Service Dogs

Service Dogs are individually task-trained medical assistance animals prescribed to mitigate their handler’s physical, sensory, mental or mobility disability.

A service dog team’s civil rights protections include public access and reasonable accommodations found in the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carrier Access Act, the Rehabilitation Act and many state codes.

Service Dogs in Training (SDiT) may have public access rights with restrictions under specific state laws, but are not required to be admitted to non-pet friendly locations under the protections of the ADA.

Non-medical assistance working canines such as police k9, military k9, search & rescue, drug detection, explosive detection or similarly trained animals are not classified as service dogs with civil rights protections.

Emotional Support Animals

For some people diagnosed with a mental disability, their treating medical professional might prescribe an emotional support animal. Any domesticated animal could be prescribed as an ESA.

The protections afforded emotional support animals handlers should not be confused with service dog teams. The ESA handler’s protections are limited to qualified housing locations and domestic travel on airlines only. The civil rights protection for ESA handlers are found through administrative rulings of the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act.

In all other situations, an ESA is legally considered a pet and should only be going to “pet-friendly” locations.

Therapy Animals
and Family Pets

In the United States, Therapy Animals, come in all shapes, sizes and species, but their owners have the same civil rights as granted any other beloved family pet. Therapy Animals do not have the same legal protections as either an emotional support animal or service dog.

Therapy Animals have been granted a formal certification(s) from independent association(s) that enables them to be used as a tool in animal-assisted therapy group sessions with the goal to improve many patients social, emotional or cognitive functions.

Therapy Animals should only be found in locations that are pet-friendly or where they have been invited to a group therapy session in areas as children’s hospital, senior citizen housing, or disaster relief site.

ADR Supporters

American Disability Rights, Inc. is grateful to have received grants, donations and charitable contributions from the following groups and companies to advance our mission.

ADA, FHAct, ACAA and State/Local Laws

American Disability Rights, Inc. supports the full and direct compliance with all national and local laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.

Additionally, some states have enabled complementary statues to extend the use of medical assistance animals in situations of reasonable accommodation or public access within their borders.

Responsible medical assistance animal handlers should comply with all applicable laws including local restrictions on species, dangerous animals, vaccinations and registrations.