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Service animals— are defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are working animals, not pets. Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.
Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under the ADA. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA.)
Some State and local laws, including Indiana law, define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Indiana law defines a service animal as an animal trained as: (1) a hearing animal; (2) a guide animal; (3) an assistance animal; (4) a seizure alert animal; (5) a mobility animal; (6) a psychiatric service animal; or (7) an autism service animal. Indiana does not limit “service animals” to only dogs.
A few examples of the tasks service animals may perform include, but are not limited to:
• Guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision.
• Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
• Warning an individual that they are about to have a seizure (a “signal animal”) or assisting an individual during a seizure.
• Pulling a wheelchair or fetching items.
• Retrieving medicine or the phone.
• Providing minimal protection or rescue work.
• Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
• Assisting individuals, including those with cognitive disabilities, with
Helpful ways to interact with a person who has a service animal:
• Best practice is to allow an animal to remain with the person when possible.
• A service animal must be under the control of the owner. If it is out of control or a direct threat, it can be removed. If you are going to move owner, plan to move the animal with the owner.
• Ask the owner’s permission before touching or speaking to the animal. If you need to take the animal, hold the leash. A service animal is not a pet.
The Disability Rights Section within the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice has issued a new technical assistance document reflecting the recent changes to the ADA Regulations regarding Service Animals. This document can be found on-line at:
http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm (HTML Version)
http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.pdf (PDF Version)
If you have additional questions concerning the ADA and service animals, please call the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY), or visit http://www.ada.gov/.