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The Legal Definition of a Service Dog:
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), a dog is considered a "service dog" if it has been "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." Also according to the ADA, a 'disability' is a "mental or physical condition which substantially limits a major life activity" such as:
• caring for one's self
• performing manual tasks
• as well as some disabilities that may not be visible.
To be considered a service dog, the dog must be trained to perform tasks directly related to the person's disability.
Legislation Protecting People with
Disabilities and Service Dogs
• Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
• Air Carrier Access Act of 1986
• Fair Housing Amendments of 1988
• Rehabilitation Act of 1973
• Check with the Attorney General’s
Office in your State for applicable State
laws and regulations.
If Federal and State laws conflict, generally the one
that affords the greatest protection to the person
with a disability takes precedence.
Service Dogs ARE NOT Pets
They are working dogs that are trained to assist a person with a disability. The rights of a Service Dog and their handler are protected under Federal Law
If you have questions and you would like to learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or content on this page Please contact::
US Department of Justice
ADA Information Line
Is there any source of financial help for the costs associated with obtaining a service dog?
YES, Civic and charitable organizations sometimes provide financial assistance or may assist you in fundraising. These organizations may include but are not limited to local:
Chamber of Commerce
Network within your community to locate as many possible funding sources.
If you are having trouble securing funds, we can help you with our funding program.
Call us for details 978-537-4091 Help Save a Life, Donate Today!
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new, and updated, requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).
This publication provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department’s new regulations.
Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA.
A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.
How “Service Animal” Is Defined
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, redirecting and calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties as trained tasks. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.
Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State attorney general’s office.
Where Service Animals Are Allowed
Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.
Service Animals Must Be Under Control
Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
Inquiries, Exclusions, Charges, and Other Specific Rules Related to Service Animals
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.
Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal.
Published July 12, 2011
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
How is it legal for non-disabled Service Dog Trainers to train Service Dogs where Dogs are not allowed?
MGL CHAPTER 129 Section 39D&F Service dogs; trainer rights & Hearing Dog Business
Section 39D. A person engaged in the hearing dog business, while actually engaged in the training process and activities of hearing dogs, shall have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities with respect to access to public facilities as those applicable to deaf persons.
Section 39F. A person accompanied by and engaged in the raising or training of a service dog, including a hearing, guide or assistance dog, shall have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as those afforded to an individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. sections 12101 et seq.
I was told that you don't need to be licensed or certified to have a Service Dog or a Service Dog Company or Organization. Is this true?
Section 39C Hearing dog business; licenses
Section 39C. Every person engaged in the hearing dog business shall obtain a license therefor from the director, the fee for which shall be determined annually by the commissioner of administration under the provision of section three B of chapter seven for the filing thereof, and such license shall expire on December thirty-first following the date of issuance, unless sooner revoked. The director may make rules and regulations governing the issuance and revocation of such licenses and the conduct of any business so licensed, and relative to the maintenance of premises, buildings and conveyances, the health of the dogs and the method and time of inspection of such dogs and such business.
The director shall promptly furnish to the director of the office of deafness the name and address of each person licensed to conduct a hearing dog business, and the person so licensed shall promptly furnish to the director of the office of deafness with the name and address of each person to whom a hearing dog is furnished. A hearing dog shall, for identification purposes, be fitted with a collar and leash which are of a bright color.
To the best of our knowledge, Saint Francis German Shepherd Service Dogs is the ONLY one in the State of Massachusetts that has been issued this License. If you are looking for a Hearing Alert Service Dog from a Company or Organization in the State of Massachusetts, ask the Service Dog Company or Organization to see their License to Operate a Hearing Dog Business in compliance with Massachusetts General Law.
To view these laws on the Massachusetts Laws Website please follow this link