examinations, privately operated transportation, and commercial facilities.

Public accommodations are private entities who own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, private schools, convention centers, doctors’ offices, homeless shelters, transportation depots, zoos, funeral homes, day care centers, and recreation facilities including sports stadiums and fitness clubs. Transportation services provided by private entities are also covered by title III.

Public accommodations must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment.

Travel

Domestic Airline Travel…

Liberty’s use as a prescribed service animal is documented and will be delivered to the airline in accordance with the regulations for the Air Carrier Access Act as published by the United States Department of Transportation.

Public Transit …

Service animals may accompany people with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. The Department of Transportation’s Americans with Disabilities Act regulations define a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability, regardless of whether the animal has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.   Mass transit operations owned or operated by the government must allow service animals to accompany their handlers travel without additional charges or exclusions.

Private Transportation Companies…
Rideshare/Uber/Lyft/Taxi…

Outside of airlines and public transit, all private transportation companies are required under the Department of Transportation regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act, to allow for service animals to travel with their disabled handlers without additional costs.  Fear of an animal or claiming an allergy to an animal are not valid reasons to discriminate against providing service.  Lyft, Uber and other rideshare services also have companies policies which can lead to the driver being removed from the platform for discrimination.

Hotels, Motels, Lodging…

Regulations published by the Department of Justice for the Americans with Disabilities Act Title III prohibit the discrimination of disabled hotel guests using task-trained service dogs.

A guest with a disability who uses a service animal must be provided the same opportunity to reserve any available room at the hotel as other guests without disabilities. They may not be restricted to “pet-friendly” rooms.

Hotels are not permitted to charge guests for cleaning the hair or dander shed by a service animal. However, if a guest’s service animal causes damages to a guest room, a hotel is permitted to charge the same fee for damages as charged to other guests. 

If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises.

Before a business attempts to remove a service animal or charge a fee...

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.

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.

Reasonable Accommodations

Workplace…

A reasonable accommodation request has been made and approved for Liberty’s use in the handler’s workplace under the regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title I, as managed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Residential Housing…

A reasonable accommodation request has been made and approved for Liberty’s use in the handler’s residential housing under the regulations of the Fair Housing Act as managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Allergies and fear of dogs

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.

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Harassment... is a costly mistake.

What questions can a covered entity's employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?

SOURCE: US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section:  Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

A: In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific 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 are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about
the nature of the person’s disability.

Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identifying them as service animals?

No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

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A little bit of knowledge... is a dangerous thing.

What questions can a covered entity's employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?

SOURCE: US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section:  Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

A: In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific 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 are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about
the nature of the person’s disability.

Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?

No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Are service-animals-in-training considered service animals under the ADA?

No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

However, service animals in training are often covered under local disability rights laws including in Liberty’s home state of Georgia.

When can service animals be excluded?

A:  Individuals who believe that they have been illegally denied access or service because they use service animals may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Individuals also have the right to file a private lawsuit for equitable relief in Federal Court charging the entity with discrimination under the ADA.

Individuals also have the right to file a private lawsuit under local laws through local courts.


A service animal may not be excluded based on assumptions or stereotypes about the animal’s breed or how the animal might behave.  However, if a particular service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, has a history of such behavior, or is not under the control of the handler, that animal may be excluded.  If an animal is excluded for such reasons, staff must still offer their goods or services to the person without the animal present.

Municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.  Under the “direct threat” provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history, but they may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave.  It is important to note that breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  In fact, some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions.

The ADA does not require covered entities to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does it overrule legitimate safety requirements.  If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be prohibited.  In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

In most settings, the presence of a service animal will not result in a fundamental alteration.

 

 

 

When might a service dog's presence fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program provided to the public?

In most settings, the presence of a service animal will not result in a fundamental alteration. 

However, there are some exceptions.  For example, at a boarding school, service animals could be restricted from a specific area of a dormitory reserved specifically for students with allergies to dog dander.  At a zoo, service animals can be restricted from areas where the animals on display are the natural prey or natural predators of dogs, where the presence of a dog would be disruptive, causing the displayed animals to behave aggressively or become agitated.  They cannot be restricted from other areas of the zoo. 

What does under control mean? Do service animals have to be on a leash? Do the have to be quiet and not bark?

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability.

The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal.

For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her.

Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times.

Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

How Does Deep Pressure Stimulation (DPS) Work

When you apply deep pressure to the body, the body switches from running its sympathetic nervous system to its parasympathetic nervous system. This is the so-called switch from “fight or flight” to “rest and digest”.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is the “alert” system in the body. This is the one in charge when you’re facing a stressful situation at work, driving through heavy traffic in a storm, or when you receive an unexpected bill in the mail.

When the SNS takes the lead for too long, you feel anxious, tired, on edge, and irritable. You don’t sleep as well and your digestive system might act up.

Unfortunately disabled Americans with anxiety disorders spend a lot of time stuck in the sympathetic nervous system. Even when they do calm down, it takes very little to retrigger this system.

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), however, brings a sense of calm and peace to the mind and body.

When the parasympathetic nervous system takes over, your heart rate slows, muscles relax, and circulation improves. Your body produces endorphins, which are the “happy” hormones that make you feel amazing after a good run.

As deep pressure is applied to the body, the parasympathetic nervous system comes online, calming the person and bringing a sense of well-being.

In tandem with this change comes a release of dopamine and serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitters of the brain. These hormones help with motivation, impulse control, attention, memory, social behavior, sleep, and digestion.