Service Dogs 101: What is a Service Dog?

A service dog helps a person with a disability lead a more independent life. According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), a “service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”

Key words in this definition include “dog,” “work or task,” and “disability.”

“Dog” is important, since dogs are the only species recognized as service animals. Although miniature horses are also permitted to assist a person with a disability, they are regulated under new and separate provisions. Service dogs are defined by the ADA as being primarily working dogs and are not considered pets.

“Work or task” means the dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. The task performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

“Disability” is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of an individual.

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