Service Dog Regulations: United States

Jill-and-JewelWe received an important question from renown dog trainer, Pat Brown-John, the director of  All About Obedience.  Although the example she gives is related to private training, this is an important issue, one with direct ramifications for others who want to train their own dog or have a professional trainer do it.  I therefore asked the directors of two highly reputable service dog organizations, one in Canada and one in the United States to respond.  Each of them kindly did so.  I chose to split their answers into two different blogs, since the regulations for each country are quite different.

In case readers missed the previous blog (Service Dog Regulations: Canada) with the full question from Pat Brown-John, it is repeated here in its entirety.

Dear Dr. Bloom,

I have a client who is spending most of his time in a wheel chair.  He bought a German shepherd puppy as a pet but while we were training her to be a good, well behaved pet we decided this pup could actually grow into a dog that could help him with some of the tasks that he finds difficult.  The pup is learning to pick up things off the floor or turn on lights, press the button to open door into stores, and get the man’s wife in emergencies.

This dog will not be going through a service dog program but when she is finished being trained she will be a great help to her owner.  My question Dr. Bloom is: Would this couple be able to call this dog a “service dog” and be able to gain access to stores and eating establishments, etc?
Is there a place that evaluates dogs and handlers so that they can use their dog in public without feeling like frauds?

Thank you,
Pat Brown-John
Director, All About Obedience

 Questions and response from Corey Hudson, Chief Executive Officer,
Canine Companions for Independence

Q:  Would this couple be able to call this dog a service dog and be able to gain access to stores and eating establishments etc?

CH:  The ADA does provide for self trained dogs who perform specific tasks to ameliorate a disabling condition(s) and is well behaved in public or is not disruptive to the public accommodation (store, restaurant etc).

Q: Is there a place that evaluates dogs and handlers so that they can use their dog in public without feeling like frauds?

CH:  There may be one or two Assistance Dogs International members who might do this, but I am afraid I don’t know who.  I would advise against it for liability reasons.  For example Canine Companions can testify to the suitability of an assistance dog we breed, puppy raise and train for 2 years, but we can’t testify to the background, stability and effectiveness of a privately trained dog.  I suggest the person go to the ADI website and find a member or candidate near them and ask.

I hope this assists.

Corey Hudson
Chief Executive Officer
Canine Companions for Independence
PO Box 446
2965 Dutton Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95407

Mr. Hudson also sent several important documents to help individuals in the United States to review the current regulations:

  1. ADA Business Brief (updated April 2002):
  2. Civil Rights Division Letter + Common Questions (as per #3, below):
  3. Commonly Asked Questions in Places of Business (updated Jan 14, 2008):
  4. ADA Regulations and Technical Assistance Materials:
  5. International Assistance Dog Partners:

Our sincere appreciation to Canine Companions for Independence for their outstanding program, staff and all the volunteers who have made it possible for people, like me, to have one of their beautifully trained service dogs.



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4 Responses to Service Dog Regulations: United States

  1. Norman W Wilson, PhD March 6, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    One of the thiings, and there are several, is the list of sources provided. Making those avaiable certainly is a time saver for many people. The answers to the questions are direct and to the point. I have a question: Does a service dog also function as a “pet”? If so,, how does it know which role it is to fill at any given time?

  2. Pat Brown-John March 6, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    Thank you Dr. Bloom for your research on privately trained service dogs. I’m sure there are many people who will benefit from your hard work, not only on this subject but on all subjects related to service dogs.

  3. Samm March 9, 2013 at 1:24 am #

    I definitely feel Morgan is a loveable pet as well as a service dog 😉

  4. Carol Coates March 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Wouldn’t it be possible for a registered service dog trainer to assess a home-trained dog & carry out a proficiency test & if it matches the regulated standard, be issued with a certificate to confirm that it has reached that standard? Much as (can only speak for the U.K.) one can learn to drive a car with anyone teaching, but one doesn’t become a bona-fide driver unless you take a test with a qualified examiner. Only then can you drive legally, on your own.

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