A Service, or Assistance, Dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Examples of such work include guiding people with visual impairments, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, opening doors, assisting with balance, alerting to diabetes or seizures, and more. The work or task must be directly related to the person’s disability.
A disability is a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity – the disability may not be visible. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 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.
When it is not obvious what service the dog provides, only two questions may be asked: (1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? (2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Handlers should not be asked what their disabilities are. Identification cards or certification papers are not required. Vests or special harnesses are also not required, though they are commonly seen on working dogs.