service dog
Issue Background

Service Dogs

The AKC strongly supports the rights of persons who require a dog to perform essential services to access as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to be permitted to keep the service dog without regard to the dog’s size, phenotype, or breed.

A service animal dog is defined by Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations as one that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Because of the varied nature of service dog types, they can come in many shapes and sizes and include pure and mixed breeds. While a Papillon may be a great candidate as a medical alert dog, it would not do well as a brace and mobility support service dog. Breeds like the Labrador and Golden Retriever are excellent all-around candidates due to their size and trainability.

Under the ADA, businesses and access providers are only allowed to ask two questions:

(1) Is the service dog required because of a disability?

(2) What task has the service dog been trained to perform?

Businesses or venue providers are not allowed to inquire what type of disability an individual may have or ask for the dog to demonstrate the trained tasks. Individuals with disabilities are not required to have specific paperwork for their service dog. While it may be beneficial for a service dog to wear a vest, harness, or patch designating it as such, it is not a legal requirement. People may obtain service dogs from a variety of sources including foundation/training facility, a private trainer, or they can even find a dog themselves and work with a trainer or completely train a dog on their own – there is no standard. This flexible approach provides the benefits of task-trained dogs to mitigate a wide range of disabilities. However, it also allows for loopholes or “gray areas” that are easily exploited.

AKC believes that properly trained service dogs and laws that require access for individuals with service dogs offer positive, life-changing impact for individuals with a disability. It’s no surprise that their use has become increasingly common in recent years. Unfortunately, there has also been an increase in the use of poorly trained dogs or pets that are fraudulently misrepresented as service dogs. Far too many websites offer dog vests, bogus ID cards and certificates, and guides that misrepresent proper representation of dogs as a service dog. 

The AKC is particularly concerned about the unjust impact that poorly trained dogs and fraudulent misrepresentation of pets as service dogs has had on undermining the ability of individuals with disabilities who truly need properly trained service dogs to conduct their daily activities. “Fake” and poorly trained service dogs also undermine the credibility of well-trained working dogs and create a threat to public health and safety. To address this issue, AKC is a founding partner in the American Service Dog Access Coalition, a charitable organization that works across industries to establish recognized, voluntary standards certification for service dogs.

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