Service Animal Laws

Certain laws and regulations must be followed when it comes to owning a service animal. These laws exist to ensure the rights of both service animal owners and those with disabilities. Without knowledge of these laws, a person may be at risk of being denied access to public places with their service animal. Therefore, it is important to understand what your rights and obligations are as a service animal owner.

This article will explore the laws surrounding service animals and what you need to know:

Overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law which was passed in 1990. The law’s main purpose is to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same rights to access the public spaces and services, such as restaurants and stores, all other people enjoy. The ADA prohibits any discrimination based on disability in areas of employment, state or local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation.

Under the ADA Title II and III, people with disabilities can bring their service animals into all kinds of places open to the public like restaurants, hotels, taxi cabs, theaters and retailers. Service animals must be harnessed or leashed unless these devices interfere with the animal’s work or when they are not feasible due to a person’s disability.

When it comes to bringing service animals into businesses open to the public, business owners must comply with all requirements of the ADA. They may ask two simple questions:

  1. Is this a service animal required because of your disability?
  2. What tasks has this animal been trained to perform?

Note that these questions must be asked – a business owner cannot require documentation from you-but owners may exclude a service animal which displays disruptive behavior in their establishment or poses immediate threat for safety for others in premises by laws of Federal government as mentioned under ‘Assistance Animal Patchwork Act’.

Definition of a Service Animal

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability”1.

Service Animals must be specifically trained for their task and are not just pets. Examples may include providing assistance to individuals with blindness or a visual impairment; alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing; pulling wheelchairs; assisting people with mobility issues; alerting and protecting individuals when having seizures; reminders to take medication; calming tactile stimulation to people who suffer major anxiety disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); providing deep pressure therapy for individuals on the Autism Spectrum and more.

In order to possess and utilize a service animal, certain requirements must be met as outlined by the ADA:

  • The service animal must be controlled on a leash or in harness at all times unless it interferes with their tasks. In certain cases, such as those where the animal is relieving itself, they may be off leash but they must remain under it’s handler’s control at all times.
  • The owner/handler must use verbal commands when training the dog rather than force or punishment methods. As this is specific work being done by the animal it is important that they understand what is expected of them prior to performing such services for an individual in need of them.
  • There are also legal limitations on public places that service animals can visit with their owners and should be taken into account before visiting any potentially restricted areas2.

Lastly, there is no official “prescription” necessary in order to possess and/or use a Service Animal however you may need documentation from your local government depending on where you live3. There are also some non-profits that certify Service Dogs which allow owners/handlers to equip them with a uniform (vest) which serves both as identification and alerts others that special interactions should occur when approached by him/her4.

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1Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section-Service Animals accessed June 24 2019:

2 US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division-Frequently Asked Questions About Service Animals And The ADA accessed June 24 2019: https://www.ada/govfaqs#onelastthing

3 Americans With Disabilities Act National Network website Service Animals And Emotional Support Animals accessed June 24 2019:

4 Law Depot website Service Dog Documentation Requirements By State accessed June 24 2019 :

Prescription for a Service Animal

If you are considering getting a service animal, you may be wondering if you need a prescription for one. The answer is no, you do not need a prescription to get a service animal. However, there are certain requirements you must meet in order to qualify for a service animal. In addition, you may need to provide documentation of your disability in order to be eligible.

We will discuss these requirements in more detail in this article:

  • Qualification requirements
  • Documentation of disability

What Does a Prescription for a Service Animal Look Like?

Generally speaking, the prescription for a service animal is a statement from a medical provider that states that the individual has a mental health condition and their disability greatly impacts at least one aspect of their life. Additionally, this document will outline the ways in which a service animal could mitigate or reduce the effects of their disorder to enable them to live as independently as possible.

The prescription should be written by someone who is an impartial expert on mental health disabilities such as psychologists, psychiatrists, Social Security-approved doctors, and in some cases, advanced practice nurses. The document should include detail regarding:

  • Diagnosis: The mental health disability that qualifies you for a service animal.
  • Functionality: How the presence of an assistance animal helps to improve your overall quality of life and how it assists with debilitating symptoms of your condition.
  • Testimony: An explanation of how having an assistance animal changes how you are able to live with your disability. Some potential ways this may manifest include reduced stress/anxiety levels, improved symptoms/conditions related to your disability (including depression, PTSD), improved social interaction skills, or greater levels of physical mobility (in some cases).

The most important part about creating a prescription for an assistance animal is for it to be comprehensive enough to accurately detail why you require one. This way if it is requested by those responsible for affirming or denying your request for an assistance animal (e.g., landlords), they can verify that it meets any required standards and criteria outlined by law or policy governing access rights for service animals in various environments.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Prescription Requirement?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all service animals be prescribed by a licensed physician or mental health professional in order for them to qualify as a service animal. However, there are a few exceptions. Persons with disabilities who do not have access to a qualified healthcare provider or are unsure which type of health care profession can provide the appropriate documentation for service animals, may contact local advocacy organizations that provide assistance. Additionally, minors under the age of 18 may be provided limited medical guidance and direction in obtaining an appropriate prescription from a healthcare provider.

In certain cases where an individual is unable to obtain an appropriate prescription, organizations like The Justice Department’s ADA National Network and Service Animal Certification International (SACI) offer recognized third-party certifications that can be used as proof of disability and valid proof of Service animal ownership. It is important to note that these certifications do not replace the requirement for a doctor’s prescription for everyone seeking access for their service animal.

Obtaining a Service Animal

If you are considering getting a service dog to aid in a physical or psychological disability, you will need to understand the process of obtaining one. In many cases, no prescription is required for getting a service dog, however, there are some cases in which you may need a prescription from a medical professional.

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In this article, we’ll cover the different scenarios when a prescription may be needed and how you can go about getting a service dog:

How to Find a Service Animal

Finding an appropriate service animal can be daunting. Here are a few things to keep in mind when seeking out a service animal for yourself or loved one:

  • Research organizations that offer service dogs. Not all organizations offer the same services and support. Ensure that you select an organization that meets your needs and can provide the proper training of its animals.
  • Consider what type of service dog would be best suited for your or your loved one’s needs. For example, some individuals may benefit from a guide dog for assistance with vision, mobility and navigating spaces safely, while others may need an emotional support animal to offer mental/emotional comfort in times of distress.
  • Speak to experts who have knowledge about service dogs and understand the legal requirements necessary before obtaining one. This will ensure that you are properly equipped with all the information needed to make an educated decision when selecting the right animal companion for your lifestyle and needs.
  • Create a budget before reaching out to organizations offering service animals as monetarily investing in this type of companion isn’t inexpensive, which should be taken into consideration as part of the process.
  • Understand if you need a prescription (or doctor’s consent form) from your psychiatrist or other certified mental health professional before you can obtain any type of “assistance” animals such as emotional support animals or psychiatric service dogs; some states require it and some do not, so be sure to double check what is needed for your particular situation beforehand.

How to Train a Service Animal

Training your service animal is an important step in obtaining the assistance you need. Depending on the type of support needed, there are a variety of techniques that can be used to train animals, such as clicker training, reward-based methods and positive reinforcement. Understanding your local laws and regulations regarding registering a service animal with a certification agency is also vitally important in order to provide the best possible care for your pet.

When deciding how to train a service animal, it’s important to find an experienced instructor who can provide guidance. A professional trainer can help educate you on canine behavior and provide instruction on how best to meet your needs. They will also be an invaluable resource in teaching your four-legged friend how to be a successful service animal.

A certified instructor will employ equipment such as leashes, head collars, clickers and treat boxes which are all tools used during positive reinforcement training sessions. Training typically involves teaching basic obedience commands such as “sit”, “stay” and “down”. Additionally, trainers often specialize in teaching specific behaviors related to the service required by their client (e.g., alerting for medical episodes).

Finally, after having mastered all necessary skills for assistive work and passing behavioral tests evaluated by third parties, the dog must have its emotional stability assessed by a vet before it can be certified as a qualified service animal ready to positively contribute towards increasing independence for people with various types of disabilities or special needs.

Rights and Responsibilities of Service Animal Owners

Service animals are a great way to provide assistance to those with disabilities, however, it’s important to understand not only the rights of the animal owner, but also their responsibilities. One of the most common questions asked is whether a person needs a prescription for a service animal.

In this article, we’ll discuss the rights and responsibilities of service animal owners and answer this question in detail:

What Are the Rights of Service Animal Owners?

Owners of service animals are afforded certain legal rights under certain laws. In the United States, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lays out the rights of service animal owners who need to access public places, services and facilities with their working pet.

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as: “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability…” This definition has been updated to include miniature horses in some cases, but largely applies to dogs.

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The ADA grants people with disabilities the right to be accompanied by their service animal when accessing any place or institution that provides goods or services directly to the public. Businesses, restaurants and other privately owned spaces are also required under this law to serve service animal owners with their pet. It is against federal law for anyone operating a public place or working in private area of public accommodations – such as stores, medical offices and places of recreation – to deny access on the basis of disability and/or exclusion of a working animal.

The same protection applies when applying for housing within HUD buildings governed by Title VII regulations; however, there are some exemptions as stated in Section 504 and Section 508 where it is not considered discrimination or exclusion if a proposed accommodation would cause “undue financial burden” or “fundamental alteration” in its operations related to safety requirements (pets entering hazardous sites).

In addition to these federally managed laws governing service animals in public places, most states have passed laws requiring private businesses – such as hotels and transportation carriers – from prohibiting admission based upon disability status (for both people and pets). Under these laws entities may not require advance notice before allowing access nor can they impose additional fees associated with accommodating a person and their working pet.

What Are the Responsibilities of Service Animal Owners?

Service animal owners have certain responsibilities in order to ensure that their animals are well taken care of, as well as to ensure the safety and well-being of those around them. These responsibilities include:

  • Properly caring for the animal – This includes providing proper food and nutrition, exercise, preventative healthcare, socialization opportunities and other basic upkeep. The animal’s health must remain optimal in order for it to perform its duties effectively.
  • Training the animal – Service animals must be trained specifically to perform those tasks that mitigate their owner’s disability. This includes training them not to interfere with or cause a disturbance in public places or workplaces. Additionally, service animals must not nip, growl or bark excessively when in public settings.
  • Maintaining control of the animal – Service animals should be leashed or tethered at all times when out with their owner in public settings. Exceptions can be made if such leashes or tethers would be detrimental to performing tasks related to their disability (i.e., if needed for balance). In these cases owners must maintain control of their service animal at all times through voice commands and body language cues.
  • Cleaning up after the animal – Service animals have needs just like any other pet; it is important for owners to clean up after their service animals defecate in public settings whenever possible.
  • Teaching courtesy – Teaching good manners is also an important part of being a responsible service animal owner; this includes teaching behaviors like not barking/growling aggressively at people they don’t know or while on elevator rides, using stairways instead of elevators when riding up only one floor, etc. Good behavior is key!


After examining the various considerations of owning a service dog, it’s evident that the answer to the question: “Do I need a prescription for a service dog” is a resounding “No“. As long as you meet the necessary criteria, you should be able to legally obtain a service dog without having to get a prescription.

There are organizations that can help you on your journey to find the perfect service dog for you.

Summary of Key Takeaways

In conclusion, it is important to consider all aspects of the law and measure the effects of obtaining a service animal before deciding if it is right for you. Depending on your disability, there may be a required documentation in order to qualify for a service dog. However, most states do not require one as long as you can prove that your disability requires the use of an assistance animal.

The overall process can be lengthy but can be secured with patience and research. If you feel that a service animal would provide the help you need, you should consult professionals who are familiar with and understand the relevant state-specific requirements and regulations.

By Reiki

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