Basic Information About Service Dogs
Service animal describes any animal that is individually trained to do work or perform
tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.
Service dog, adapted from the term service animal, is a species-specific term to
generically describe any dog in the role of service animal. While the term "service
animal" is legally defined, some organizations use the term "assistance animal" or
The terminology used to label specific types of work dogs perform for people with
disabilities has not been standardized. For example, a dog trained to help a person walk
might be referred to by different sources as a "mobility dog", a "walker dog", or a
"support dog." In addition to the wide variety of terms used, many service dogs are
cross-trained to perform more than one category of work (such as guide and mobility for a
person who is blind and has severe arthritis) and labeling them by the work they do
Many individuals choose to identify their service animal generically (as "service
animals", "service dogs", "service cats," etc.) because it identifies the roles of the
animals without disclosing the nature of the persons' disabilities, and it is consistent
with the terminology of the laws that protect them.
Are animals legally defined (Americans With Disabilities Act, 1990) and are
trained to meet the disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities.
Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by
their service animals in public places. Service animals are not considered "pets."
These animals are not legally defined by federal law, but some states have laws defining
therapy animals. They provide people with contact to animals, but are not limited to
working with people who have disabilities. They are usually the personal pets of their
handlers, and work with their handlers to provide services to others. Federal laws have no
provisions for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public
accommodation that have "no pets" policies. Therapy animals usually are not service
These animals are not legally defined, but are accepted as another term for pet.
Likewise, these animals have no legal definition. They often are animals that
did not complete service animal or service dog training due to health, disposition,
trainability, or other factors, and are made available as pets for people who have
disabilities. These animals might or might not meet the definition of service animals.