Public Access privileges for service dogs in training vary significantly by state


All service dog trainers have public access without additional fees being charged for the use of the animal.

Under AL law, a person training a service animal has the same rights to public access as a fully task-trained service animal.   State law limits SDiT to dogs trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.

Source: 2017 Code of Alabama § 21-7-4 (d)


Trainers must be authorized by employment or volunteering with a school, agency or other facility that trains service animals.

Under AK law trainers must be a representatives and carry identification of an organization that trains service animals.  The dog must wear insignia identifying the school and establishing that the dog is in training.  Interference with training a service animal is a violation.  Trainers are liable for all damages done by the animal.  Any dog expressing unruly or disruptive contact can be removed.

Source 2017: AK Statues §11.76.133


Any trainer or individual with a disability can take a service dog in training to the same public places as a task-trained service animal.

Under AZ law, service dogs are recognized to provide tasks for vision, hearing, mobility, medical response and psychiatric disabilities.  Any animal may be removed if it poses a direct health or safety threat to others, fundamentally alters the nature of the public place, poses an undue burden, is out of control or is not housebroken.  Criminal violations are class 2 misdemeanors, but do not affect any civil remedies.  The crime deterrent effect of an animals presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship do not constitute work or tasks.

Source 2017: §11-1024-G


Owner-trainers for visual, hearing or physical disabilities only.  Dog trainers for guide, signal or service dogs.

Under AR law, public access is granted to owner-trainers with sensory or mobility disabilities only.   Other disabilities are granted public access under state law only for fully trained service dogs.  Purposefully injuring or killing a service animal is a state class D felony.   The owner of a service animal can seek civil restitution.

Source 2017: A.C.A. § 20-14-308 (a)


Disabled owner-trainer public access allowed for the purpose of training. All third-party trainers must maintain CA business licensing.  All guide, signal and service dogs must be leashed and wear the government identification tag issued by the county clerk, animal control department or other CA authorized agency.

Under CA law all must dogs in the state older than 4 months must be registered with the government.  Service dogs and service dogs in training can apply for government issued identification at the time of licensing.

Source 2017: CA Civil § 54.1 (c)


Misrepresenting a pet as a service animal is a criminal offense.  Disabled owner-trainer and representative trainers of service animals have the rights of public access, employment, housing and transportation.

Under CO law, disabled individuals handling service animals in training have the same civil rights as a trained team including public access, transportation and reasonable accommodations for housing and employment.   Individuals who intentionally misrepresents a pet as a service animal or service animal in training can be found guilty of class 2 petty offense and upon conviction fined up to $500.

Source 2017: C.R.S. § 18-13-107.3, C.R.S. § 18-34-803.(2)


Public access and housing rights for trainers or sensory/mobility disability owner-trainers only.  SDiT must wear harness or orange colored leash and collar.   All dogs must be registered.

Under CT law third party trainers must be employed by and authorized to engage in designated training activities by a guide dog organization or assistance dog organization that complies with the criteria for membership in a professional association of guide or assistance dog schools, has photo identification of employment and authorization and the dog is identified through tags, tattoos, bandannas, coats or leashes and collars.  Town clerk license and tags for all dogs, but with no fee for trained service animals for blind, deaf or mobility disabled handlers.

Source 2017: §46a-44 (b)


All trainers and support animals covered with the same civil rights as task-trained support animals for individuals with physical disabilities.  

Under the DE equal accommodations law, support animal means any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks to meet the requirements of a person with a physical disability.  DE does not recognize emotional support animals as “support animals”.  No protections are extended to other disabilities under state law.

Source 2017: DE Title 6  § 4504


Any trainer of a service animal has public access rights.  Misrepresentation of conducting training or pets, through conduct, verbal or written notice is crime.

Under FL law trainers of service animals, while engaged in the training of the animal, have the same rights and privileges with respect to public facilities and the same liabilities.  Fraudulent representation of a disability, a service animal, training a service animal or a service animal in training is a  FL misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable includes mandated 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities.

Source 2017: FLS Title XXX § 413.08 (4)


Disabled owner-trainers do not have public access rights for SDiT in Georgia.

Under GA law, trainers must be an identified agent or employee of an accredited school for seeing eye, hearing, service or guide dogs.  Trainer must have credentials from the school available for inspection and the dog must be identified by collar, leash or other apparel of the accredited school.

Source 2017: Official Code of Georgia O.C.G.A. § 30-4-2 (b) (2); (3)


Hawaii does NOT extend any public access or civil rights protections to any type of service dog in training (disabled owner, school or private).

Under HI law a companion or comfort animal is not a service animal.  Service dogs perform work or tasks for individuals with a physical, sensory, intellectual, or other mental disability.  Only trained service animals have any protections under state law.

Source 2017:  § 347-13-b


Trainers must be a representative and carry identification from a recognized school for assistance dogs or organization which serves disabled persons.  Public access is granted for training or socialization.

Under ID law, qualified trainers have the same public access, but are liable for the actions of the dog.

Source 2017: ID Statues Title 56 § 56-704A


Owner-trainers if blind, hearing impaired, seizure disorders or physical disabilities and third-party trainers of support, guide, seizure-alert, seizure-response or hearing dogs have public access subject to liability for any damages caused by the animal.

IL repealed the state’s Service Animal Access Act in 2013.  The state’s Assistance Animal Damages Act allows for economic and noneconomic damages.

Source 2017: 775 ILCS § 30/3


A service animal trainer, while engaged in the training process of a service animal, is entitled to public access.

Under IN law updated in 2009, trained service animals included hearing animal, guide animal, assistance animal, seizure alert animal, mobility animal, a psychiatric service animal and an autism service animal.   The code was updated to remove the exclusive use of the term “guide dog” and as such Indiana allows for other task-trained animals to be used to mitigate the handler’s disability.  In 2018, Indiana clarified that emotional support animals have reasonable accommodations only in residential housing locations.

Source 2017: IC § 16-32-3-2 (d)


A person training a service dog or assistive animal has public access rights.

Under IA law, service dog includes a dog specially trained to assist a person with a disability and could be described as a service dog, a support dog, an independence dog or otherwise.  Assisitive animals means simains or other animal specially trained or in the process of being trained to assist a person with a disability.

Source 2017: IC Title VI §216C.11


Professional trainers of assistance dogs from a recognized training center have public access rights.  Qualified handlers of professional therapy dogs have public access.

KS laws cite service dogs, assistance dogs and professional therapy dogs.  Misrepresentation of any animal as a service dog, assistance dog or professional therapy dog or faking a disability to benefit is a crime.

Source 2017: KS § 39-1109


All trainers accompanied by an assistance dog shall have in their personal possession identification verifying that they are trainers of assistance dogs.

Under KY law, assistance dogs are exempt from state and local licensing fees.  Trainers have the same public access and reasonable accommodation rights as a disabled handler of a trained assistance animal.

Source 2017: KY XXI §258.500(7)


Service dog trainers and puppy raisers have the same rights and privileges as a person with a disability accompanied by a service dog.

Under LA law, trainers have full public access and reasonable accommodation civil rights as person with a disability using a fully task trained service dog.  However, trainers are liable for the actions of the dogs.

Source 2017: RS 46§1955


An especially trained service dog trainer, while engaged in the process of training, has public access rights.

Under ME law, a service dog kept prior to training is a dog under 18 months of age, owned by a nonprofit organization, for the purpose of training as a service dog and living temporarily with a resident of the State prior to training.  Misrepresentation of a service animal or assistance animal through false documents, harness, vest, collar, sign or other means is a civil violation of up to $1,000 for each occurrence.

Source 2017: ME Title 17 42 § 1011 (14); ME Title 5 § 4553 9-E, I-H; ME Title 17 § 1312 (4); ME Title 17 § 1314-A


A service animal trainer who is accompanied by an animal being trained has the same rights and privileges conferred by law on other individuals.

Under MD law, service animals in training can be excluded if admitting the animal would create a clear danger of a disturbance or physical harm to an individual in the place.

Source 2017: MD Human Services Code § 7-705 (a)(4)


A person accompanied by and engaged in the raising and training of a service dog has the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as those under the ADA.

Under MA law, trainers have public access rights.  Hearing dogs trainers require a business license and registration from the director of the Office of Deafness.

Source 2017: Part , Title XIX §129 39F, 39C


2015: MI has enacted new legislation which matches the U.S. DOJ definition of “service animal”.  SDiT do not have public access or reasonable accommodations rights.

Under MI law, trained service animals can be voluntarily registered with the state.  Fraudulent representation of pet as a service animal can be punishable by imprisonment of up to 90 days, fine of up to $500 and/or community service of up to 30 days.  Only fully trained service animals qualify for public access or reasonable accommodation rights under the state laws updated in 2015.

Source 2017: MCL § 37.303


Any person training a dog to be a service dog has public access rights, when from a recognized school for seeing eye, hearing ear, service or guide dogs.

Under MN law trainers are responsible for any damage done by a service dog in training.  Housing accommodations under state law protect only trained service dogs.

Source 2017: MN Statutes § 256C.02


Trainers of support dogs given same public access rights as those provided to blind, mobility impaired or hearing impaired persons with support animals.

Under the Mississippi Support Animal Act, only service dogs in training for sensory or mobility disabilities are granted public access.  MS does not grant service dogs in training residential housing reasonable accommodation rights.

Source 2017: MS Code §43-6-155


Trainers must be from a recognized training center of guide, hearing assistance or service dogs to be granted public access rights.

Under MO law provisions can not exceed the ADA.  Trainers are liable for any damages done to the facilities while training.

Source 2017: MO Statutes § 209.152


Service animals in training are granted public access when the dog is identified by a leash, collar, cape, harness or backpack that identifies in writing that the dog is a service animal in training.

Under MT law, disabled-owners or third-parties can train service animals and be granted public access.  A person with a disability can also have equal access to all housing accommodations, but will be responsible for any damage done to the premises by the animal.

Source 2017: MC 49 § 4-214


“Bona fide” trainers are granted public access without additional fees.

Under NE law, persons wit sensory or physical disabilities are granted public access rights.   The state did not define “bona fide” trainers, but the local courts have urged the statue be strictly construed because it falls under the penal code.  As such, most courts would expect the trainer to be a representative of an organization, not an independent disabled owner-trainer.

Source 2017: NRS § 20-127 (3)


Nevada grants disabled-owners and third-party trainers public access subject to the same conditions and limitations that apply to persons who are no accompanied.

Under NV law, the state grants disabled handlers using service animals (dogs or mini horse only) and persons training service animals public access, but they are responsible for any liability encountered and maybe removed if either out control or a poses a direct health or safety threat to others.

Source 2017: NSA §651.075


Disabled owner-trainers must be accompanied by third-party eligible representatives or be an employee/volunteer for a training organization.

Under NH law a service animal trainer, while engaged in the actual training process and activities of such animals, shall have the same rights and privileges with respect to access to public facilities, and the same responsibilities as are applicable to persons with disabilities using a service animal. “Service animal trainer” means any person who is employed to train dogs for or is volunteering to raise dogs for a provider of service animals for persons with disabilities or an individual trainer who helps a person with disabilities to train his or her own service animal or an individual trainer who tests an animal to verify its eligibility for the New Hampshire service animal tag.

Source 2017: NHS § 167-D:6


New Jersey does not recognize independent disabled owner-training.

Under NJ law, a service or guide dog trainer , while engaged in the actual training process and activities of service dogs or guide dogs, shall have the same rights and privileges with respect to access to public facilities, and the same responsibilities as are applicable to a person with a disability.  “Guide or service dog trainer” means any person who is employed by an organization generally recognized by agencies involved in the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, including, but not limited to, those persons who are blind, have visual impairments, or are deaf or have hearing impairments, as reputable and competent to provide dogs with training, as defined in this section, and who is actually involved in the training process.

Source 2017: § 10:5-5 t


All trainers of NM qualified service animals have public access.

Under NM Service Animal Act (2013)  “qualified service animal” means any qualified service dog or qualified service miniature horse that has been or is being trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability; but “qualified service animal” does not include a pet, an emotional support animal, a comfort animal or a therapy animal.

Source 2017: NMSA § 28-11-2-B


All trainers have public access while engaged in training.

Under NY law, service animals are limited to the definitions found in the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Source 2017: NY CVR § 47-b 3


Training organizations and people training a service animal have the same access rights as people with disabilities using a service animal.

Under NC law an animal in training to become a service animal may be taken into any of the places listed in G.S. 168-3 for the purpose of training when the animal is accompanied by a person who is training the service animal and the animal wears a collar and leash, harness, or cape that identifies the animal as a service animal in training. The trainer shall be liable for any damage caused by the animal while using a public conveyance or on the premises of a public facility.  North Carolina offers permanent registration of service animals.

Source 2017: NCGS § 168-4.2 b


Service animal trainers must be from nationally recognized programs and notify onsite management that a service animal in training is being brought onto the premises.

Under ND law, a recognized service animal program trainer can not be denied public access by the onsite management without good cause.

Source 2017: § 25-13-02.1


Service animal trainers must be representatives of an agency to be given public access rights.

Under OH law, any dog in training to become an assistance dog shall be covered by a liability insurance policy provided by the nonprofit special agency engaged in such work protecting members of the public against personal injury or property damage caused by the dog.

Source 2017: OC § 955.43


Dog trainers from recognized training centers, when engaged in the process of training a service animal, are granted public access.

Under OK law, service dog is defined as any dog individually trained to the physically handicapped person’s requirements.  A “physically handicapped person” under OK law is unable to move without the aid of a wheelchair and have severe or permanently restricted mobility of two or more extremities.  A signal dog is trained to alert a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to intruders or sounds.

Source 2017: OS §7-19-1


Assistance animal trainers are granted access to any place that is open to the public.

Under OR law “Assistance animal trainer” means an individual exercising care, custody and control over an assistance animal trainee during a course of training designed to develop the trainee into an assistance animal. “Assistance animal trainee” means an animal that is undergoing a course of development and training to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual that directly relate to the disability of the individual. “Assistance animal” means a dog or other animal designated by administrative rule that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual.

Source 2017: ORS § 659A.143


Trainers must be from a recognized authority to be granted public access rights.

Under PA law a person is guilty of a summary offense if he, being the proprietor, manager or employee of a theatre, hotel, restaurant or other place of public accommodation, entertainment or amusement, refuses, withholds or denies any person, who is using a guide, signal or service dog or other aid animal that has been certified by a recognized authority to assist a person, because of the physical disability, blindness or deafness of the user, or who is training a guide, signal or support dog or other aid animal for or from a recognized authority for such a user, the use of or access to any accommodation, advantage, facility or privilege of such theatre, hotel, restaurant or other place of public entertainment or amusement.

Source 2017: PA CS 18 § 7325


Every trainer or puppy raiser of a personal assistance animal shall have the same rights and privileges as a disabled handler of a task-trained service animal.

Under RI law, a  “Personal assistance animal” means a dog that has been or is being trained as a guide dog, hearing dog or service dog. “Guide dog” means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a particular blind or visually impaired person. “Hearing dog” means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a particular deaf or hard-of-hearing person. “Service dog” means a dog that has been or is being specially trained to aid a particular disabled person with a disability other than sight or hearing.

Source 2017: RI 40 §40-9.1-2.1


All trainers have public access rights while engaged in the act of training an assistance dog.

Under SC law,  every person who is a trainer of an assistance or guide dog, while engaged in the training of an assistance or guide dog, has the same rights and privileges with respect to access to public facilities and accommodations as blind and disabled persons, including the right to be accompanied by an assistance or guide dog or assistance or guide dog in training, in any of the places without being required to pay an extra charge for the assistance dog. A person who uses premises or facilities accommodations accompanied by a dog under the authority of this item is liable for any damage done to the premises or facilities by the dog.

Source 2017: SCC  §43-33-20(d)


South Dakota does not grant any Service Dogs in Training for public access rights.

Under SD law, any person who is totally or partially physically disabled, totally or partially blind, or totally or partially deaf may be accompanied by a service animal, especially trained for the purpose, in any of the public places without being required to pay an extra charge for the service animal.

Source 2017: SDC §20-13-23.2


Trainers from accredited schools for guide dog training, when the animal is wearing a collar, leash or other apparel that identifies the school, are granted public access.

Under TN law no proprietor, employee or other person in charge of any place of public accommodation, amusement or recreation, including, but not limited to, any inn, hotel, restaurant, eating house, barber shop, billiard parlor, store, public conveyance on land or water, theater, motion picture house, public educational institution or elevator, shall refuse to permit a dog guide trainer to enter such place or to make use of the accommodations provided in those places, when the accommodations are available, for the reason that the dog guide trainer is being led or accompanied by a dog guide in training; provided, that the dog guide in training, when led or accompanied by a dog guide trainer, is wearing a harness and is held on a leash by the dog guide trainer or, when led or accompanied by a dog guide trainer, is held on a leash by the dog guide trainer; and provided, further, that the dog guide trainer shall first have presented for inspection credentials issued by an accredited school for training dog guides.

Source 2017: TCA § 62-7-112 (a)(2)(B)


A service animal in training shall not be denied admittance to any public facility when accompanied by an approved trainer.

Under TX law, “Assistance animal” and “service animal” mean a canine that is specially trained or equipped to help a person with a disability and that is used by a person with a disability. A person who uses a service animal with a harness or leash of the type commonly used by persons with disabilities who use trained animals, in order to represent that his or her animal is a specially trained service animal when training has not in fact been provided, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Source 2017: T HRC §121.003 (i)


A person who is not a person with a disability has the right to be accompanied by an animal that is in training to become a service animal in any public place without additional charge for the animal.

Under UT law, a person with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a service animal, unless the service animal is a danger or nuisance to others as interpreted under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Source 2017: U HSC § 62A-5b-104 (2)


Any individual training an animal to perform as a service animal for an individual with a disability has public access rights.

Under VT law, an owner or operator of a place of public accommodation or his or her employee or agent shall not prohibit from entering a place of public accommodation an individual with a disability accompanied by a service animal or an individual who is training an animal to perform as a service animal for an individual with a disability.

Source 2017: 9 V.S.A. § 4502 (2)


Experienced trainers are granted public access when the animal is at least 6 months of age, on a blaze orange leash, harness, backpack or vest identifying the animal

Under VA law,  the provisions apply to persons accompanied by a dog that is in training, at least six months of age, and is (i) in harness, provided such person is an experienced trainer of guide dogs or is conducting continuing training of a guide dog; (ii) on a blaze orange leash, provided such person is an experienced trainer of hearing dogs or is conducting continuing training of a hearing dog; (iii) in a harness, backpack, or vest identifying the dog as a trained service dog, provided such person is an experienced trainer of service dogs or is conducting continuing training of a service dog; (iv) wearing a jacket identifying the recognized guide, hearing or service dog organization, provided such person is an experienced trainer of the organization identified on the jacket; or (v) the person is part of a three-unit service dog team and is conducting continuing training of a service dog.

Source 2017: VC §51.5-44 E


In 2018 Washington has passed an overhaul of their laws for service animals, but continues not to grant animals in training public access rights.

Under WA law, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian who is not totally or partially blind to use a white cane or any pedestrian who is not totally or partially blind or is not hearing impaired to use a dog guide or any pedestrian who is not otherwise physically disabled to use a service animal in any of the places, accommodations, or conveyances for the purpose of securing the rights and privileges to totally or partially blind, hearing impaired, or otherwise physically disabled people.

Source 2017: § 70.84.060


Any person certified as a trainer has public access rights while engaged in training. 

Under WV law, the rights, privileges and responsibilities provided to the disabled handlers also apply to any person who is certified as a trainer of a service animal while he or she is engaged in the training.

Source 2017: WVC §5-15-4


Service animal trainers must have id issued by a school for training service animals or be accompanied by the disabled-handler.

Under WI law, “Service animal” means a guide dog, signal dog, or other animal that is individually trained or is being trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, including the work or task of guiding a person with impaired vision, alerting a person with impaired hearing to intruders or sound, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items. The prohibitions specified in subd. 1. apply to a service animal trainer only if the animal accompanying the service animal trainer is wearing a harness or a leash and special cape. Subdivision 1. does not prohibit a person who is accompanied by an animal from being asked whether the animal is a service animal that is required because of a disability or is an animal that is being trained to be a service animal and does not prohibit a service animal trainer from being required to produce a certification or other credential issued by a school for training service animals that the animal is being trained to be a service animal. Subdivision 1. prohibits a person with a disability from being required to produce documentation of his or her disability or a certification or other credential that the animal is trained as or is being trained to be a service animal.

Source 2017: § 106.52(1)(fm)


Disabled owner-trainers

Under WY law,   “Assistance animal” means an animal that works, provides assistance or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.  In 2017, WY deleted their definition of “service dog” which s a dog which has been or is being specially trained to the requirements of a person with a disability.  WY only grants public access to the ADA definition of service animals.

Source 2017: WS § 35-13-205 (iv)

Service Dogs in Training (SDiT) do not have any rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Not all dogs can make it

Service Dogs in Training may have public access, housing and/or transportation rights under local state law.  However, often the states place restrictions that can include disability-type(s) and licensed professional/school trainers.    While ADA allows for a task-trained service dog to have been trained by it’s disabled owner, many states may not allow for that owner to conduct the public access training.

Unless you have read a copy of the current state code on the subject and have it with you when training, the best practice is for disabled-owner-trainers to conduct public access training with service dog in training only at pet-friendly businesses or locations.  It is common for handlers training dogs in public to have their presence questioned and authority validated.

Service dog disability task-training

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind her to take her medication. Or, a person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.

What is a Task?

A task is a certain desired behavior or set of behaviors the dog is trained to habitually perform in response to a command or a particular situation such as the onset of a seizure, which cues the dog to perform a task. The task must be related to your disabling condition, helping you in some way.

What is meant by “individually trained”?

A dog has been “individually trained” to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a disabled individual when the dog is deliberately taught to exhibit the desired behavior or sequence of behaviors by rewarding the dog for the right response(s) and communicating, if only through silence, when the dog has made the wrong response in a particular situation. A task is learned when the dog reliably exhibits the desired behavior whenever needed to assist his/her partner on command or cue. An example of work that is individually trained would be that performed by a guide dog, who takes directional commands, goes around obstacles in the team’s path, halts to indicate a curb or some other change in elevation and refuses the “Forward” command in specific situations that would result in injury, such as an automobile entering the team’s path. Examples of individually trained tasks include retrieving a phone, providing deep pressure therapy during a panic attack or providing balance support on a staircase to prevent a fall.

What is NOT an individually trained task?

Spontaneous behavior a dog occasionally exhibits such as licking someone’s face or barking does not qualify as a “trained task” under ADA even if it accidentally or coincidentally has a beneficial result. While everyone enjoys the emotional, social and safety benefits that a dog’s presence can provide, those benefits do not constitute trained tasks that would transform a disabled person’s pet into a legitimate Service Dog under ADA.

Why are individually trained Tasks so important?

Trained tasks that mitigate the effects of a disabling condition are the legal basis for granting access rights to disabled handlers under the Americans With Disabilities Act. An assistance dog with this special training is viewed as assistive technology / medical equipment, not as a pet. Businesses have the right to ask a disabled person, “What Tasks does your service animal perform?” This question can be asked if there is any doubt about the dog’s legal status and whether to impose their restrictive pet policies. An acceptable answer might be, “my service dog is trained to get help for me in a medical crisis by ____________.” (Fill in the blank as to the specific task) You do not have to reveal your disability in formulating your reply.

Businesses also have the right to exclude any animal, including a service animal, who threatens the health or safety of other people through aggressive or unruly behavior. An assistance dog can also be evicted for disruptive behavior that interferes with a business providing goods or services. The DOJ used the example of a dog barking in a movie theater.

Converting your family pet into a service animal

Merriam-Webster defines pet as a domestic or tamed animal kept for the companionship or pleasure. Any one can own a pet. Sadly, only disabled Americans can own a service animal because they need the tasks it provides to daily mitigate their life impacting disability. CCI Stop Fraud

People trying to convert their pet into a service animal to gain public access to no-pet areas or reasonable accommodations for their pet in workplace or residence settings are committing disability fraud. Ignorance of the law has never been recognized as an acceptable defense in the United States.

Purchasing online documentation, paperwork, registrations, certifications or vest/equipment to imply that a pet is a service animal is disability fraud by deception.

Disability fraud carries civil liabilities for your actions and your pet’s actions. Many states are adopting addition criminal penalties for misrepresenting a pet as a service animal including fines, community service, jail-time and a permanent criminal record.

Be responsible, be ethical, stay legal. Only take your pets to pet-friendly locations, pay the corresponding fees/deposits and follow applicable species/breed/size restrictions like every other pet owner.

Nonprofit Service Dog Placement Program

Numerous nonprofits have been founded to assist with the selection, training and placement of service dogs with disabled Americans.   Typically, these groups have a targeted population segment (military veterans, blind,

The larger and older organizations utilize in-house breeding programs to reduce costs and improve success by monitoring the most important characteristics of a successful service dog: health/medical history, temperament and a solid work-ethic.

Through a combination of ongoing charitable donations and continuous fund raising efforts,  most of these nonprofits are able to offer service animals at no cost to the approved/matched disabled American applicant.   To maintain both costs and quality, most programs have a waiting list for applicants that can range from six months to six years depending upon the needs of disability-task(s) needed.  The screening process can include applications, telephone interviews, personal interviews, medical references, final selection and team training.

Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), Southeastern Guide Dogs (SGD), K9s For Warriors and Puppies Behind Bars are some of the established nonprofits placing trained service animals with disabled Americans.

Anyone interested in volunteering for a nonprofit or applying for the placement of their service dogs, can review their history at or their current exempt status directly with the IRS.

Be wary of any nonprofit that does not have a waiting list as likely these are organizations that are simply trying to place poorly trained rescue animals.  Be cautious of any nonprofit that will not disclose their average ” washout” rates or make claims of 100% training rates.  American Disability Rights, Inc. does not support nonprofits that require service dog recipient candidates to conduct fundraising efforts in exchange for placement.

For-profit service dog placement programs

American Disability Rights understands that there are individuals and companies offering the sale of task-trained service dogs with little to no wait list period.

Sadly, there are too many parties interested in making an easy profit while claiming to benefit disabled Americans.  The Department of Justice has repeatedly said that individuals and organizations that sell documents, certifications and registrations online should not be recognized as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Unless it can be shown different, ADR applies the same expectation to any party offering no-wait service dogs.  Our experience is that these are rarely licensed businesses and their “service dogs” are frequently in poor health and lack significant training.  ADR recommends only acquiring trained service dogs through standard application and wait-list process for nonprofit organizations with established histories of helping disabled Americans.  ADR suggests disabled Americans avoid for-profit businesses selling readily available service animals.

Professional training

One option for disabled Americans who can not afford the waitlist time of a nonprofit program or the total expense of a for-profit service dog placement program is direct professional training.  This would overcome the major obstacles found with placement program dogs, but would the success would be clearly dependent upon two variables.

  1. Finding the right service dog candidate.  Not every dog has the right work ethic and temperament to complete training and be a working service dog.  If you closely look at the most successful nonprofit placement programs, you will discover they use in-house breeding programs with only a few types of dogs.  Even with the best case scenario, these programs have to “washout” candidates because they can not complete the training.   Those dogs find happy forever homes either helping as therapy animals or just lucky family pets.Education on a dog’s breed history and health history are essential in finding the right candidate for professional training.   If you could not wait for a program dog placement, you don’t want to push the envelope with ADA protections on breed bans or size restrictions.  A keep it simple approach is best practices.   Look for a common breed of nonprofit program service dog with a known parental medical history.  To put yourself in the best situation for success, now is not the time to go shopping at the retail puppy mill, the local animal shelter or the exotic breed rescue.
  2. Finding the right service dog professional trainer.  Even before you’ve made the financial investment in candidate dog, you might consider selecting your professional service dog trainer.   They need to be experience with training service animals, not just dogs.  Anyone accepting payment should be show you their appropriate business licensee(s) and commercial insurance (bonding).   Ideally, the would also hold an accreditation or be a candidate for membership in one of the major service animal associations such as Assistance Dogs International (ADI), International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) or International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) as examples.  Boarding programs, where the trainer is with the dog full-time, are the most expensive, but also the fastest to complete.  If using a private or semi-private training program, expect to invest a minimum of 120 hours over 6 months.  Group classes are cheaper, but take longer (18-24 months) to complete.   Because each dog responds differently to service dog training, no one can guarantee a timeline or success.  It’s reasonable to ask about a potential professional trainers failure rate and business policies related to “washing-out” a dog from training.

Disabled, owner-training

The Department of Justice has stated that the Americans with Disability Act does not require service dogs to undergo professional training.  This should never be seen as a defense to under-train a service dog.  Not all dogs can pass the training for a service dog.  These dogs are considered “washed” and should be considered for therapy work or simply as household pets depending upon the training failure reason.

A disabled-owner service dog training should include a written plan with goals and log.  In addition to mastering basic house-training, some level of obedience training should be accomplished prior to moving on to public access socialization and disability-task training.

  • Command house-training is must for all service animals.  The handler should give the animal an opportunity to go to the bathroom prior to entering any building.   Accidents are always a reason for a service animal to be asked to leave a building and are always an immediate fail on any independent testing.
  • Basic obedience should include: accepting a friendly stranger; sitting politely for petting; walking on a loose lead; navigation in a crowd; sit/down/stay on command; come when called; positive reaction to the presence of another dog; quick recovery from an unexpected distraction and supervised separation.  When mastered, these actions should be completed without treats/rewards, but could include verbal directions or hand signals to direct the dog.   This training does not have to be conducted in the home, but should only be undertaken in pet-friendly areas.
  • Disability task-training should be specific to the needs of the handler.  Not all handlers, even those with the same disability, have the same tasks needed to be accomplished with their service dog to mitigate their specific issues.  In general, a service dog should accomplish more than 3 tasks for his disabled handler.
  • As the ADA does not grant Service Dogs in Training public access, disabled-owners should only utilize pet-friendly locations if their state does not extend public access rights to SDiT in their location and for their disability.
  • The IAADP minimum training for public access calls for 120 hours over six months or more.   At least 30 hours dedicated to the dog working in public places obediently and unobtrusively.   Public access training goals include that a fully-trained service dog should be able master:
    1. Obedience Training: a dog must master the basic obedience skills: “Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Heel” and a dropped leash recall in a store in response to verbal commands and/or hand signals.
    2.  Manners: a dog must acquire proper social behavior skills. It includes at a minimum:
      • No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals – no biting, snapping, snarling, growling or lunging and barking at them when working off your property.
      • No soliciting food or petting from other people while on duty.
      • No sniffing merchandise or people or intruding into another dog’s space while on duty.
      • Socialize to tolerate strange sights, sounds, odors etc. in a wide variety of public settings.
      • Ignores food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity while working outside the home.
      • Works calmly on leash. No unruly behavior or unnecessary vocalizations in public settings.
      • No urinating or defecating in public unless given a specific command or signal to toilet in an appropriate place.
    3. Disability Related Tasks: the dog must be individually trained to perform identifiable tasks on command or cue for the benefit of the disabled human partner. This includes alerting to sounds, medical problems, certain scents like peanuts or situations if training is involved.
    4. Prohibited Training: Any training that arouses a dog’s prey drive or fear to elicit a display of aggression for guard or defense purposes is strictly prohibited. Non aggressive barking as a trained behavior is permitted in appropriate situations
    5. An Owner-Trainer’s Responsibilities: All trainers function as ambassadors for the assistance dog movement. This includes a disabled owner trainer, a provider’s staff or a volunteer with a puppy or adult dog “in training.” It also includes an assistance dog partner or able bodied facilitator helping a disabled loved one to keep up an assistance dog’s training. At a minimum, you should:
      • Know pertinent canine laws (i.e. leash laws and public access laws)
      • Ensure the dog is healthy, flea free and the rabies vaccination is up to date
      • Take time to make sure your dog is well groomed and free of any foul odor
      • Show respect and consideration to other people and property.
      • Use humane training methods; monitor the dog’s stress level; provide rest breaks.
      • Carry clean up materials. Arrange for prompt clean up if a dog eliminates or gets sick.
      • Be polite and willing to educate the public about assistance dogs and access rights.

Disability task-training and public access training can be conducted concurrently, but should only be started after the completion of house-training and basic obedience.

Independent Testing

Regardless of the type of training used, professional or disabled owner, to be deemed complete a Service Dog in Training should undergo independent testing.  This means the trainer does not handle the dog during the test.  An unfamiliar party is used to eliminate bias.

While ADA does not require testing certifications,  American Disability Rights, Inc. believes that all responsible Service Dog owners should submit to final independent service animal testing standards of Assistance Dogs International or International Association of Assistance Dog Partners or the International Guide Dog Federation.  Each organization accredited members professionally train service dogs, but may be allowed to test disabled-owner trained service dogs.  Non-accredited, candidate members such as those with ADI may also be able to conduct an independent test.

Intermediate training, including basic obedience can be tested by any trainer with the appropriate business license in their area.  The American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program is an excellent foundation and widely available.

Assistance Dogs International: Minimum Service Dog Training Standards

These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that are members or candidates of ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

1. The service dog must respond to commands (basic obedience and skilled tasks) from the client 90% of the time on the first ask in all public and home environments.

2. The service dog should demonstrate basic obedience skills by responding to voice and/or hand signals for sitting, staying in place, lying down, walking in a controlled position near the client and coming to the client when called.

3. The service dog must meet all of the standards as laid out in the minimum standards for Assistance Dogs in Public and should be equally well behaved in the home.

4. The service dog must be trained to perform at least 3 tasks to mitigate the client’s disability.

5. The client must be provided with enough instruction to be able to meet the ADI Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public. The client must be able to demonstrate:

• That their dog can perform at least 3 tasks.
• Knowledge of acceptable training techniques.
• An understanding of canine care and health.
• The ability to maintain training, problem solve, and continue to train/add new skills (as required) with their service dog.
• Knowledge of local access laws and appropriate public behavior.

6. The assistance dog program must document monthly follow ups with clients for the first 6 months following placement. Personal contact will be done by qualified staff or program volunteer within 12 months of graduation and annually thereafter.

7. Identification of the service dog will be accomplished with the laminated ID card with a photo(s) and names of the dog and partner. In public the dog must wear a cape, harness, backpack, or other similar piece of equipment or clothing with a logo that is clear and easy to read and identifiable as assistance dogs.

8. The program staff must demonstrate knowledge of the client’s disabilities in relation to the services they provide. The program shall make available to staff and volunteers educational material on different disabilities.

9. The client must abide by the ADI Minimum Standards of Assistance Dog Partners.

10. Prior to placement every service dog must meet the ADI Standards and Ethics Regarding Dogs, be spayed/neutered and have current vaccination certificates as determined by their veterinarian and applicable laws. It is the program’s responsibility to inform the client of any special health or maintenance care requirements for each dog.

ADI Guidelines: Assistance Dogs in Public

There are guidelines on the public appropriateness, behavior and training expected of a dog working in public places.

These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that are members or candidates of ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums.

1. Public appropriateness

• Dog is clean, well-groomed and does not have an offensive odor.
• Dog does not urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations.

2. Behavior

• Dog does not solicit attention, visit or annoy any member of the general public.
• Dog does not disrupt the normal course of business.
• Dog does not vocalize unnecessarily, i.e. barking, growling or whining.
• Dog shows no aggression towards people or other animals.
• Dog does not solicit or steal food or other items from the general public.

3. Training

• Dog is specifically trained to perform 3 or more tasks to mitigate aspects of the client’s disability.
• Dog works calmly and quietly in harness, on leash or other tether.
• Dog is able to perform its tasks in public.
• Dog must be able to lie quietly beside the handler without blocking aisles, doorways, etc.
• Dog is trained to urinate and defecate on command.
• Dog stays within 24″ of its handler at all times unless the nature of a trained task requires it to be working at a greater distance.