- Increase in patience, impulse control, emotional regulation
- Improved ability to display affect, decrease in emotional numbness
- Improved sleep
- Decreased depression, increase in positive sense of purpose
- Decrease in startle responses
- Reduce anxiety & lower blood pressure
- Decrease in pain medications
- Increased sense of belonging/acceptance
- Lowered stress levels, increased sense of calm
From Service Dog Training Program for Treatmentof Post Traumatic Stress in Service Members - Yount, Olmert, Lee published: US Army Medical Department Journal 2012
*Recently, our support team has received a high volume of enquiries regarding the new rules of flying with service dogs and emotional support animals in the United States and in Canada. Please note, that our school helps people self-train their own service dog and there are many laws and regulations that need to be considered across states/provinces. We encourage you to check your local legislation, as well as the airline’s service dog policy, if you intend to enroll and potentially travel with your SDTSI-certified dog. We want to affirm that our certificates are accepted by most airlines in North America as well as in the EU and the UK. Our school is ready to provide a verification letter for your course completion as well as for your dog-in-training when necessary. Please note that during the training process you will be provided with assistance, advice and study materials by certified dog trainers.
Every state in the United States determines its own service dog law and team access rights. Generally, whichever version of the law (federal or state) is most accommodating, with the most benefits or rights conferred, is used in any given state. However, regardless of what state law says, federal law and disability access rights trump it.
Some states further regulate service dog teams and their access rights on the county or city level. Assistance Dogs International (ADI) has a wonderful resource published that summarises all laws pertinent to service dogs and arranges them alphabetically. It can be accessed online, downloaded and printed, or ordered and delivered to you, all via their website. You should always check the laws of any state you’ll be residing in or traveling through, just so you’re familiar. It’s also important to note that different states bestow different access rights to service dogs in training. Some states grant them full access as if they were full-fledged service dogs, some specifically mention that they’re welcome only with the permission of the business owner, and others don’t mention them at all. Federal law does not mention service dogs in training, so state law should always be checked.
Federal Most working and service dog handlers and trainers understand that federal law provides protection and access for service dogs in the United States. Still, it can be challenging to truly grasp all of it. Before we jump feet-first into murky legal waters, we need to lay out a few vital definitions and clarify some points. First and foremost, federal service dog law and state service dog law are very, very, different and it’s vital that you know how the laws vary in your state, county, city, or town. Federal service dog law applies all over the country and is the universally accepted standard in the United States. State service dog law may offer further clarification, add additional requirements, or outline expectations for various types of working/service dogs or for dogs in training. It is generally accepted that whichever law provides the most freedom for a disabled individual with a service dog in any given state is the one teams will abide by. Next, there are several pieces of federal service dog law strewn throughout the legal system. In this section, we’ll be referring to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Other important service dog laws are contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA), and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). We’ll be addressing those at a future time. Here’s a chart, though, that breaks down each resource and what it’s good for:
|What Is It?
|Why Do We Care?
|Code of Federal
(US federal law)
Provides the fundamentals pf federal
service dog law
|Americans with Disabilities Act (A civil rights law)
Bestows public access rights to
disabled individuals with a service animal
|Fair Housing Amendments Act (A civil rights law amendment)
|Extends ADA protection to disabled individuals with service animals who are seeking housing in the public sector
|Air Carrier Access Act (Specific section of the CFR)
|Ensures access to air transportation on all carriers for all individuals with service animals
Accessible: Refers to a site, facility, work environment, service, or program that is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability.
Major Life Activity: Refers to activities that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty.
Person/Individuals with disability:(1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; OR (2) has a record of such an impairment; OR (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.
Physical Impairment: Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.
Public Accommodation:Facilities whose operations affect commerce and fall within at least one of the following 12 categories: places of lodging (e.g., inns, hotels, motels except for owner-occupied establishments renting fewer than six rooms); establishments serving food or drink (e.g., restaurants and bars); places of exhibition or entertainment (e.g., movie theaters, theaters, concert halls, stadiums); places of public gathering (e.g., auditoriums, convention centers, lecture halls); sales or rental establishments (e.g., bakeries, grocery stores, hardware stores, shopping centers); service establishments (e.g., laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional offices of health care providers, hospitals); public transportation terminals, depots, or stations (not including facilities relating to air transportation); places of public display or collection (e.g., museums, libraries, galleries); places of recreation (e.g., parks, zoos, amusement parks); places of education (e.g., nursery schools, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools); social service center establishments (e.g., day care centers, senior citizen centers, homeless shelters, food banks, adoption agencies); and places of exercise or recreation (e.g., gymnasiums, health spas, bowling alleys, golf courses).
Service animal: 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.
PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS SHALL PROVIDE ACCESS (a) General. A public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when the modifications are necessary to afford goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations to individuals with disabilities, unless the public accommodation can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations. According to the ADA, a “public accommodation” is any private entity that operates with the intent of allowing members of the public access for the purpose of business, entertainment, education, receipt of services or any other purpose. Most places a service dog team will visit or need access to are “public accommodations.” So, the opening paragraph of federal service dog law states, pretty clearly, that public accommodations must allow an individual with a disability access with a service dog (or any other piece of equipment that mitigates their disability), as long as the service dog won’t disturb the actual (not perceived) ability of the public accommodation to continue providing their service.
Referrals Are Acceptable (b) Specialties—(1) General. A public accommodation may refer an individual with a disability to another public accommodation, if that individual is seeking, or requires, treatment or services outside of the referring public accommodation’s area of specialisation, and if, in the normal course of its operations, the referring public accommodation would make a similar referral for an individual without a disability who seeks or requires the same treatment or services. (2) Illustration—medical specialties. A health care provider may refer an individual with a disability to another provider, if that individual is seeking, or requires, treatment or services outside of the referring provider’s area of specialisation, and if the referring provider would make a similar referral for an individual without a disability who seeks or requires the same treatment or services. A physician who specialises in treating only a particular condition cannot refuse to treat an individual with a disability for that condition but is not required to treat the individual for a different condition. It is not “discrimination” if a public accommodation refers a service dog handler to another place of business, service, or entertainment if the public accommodation in question cannot provide the treatment/services the individual requests or needs. As an example, if you have a heart condition and you’re visiting the kidney doctor, it’s not discriminatory for the kidney doctor to refer you to a cardiologist. However, under federal service dog law, if you have a kidney issue, the kidney doctor cannot refuse to treat you because you’re disabled or because you have a service dog.
Service Animals Allowed (c) Service animals—(1) General. Generally, a public accommodation shall modify policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability. Public accommodations must allow service dogs who are accompanied by an individual with a disability.
Exclusion of Service Animals (2) Exceptions. A public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if: (i) The animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it; or (ii) The animal is not housebroken. (3) If an animal is properly excluded. If a public accommodation properly excludes a service animal under § 36.302(c)(2), it shall give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises. If your service dog is out of control (which includes any behavior that infringes on the rights of other customers/clients/visitors/patrons, including sniffing, begging, growling, whining, barking, wandering, jumping, or any other rude behavior) or your service dog is sick or eliminates in public, it’s perfectly within a business’s right to ask you to remove your partner from the premises. If a business asks you to remove your service dog because of “out of control” behavior, they must allow you the opportunity to finish whatever it is you came to do without your partner present. Only the dog can be excluded for “out of control” behavior, not the handler as well. Please note, due to separation of church and law, places of religious worship are not required by law to allow your service dog access.
Service Animal Under Handler’s Control (4) Animal under handler’s control. A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler’s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means). (5) Care or supervision. A public accommodation is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal. Under US federal law, your service dog must be under your control. Unless your disability prevents you from using a harness, leash or “other tether,” like a collar, wheelchair arm, vest, or other working gear, or your partner’s job would be impeded by use of a leash, your service dog must be on-leash or otherwise attached to you. If your partner’s job requires off-leash work or you are not able to leash your service dog due to your disability, your assistance dog has to be under your direct control with verbal or non-verbal commands/signals. Additionally, you and only you are responsible for your service dog—a business or employee is not required to watch or care for your partner while you’re there.
Questions Businesses May and May Not Ask (6) Inquiries. A public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Generally, a public accommodation may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability). A place of public accommodation can’t ask you about your disability, but they may ask the following two questions: If your partner is required because of a disability (NOT “What is your disability?” or “Are you disabled?”) What specific, trained tasks your partner performs for you There is no documentation, paperwork, license, or certification required as proof that a dog is a service dog, and businesses can’t require that you produce any documentation. If it’s obvious your dog is working as a service dog, under federal law, a public accommodation may not ask you to clarify your partner’s purpose further.
Complete Access at No Charge (7) Access to areas of a public accommodation. Individuals with disabilities shall be permitted to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of a place of public accommodation where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees, as relevant, are allowed to go. Anywhere a person without a service dog would be allowed to go within a public accommodation, you’re allowed with your partner. Having a service dog does not give you special access to anywhere members of the general public aren’t allowed, like the kitchens in a restaurant or an operating room in a hospital. (8) Surcharges. A public accommodation shall not ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by their service animal. You can’t be required to pay a fee to have your assistance dog with you, even if people with pets are required to pay a fee. A public accommodation also can’t make up special rules for you and your service dog to follow that people without a four-legged friend wouldn’t have to abide by. If your partner causes damage, however, it’s reasonable for a business to charge you to repair the damage. Again, you and only you are responsible for your service dog’s conduct, actions, and deportment.
Checkout Aisles (d) Check-out aisles. A store with check-out aisles shall ensure that an adequate number of accessible check-out aisles are kept open during store hours, or shall otherwise modify its policies and practices, in order to ensure that an equivalent level of convenient service is provided to individuals with disabilities as is provided to others. If only one check-out aisle is accessible, and it is generally used for express service, one way of providing equivalent service is to allow persons with mobility impairments to make all their purchases at that aisle. Stores are required to have check-out aisles that allow you and your partner to maneuver. If the only check-out aisle that allows you to move through easily with your assistance dog is a specialty one (like for customers with fifteen or fewer products, or card members only), then you must be allowed to use that aisle for all of your purchases, even if you normally wouldn’t qualify.
Hotel Reservations (e)(1) Reservations made by places of lodging. A public accommodation that owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of lodging shall, with respect to reservations made by any means, including by telephone, in-person, or through a third party— (i) Modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms;
(ii) Identify and describe accessible features in the hotels and guest rooms offered through its reservations service in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given hotel or guest room meets his or her accessibility needs;
(iii) Ensure that accessible guest rooms are held for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented and the accessible room requested is the only remaining room of that type; (iv) Reserve, upon request, accessible guest rooms or specific types of guest rooms and ensure that the guest rooms requested are blocked and removed from all reservations systems; and(v) Guarantee that the specific accessible guest room reserved through its reservations service is held for the reserving customer, regardless of whether a specific room is held in response to reservations made by others. (2) Exception. The requirements in paragraphs (iii), (iv), and (v) of this section do not apply to reservations for individual guest rooms or other units not owned or substantially controlled by the entity that owns, leases, or operates the overall facility.
Any place of nonpermanent lodging (hotel, campground, hostel, etc.) must be certain you can obtain an accessible room as quickly as a guest who doesn’t need special accommodations. They must be able and willing to verbally explain the accommodations available so you can be certain any given room meets you and your partner’s needs. Rooms that provide accommodations for individuals with disabilities must be held for guests who need accommodation unless all other rooms are filled. Finally, they must ensure that if you reserve a room in any fashion that provides specific accommodation for your disability, the room remains yours. It can’t be given away or booked by anyone else for any reason. However, if you book your room with a third-party like Hotwire or Priceline, the hotel doesn’t have to honour room accommodations. You must book your room directly with a hotel in order to receive assured accommodations.
There you have it, the CFR federal service dog law in its entirety. That’s the base upon which all other service dog laws in the United States are built. The ADA, FHAA, and ACAA expand on the CFR to ensure access to anything not specifically covered under the Code of Federal Regulation, and state service dog laws clarify expectations even further. While it’s wordy and difficult to sort through, in general, you may think of a service dog as durable medical equipment, like a wheelchair.
As America’s northern neighbor, Canada sees a lot of Americans coming to visit. While service dog laws in Canada do not exactly mirror American laws, they’re close. On a federal level, Canada provides protections to well-behaved service dogs accompanying a person with a disability. However, on the provincial level, service dogs and their access rights are more heavily regulated. Some provinces, like Ontario, require teams to carry organization-provided ID cards, and others require dogs to come from an organization certified by Assistance Dog International (ADI). Before traveling in Canada, it’s best to double check the service dog access laws of any province you’ll be traveling to or through. If your partner is a bully breed, definitely check the laws of the province, as well as any regions (like counties) or towns you’ll be in or traveling through, as bully breed bans are common throughout the country. In order to cross the border from the United States to Canada, you’ll need to be able to provide proof of a rabies vaccination, either via titer tests or a vaccination certificate. The certificate must be valid for the entire time you’ll be in Canada.
When it comes to countries and regions outside of North America, service dog law and access rights can vary widely. It’s always important to thoroughly research the laws of any country you’re considering visiting, and to ensure that you’re working with the most up-to-date version of the laws possible. Remember, too, that requirements for flying with a service animal on foreign airlines and requirements for actually entering a given country or region (such as the European Union) can be quite stringent. Allowances may not always be made for in-cabin travel with a service animal, depending on the airline or country. If in-cabin travel is allowed, there may be a fee, and/or additional guidelines concerning vaccinations, microchipping, other health care and documentation of training or program completion. Lots of countries and international airlines require a dog to have graduated from an organization certified by Assistance Dogs International (ADI), and to possess a card or certificate from the organization, before they will acknowledge a dog as a service animal. Once you’ve left the land side part of an airport and clear security with a ticket for another country, US service dog access laws no longer apply, and you will have to abide by the regulations and requirements of whatever country you’re traveling to and/or connecting through. Always thoroughly research the laws of any country you may consider visiting, and do so with lots of time before travel—some countries require documentation to begin months ahead of time.
Keep in mind that laws can change without notice, so any laws or guidelines printed below may not still be accurate. Always, always, always double check.
Regulations for travel with a service animal through and to Europe are mandated and upheld by the European Parliament. While each individual country in the European Union may have different laws and regulations in place, as a whole, laws for entering any EU country generally mirrors these requirements:
1. The dog must have an ISO microchip. ISO microchips are international standard chips, and while most countries in the world use only ISO chips, the United States is not one of them. ISO chips have a fifteen-digit chip number. If your dog has a microchip that has a ten-digit chip number (usually HomeAgain, Digital Angel, or FriendChip chips), then your dog will need to be chipped again with an ISO chip. An alternative to chipping your dog again is to travel with a scanner that can read your dog’s chip.
2. Your dog must have a current rabies vaccination that was given at least four months prior to travel to the EU. Additionally, your dog needs a rabies titer test that shows results correlating to rabies immunity that was taken at least six months prior to the date of entry to the EU.
3. Your dog must have other routine vaccinations up to date, including DHPP.
4. Your dog must be treated for tapeworms no more than ten days prior to your entry to the EU.
5. You must have the required European Health Certificate and other health certificates completed by your veterinarian. If your certificate was issued in the United States, you must have it stamped with an official USDA stamp.
6. Depending on where you enter the EU, you may or may not need ADI-program-issued identification. Several EU countries only recognise ADI graduates as service dogs. For people who did not receive a dog from an ADI program, it is possible to obtain an ADI cert by testing with certain ADI programs. You’ll likely have to call several to find an organisation who will help you obtain ADI credentials.
Service dog status does not allow you to bypass the pet entry requirements. You must meet all requirements (vaccinations, microchip, titre, paperwork), or you risk customs issues or quarantine for your partner. If you plan on traveling regularly in the EU, you should consider undergoing the yearlong process to obtain a European Pet Passport. These documents can make travel a much smoother process. Not all countries grant public access rights for service and guide dogs, or some only grant public access rights to guide dogs, or they require specific gear or identification for public access rights. It’s recommended to carry an official letter in the language of the country you’re in detailing what your partner does for you and why they’re needed, so you can provide it to businesses or officials upon request. Always ensure your partner is neatly groomed, presentable, and wearing easily recognisable gear. Rambunctious behaviour from dogs is frowned upon in Europe, and it’s vital you always remain in control of your partner, and that your partner remains quiet, calm, and in work mode when in public.
What is an assistance dog?
Assistance dogs are trained to help people with hearing difficulties, epilepsy, diabetes, physical mobility problems and more. Assistance dogs carry out a variety of practical tasks for people as well as supporting their independence and confidence.
Assistance dogs are highly trained which means they are well-behaved in public places. Most are instantly recognisable by a harness or jacket. However, the law does not require the dog to wear a harness or jacket to identify it as an assistance dog. Because disabled people who use assistance dogs quite often experience discrimination by business owners refusing the public access for the disable people with their assistance dogs. A trained assistance dog ID book or a certificate will help protect your privacy by eliminating the need to answer questions about your disability to strangers, helping take the stress out of being in public.
Some, but not all assistance dog users, will carry an ID book giving information about the assistance dog and the training organisation together with other useful information. Again, this is not a legal requirement and assistance dog users should not be refused a service simply because they do not possess an ID book. Assistance dogs can also be owner trained and the owner selects their own dog to fit their own requirements.
If assistance dog owners who are trained by organisations, that are members of Assistance Dogs UK, will have been issued with an Assistance Dog (UK) branded ID book. The ID book contains information about the owner and their dog and details of the training organisation who trained the dog and its owner.
If assistance dogs are trained outside of AD(UK) member organisations, for example by a dog school or a certified dog trainer, as long as the dogs are well cared, well behaved, finished public access training, and can preform tasks to assistant their handlers, they have the same qualifications as the assistant dogs trained by the AD member organisations.
Registering an Assistance Dog in the UK
In the UK there is no assistance dog register so it is not possible to register a dog as an assistance dog, regardless of where it has been trained.
Dogs that have been trained by our school are issued an SDTSI Identification Booklet. Once you complete our service dog training program, we will also register your dog in our school's databse. We cannot register or issue dogs that have not been trained by us with identification or branded dog gear.
Assistance dog owners are not required by law to carry identification.
No Breed, Size or Weight Restriction
Trained to perform work or task
Behave in public and under control of handler
Animal must be up to date with all vaccinations