What Is An Assistance Dog?

Assistance Dog

The ADA defines a assistance animal as any guide dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Assistance animals perform some of the same functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself.

There are four types of assistance dogs.

Service Dog:Aids individuals who are mobility impaired by performing tasks that are physically demanding and frustrating.

Hearing Dog: Trained to alert people who are hearing impaired to important sounds.

Seeing Eye Dog: Enhances the independence and safety of a person who is totally blind. The dog leads its master and prevents her/him from any mobility dangers.

Therapy Dog: Enhances the quality of life for people through pet facilitated therapy and interactions.

Assistance dogs usually complete six to eight months of advanced instruction. The skill and personality of each dog is evaluated by trained staff.

Assistance dogs come from carefully selected stock. As puppies, they are placed with volunteers to begin the first stages of training. The puppies, with their puppy raisers, participate in everyday activities including errands and trips.

Step-By- Step Applying for an assistance dog

1.Send a letter requesting an application to the school nearest to you. Your letter should include your age, disability, and the affect your disability has on your life and how an assistance dog will help you. You will then receive an application packet to complete.

2. Complete and return the application packet.

3. You will be contacted approximately 90 days after your application has been received. At that time, you may be scheduled for a personal interview.

4. Applicants who meet guidelines will be invited to the nearest school for a personal interview with instructors. Selected applicants will be informed within 2-3 months of their acceptance as candidates in the program.

5. Candidates are chosen to attend a training class based on their position on the waiting list and the availability of trained dogs.

6. Candidates must attend the two or three week training course. During the course, a candidate will learn how to correctly use an assistance dog and will be matched with a dog that best suits his or her needs and personality.

Commonly Asked Questions About Assistance Dogs in Places of Business

Q: I have always had a clearly posted “no pets” policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow assistance animals in?

A: Yes. An assistance animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your “no pets” policy to allow the use of assistance animals by a person with a disability.

Q: Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring assistance dogs into my business?

A: No. Neither a deposit or a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing an assistance dog to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if an assistance dog causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages.


Q: I operate a private taxicab and I don’t want animals in my taxi: they smell, shed hair and sometimes have “accidents.” Am I violating the ADA if I refuse to pick up someone with an assistance dog?


A: Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their assistance dogs.


Q: What are the laws that apply to my business?

A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.

If you would like a copy of our free brochure “What Is An Assistance Dog?” call us Toll Free at 1-888-503-7955 or email us at info@maysmission.org today. Thanks!

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