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This thread is being created as a source of information for those who do not understand the basic ins and outs of the legal rights of service dog handlers.

I am not usually so presumptuous, but I would really appreciate it if this thread could be made into a sticky. We go 'round and 'round on service dog issues on this forum with relative frequency, and it's tiring to type it out over and over again.

First up, the difference between an emotional support animal and a service dog.

An emotional support animal is just like it sounds. It offers emotional support to its handler. These animals are exempt from "no pets" rules in rental housing and are allowed to fly on planes. While SOME states may grant them public access in every day stores, most do not, and the handler can legally be asked to remove their dog from the store.

A service dog is a dog trained in specific tasks that mitigate the disability of its handler. The ADA was recently amended, and the only animals legally allowed to be assistance animals are dogs and, in some cases, miniature horses (they have a separate provision).

A handler with a trained service dog has public access rights into ANY area the public is normally allowed (planes, trains, and automobiles, shops, movie theaters, etc).

In the United States of America, there is no registering body for service dogs. Because of this, "official paperwork" may not be required by anybody to "prove" a dog is a service dog. It doesn't exist. Though some service dog organizations may print out paperwork for clients that graduate from their school, all the paper means is that the dog was obtained from and trained by that organization. There is also no requirement in the United States that service dogs must be identified in any way, so dogs are allowed to go into stores and work "naked" (collar and leash must be used, of course).

For the record, I'm personally not interested in arguing on this thread, I'm just giving information. Some people feel it should be required for dogs to be identified and registered, yadda yadda yadda. All I'm here to tell you right now is that legally neither of the aforementioned things are required.

Next up, "safe guards" for shop owners and the like.

Things store owners are allowed to ask a service dog handler:
Is that a service dog?
What tasks does the dog perform to mitigate your disability? (and variations thereof)

Proper responses from a handler:
Yes
(Using my animal as an example) My dog assists me by pulling me in a wheel chair, acting as a brace, and picks up objects that I have dropped or cannot reach.

PLEASE NOTE that "My dog keeps me from being anxious" is not an acceptable response. A dog simply being present to keep somebody from being anxious is not a trained task, and thus the dog does not qualify as a service dog.

What a store owner may NOT ask/do:
What is your disability?
May I see your dog's paperwork proving it is a service dog?
Your dog is not identified as a service dog, so you'll need to remove the dog until it is identified.

Proper responses from a handler:
I'm sorry, but it is illegal for you to ask me that question. It is a violation of my privacy and you do not need to know the nature of my disability.

There is no registering body of service dogs in this country, and it is not legal for you to require to see paperwork for me to gain access with my service dog.

There is no legal requirement in this country stating that service dogs must be identified in any manner. You cannot require me to identify my dog.

There are certain cases in which a service dog may legally be excluded from being in attendance, such as in sterile environments like an operating room. The dog may not be excluded from the lobby/waiting room, because those are places the general public is allowed, but it may not go anywhere where it may introduce pathogens that could be harmful to patients (another such example is the ICU).

If a service dog is acting up in public (eliminates on the floor, is causing a disturbance, or is being a threat to other patrons), the handler may be asked to remove the dog, but the handler must be allowed to return, sans dog. That said, the dog cannot be barred from a place of business permanently based on what it did the LAST time it was present. The dog can only be judged at the time it is in attendance.

Link to the ADA section about service dogs:
http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

FAQ for SDs in places of busines:
http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

And now, spectator etiquette!

When you see a service dog:
1. Do just that...SEE the service dog. Do not talk to it, do not try to pet it, do not bother the dog. The dog is there to work, not for your amusement.

2. If you see someone with a service dog and you MUST say something, acknowledge the HANDLER, not the dog, and please continue to follow rule #1. Do not say "What a beautiful dog!" and then immediately bend over to get in the dog's face, and proceed to tell it how beautiful and helpful it is. First of all, it's extremely rude, and secondly, while all service dogs should be able to handle ANYTHING, some dogs will take this as a threat, and you could get bitten. If you wouldn't do it with a strange dog you saw on the street, you shouldn't do it to the working dog!

3. Don't automatically assume a handler is blind.

4. To go along with #3, don't assume the handler is blind, and then tell your child it is ok to pet the dog, because the handler won't be able to see. I can't tell you how other handlers will react, but I will verbally eviscerate you, because that is NOT COOL!

5. Do not accuse a person of not having a real service dog because they are not blind. Not all disabilities are visible.

6. Admire, but do not gawk. It is not polite to stare, and that extends to staring at the dog. This includes doing things like pointing out the dog to your child (unless you plan on educating the child). So incredibly rude and obnoxious.

7. Do not get mad when a handler does what they need to do to protect their partner. If this includes yelling at you or your child, so be it. I personally try to be very diplomatic, and give people a chance to back off...but if you're going to stalk me around the store and get in my way while I'm shopping, you are not going to be met with a happy person.

8. To go with #7, respect the space of the handler and the dog. This doesn't mean we expect people to move out of our way or significantly alter how they are shopping. All it means is that we would appreciate it if you would LOOK where you're walking. If the handler says "excuse me", please give them some room to pass. You would do the same for a person without a service dog, wouldn't you?

9. You don't have to like it that the dog is in the store, but as long as the dog is a legitimate working animal, there's nothing you can do about it. Being nasty won't help anybody. Just tolerate the dog, do what you gotta do in the store, and be on your way, like any other day.

10. Do not scream when you see the dog. The dog is there to work, and really couldn't give two craps about you. They will walk by you as if you don't even exist. They will not (should not) bite you or otherwise bother you. As far as they're concerned, you're little more than a utility pole in the middle of the aisle.

11. It does not matter where you see the dog or what the dog is doing. It doesn't matter if the dog is in a static position (sitting, standing, or laying on the floor). The dog is working at ALL TIMES. The dog is not taking a break. The dog is doing as the handler requested, and is holding that position for a REASON. Do not distract the dog from its task. Interfering with a working service dog is an illegal offense!

12. Control and EDUCATE your children! Explain to them that they cannot run up to strange dogs (this is a good rule of thumb anyway), and explain WHY they cannot run up to strange dogs. If your child gets away from you to go after the dog anyway, PLEASE be sure to APOLOGIZE to the handler! Also explain to the child that the dog is a "helper/working dog". Do not tell them what kind of work the dog does, because you don't know.

Not all service dog handlers are blind. Telling the child every time you see a service dog that the handler is blind, or is only a helping trainer teaching the dog to help the blind becomes a perpetual string of misinformation. That child will pass it along to another, and another, and another, and eventually, one of them will likely accuse a handler that ISN'T blind of being a fake.

13. Reiterating rule #1!!!! My dog is medical equipment. Please do not talk to my dog. You wouldn't talk to a wheelchair, you shouldn't talk to my dog.

Talking to my dog also includes extending praise to my dog. You have no right to praise my dog or give my dog commands. Why? Because aside from the fact that he is WORKING, he is MY dog, not YOUR dog.

I understand that you're trying to be kind, but what you're really being is RUDE! It is also much, much easier for my dog to ignore someone touching them (I will reiterate that you need to not touch my dog either), but it's pretty doggone hard to ignore somebody that's in your face, and there comes a realistic point where I can no longer be mad at the dog for responding to his environment.

Admire all you want. Ask me questions if you feel comfortable doing so. But do not. Talk. To my dog.
 

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Thank you so much for this Xeph! My son had a SD a few years ago and we got asked all the time by store and restaurant managers to show papers from his doctor and papers proving Stryke had graduated special training and wasn't just a family dog that we stuck a vest on. I just kept them in my purse all the time. I never knew that they couldn't demand to see them. I was scared to go anywhere without them. I guess had I done the research that I should have done I would've known that. Now, I feel like I spent those years being a complete idiot frantic about those papers (I made copies for every family member that might have my son and his dog out and about). LOL
 

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This thread is being created as a source of information for those who do not understand the basic ins and outs of the legal rights of service dog handlers.

I am not usually so presumptuous, but I would really appreciate it if this thread could be made into a sticky. We go 'round and 'round on service dog issues on this forum with relative frequency, and it's tiring to type it out over and over again.
Your wish is my command. And I agree, with the frequency this subject comes up, an informational sticky is a VERY good idea. Thanks for taking the time to type this up, Xeph.
 

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Thank you for typing this out, and Kuma'sMom for sticky-ing it.
 

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I have a question... this is something that came up in conversation yesterday with my boyfriend's family regarding service dogs (as they raise leader dogs)...

And I'm honestly not sure at all how to look at/handle this situation, but it applies to me.

As most people here know, I work at a very large, private dog park. We have an office where visitors must first come through, sign up/pay, and their dogs must pass vaccination and temperament test screening with other dogs prior to entering the 25-acre park. We also have a ban on bully breeds.

SO, what should we do if a Pit Bull comes in as a service dog with handler (these situations all assuming there is another dog with that fits all the requirements for our park & wants to visit..), an unvaccinated service dog, or (the worst problem..) a DOG AGGRESSIVE service dog... Obviously letting any of these service dogs into our park could put our members in danger and strictly goes against what our policies are.

Where could we drawn the line, if anywhere, what would we say, what legal bearing do we and the handler's each have? I feel like I cannot legally tell a handler their dog can't visit as they may sue, but I cannot let a dangerous dog into the park, either. I feel like the chances of this ever happening are slim, but what if they do? I would hope anyone thinking of doing this could just respect our policies and not try to push the issue, but if they did...

I brought it up to my boss and she was going to consult her attorney about it. I figured I'd ask others with a service dog how they would expect or know (per the laws I'm not as familiar with) it to be handled. Thanks in advance!
 

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to my knowledge, a service dog is legally allowed to be asked to leave if it is putting other members/people of the establishment in danger. I'll try to find the exact law, but for example if bubba began growling and barking at a patron, we could legally both be asked to leave (and i would be able to return sans bubba).

i imagine this would apply to the dog park as well.

edit: found it!

http://www.ada.gov/archive/animal.htm

Q: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

A: You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.
 

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to my knowledge, a service dog is legally allowed to be asked to leave if it is putting other members/people of the establishment in danger. I'll try to find the exact law, but for example if bubba began growling and barking at a patron, we could legally both be asked to leave (and i would be able to return sans bubba).

i imagine this would apply to the dog park as well.

edit: found it!

http://www.ada.gov/archive/animal.htm
Ok. That makes sense. Now I'm just wondering about vaccinations and breeds. Do we need to make exceptions for them and potentially lose clients/customers?
 

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Ok. That makes sense. Now I'm just wondering about vaccinations and breeds. Do we need to make exceptions for them and potentially lose clients/customers?
honestly i know of very few unvaccinated/ bully breed assistance dogs (NOT therapy dogs) but in the event that one did show up then yes I think that legally you would need to make an exemption. Honestly though im not sure, as the dog would likely be "off duty" in the dog park. maybe xeph can clear this one up- I would probably file it under "things that are not likely to happen."
 

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honestly i know of very few unvaccinated/ bully breed assistance dogs (NOT therapy dogs) but in the event that one did show up then yes I think that legally you would need to make an exemption. Honestly though im not sure, as the dog would likely be "off duty" in the dog park. maybe xeph can clear this one up- I would probably file it under "things that are not likely to happen."
Right, I'm hoping it never would and it's unlikely someone wouldn't understand, it's just one of those complicated loopholes I love thinking about and questioning. :D
 

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It is my understanding that you can only exclude a service animal when their presence poses an immediate threat to the well-being of those around it.. Such as in a sterile environment or Should they exibhit inappropriate behavior.. Not because of a pre conceived notion as to what MIGHT occur....
 

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Right, I'm hoping it never would and it's unlikely someone wouldn't understand, it's just one of those complicated loopholes I love thinking about and questioning. :D
If the dog park is not generally open to the public without some sort of admissions process, its considered private and we have always been told that legally they do not have to say yes- for example, the private country club here and my grandmas private retirement facility do not have to allow bubba, because they do not have to allow anyone in, if that makes sense.

So if the dog park is "show up, pay $5, and come in" then I believe you would have to allow any service dog. If the facility is "hi mrs. jones, glad to see you and your dog again" then no, you could deny the service dog admission on the grounds of banned breed/ banned vaccine status.

I may be wrong. But we don't bring bubba to my grandmas dinners in her dining area for the senior residents haha, and thats the reasoning behind it.
 

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Xeph, I hope you don't mind my adding few additional notes for dog guides and GD’s who do service the blind. I know your post was geared towards those who are not blind, but I've heard some really crazy stories from those who are. Below is based on conversations and feedback from folks that I have met over the years who have dog guides.

1) Please do not interfere with the handler and dog. The dog is focusing on following through on commands to guide their owner safely through crowds and traffic. The dog knows a car is coming, even if the owner does not. If you grab the collar or pet the dog, it is similar to grabbing the steering wheel while someone else is driving. They are working together and the dog guide knows what he's doing, even if it doesn't appear that way.

2) Do not offer the dog treats! Again, the dog is working and needs to focus on the task at hand. If the owner wants to provide treats to the dog, that is their prerogative, not yours. (see #1).

3) People with service dogs, are people. They have good days and bad days, social preferences, jobs to perform, places to go, hobbies and interests, likes and dislikes. Be respectful of that and understand, while they may be open to conversation, they may also have more pressing things to do.

4) Don’t assume that the dog is unhappy or working too hard. That serious look on the dog’s face, is the dog focusing, not a statement of their emotions. SD’s actually enjoy performing their job, and they need to focus in order to do it right. They know when they are at work and they know when they can relax and play, (yes, they do get to relax and play). When a dog is working, they are focused on their job, just like you would be at your job.

5) There has been an increase in the number of dog guides attacked by other dogs while in service. Attacks on dog guides have resulted from pet dogs being walked on leash, or tied up outside of a store, or just a loose, roaming dog. If you witness an attack, please do step forward and offer assistance. While an incident can be reported, the owner cannot recover medical bills or press charges without identifying the attacker. Your help with identification, or asking what you can do to help, can make a big difference in the outcome. It is an emotionally and physically distressing situation for both the dog and the owner. In many cases, the dog may end up retiring from service, due to the physical or psychological impact.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I know your post was geared towards those who are not blind
Not really :) Just SDs in general. Though I can see how it may have read that way.

I have a friend who uses a guide dog, but she is not blind. She has a sensory processing disorder and gets lost easily
 

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1) Please do not interfere with the handler and dog. The dog is focusing on following through on commands to guide their owner safely through crowds and traffic. The dog knows a car is coming, even if the owner does not. If you grab the collar or pet the dog, it is similar to grabbing the steering wheel while someone else is driving. They are working together and the dog guide knows what he's doing, even if it doesn't appear that way.
Bubba is going in for final training in two weeks :( but for any future readers of this thread, I cannot stress this enough!! I'm only the trainer, not the blind handler, but we work SO HARD on distractions that shouldn't even occur in the first place due to people just being *too* friendly.
 

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What are the rights of Therapy Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs? Would they train my dog too? My dog really have helped me... I am doing so much better with him in my life! My health has improved and my moods are happier now... still am growing.

I am curious to know. By the way I was curious what Xept has to say about the Private Dog Park question about their policies.
 

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Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs, in general, have no public access rights with their handlers. They are not task trained.

Whether or not they are allowed in public places where dogs are generally not accepted is based on the laws of the state you are currently in. Emotional support animals are generally allowed to fly in cabin with their handler.

Any dog that is aggressive towards anybody can be excluded from the premises, service dog or not
 

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Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs, in general, have no public access rights with their handlers. They are not task trained.

Whether or not they are allowed in public places where dogs are generally not accepted is based on the laws of the state you are currently in. Emotional support animals are generally allowed to fly in cabin with their handler.

Any dog that is aggressive towards anybody can be excluded from the premises, service dog or not
I want to take my dog with me on my flight, but he is too tall according to their carry on standard nor could I afford it if he was short enough ($150) or to carry him below the plane ($175). I would feel much happier with him by me! I want him to be more trained to be more calm and quiet around other people and animals, so I won't get into trouble.

I see people bring their dogs in stores without anybody saying anything, and they were not service dogs. I am not sure what the laws on this.
 
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