Service Dog Law
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Service Dog Law


In most countries where service dogs are used, there is also a special service dog law. A service dog may for instance be allowed in public places where other dogs are prohibited. This type of service dog law ensures a disabled person a higher level of freedom and self-reliance, since he or she can do errands, travel by public transportation, dine out, go to public meetings etcetera accompanied by the service dog. 

In the United States, the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 gives the service dog equal access to all areas where the general public is allowed, such as parks, cabs, airplanes, public schools and restaurants. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 contains not only the service dog law; it is a wide-ranging civil rights law intended to protect Americans with disabilities against discrimination. Under certain circumstances, the law prohibits discrimination based on disability. If you want to learn more about the U.S. Service dog law, you should therefore take a look at this law. Its formal name is the United States Public Law 101-336, 104 Stat. 327 (July 26, 1990), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush.  

In order to know whether or not your service dog is protected by the service dog law, you must first know if your disability is one of those protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, disability is defined as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity". Certain conditions are excluded as disabilities, e.g. transsexuality. For the non-excluded disabilities, determination of disability is made on a case by case basis.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 will not only protect the rights of service dogs (or more specifically the rights of a person with a disability); it will protect a wide range of different assistance dogs. An assistance dog is a dog trained to help a person with a disability.

There are three main types of assistance dogs:

  1. Guide dogs will assist blind and visually impaired individuals.
  2. Hearing dogs will assist deaf individuals and those hard of hearing. Hearing dogs are also referred to as signal dogs.
  3. Service dog is a form of “catchall category” to which all the other assistance dogs are classified. In this category you will for instance find seizure response dogs, psychiatric service dogs and mobility assistance dogs. You can also find combination dogs capable of helping individuals with multiple disabilities.

  In some countries and regions, the service dog law requires the service dog to wear a special sign, such as a characteristic harness, jacket or cape. It is therefore important to find out more about the service dog law in your particular area. If you plan to travel to a new place, it is always a good idea to find out more about how your service dog should be attired to receive the full protection of any service dog law applicable in that region. You can for instance contact the local police department or an organisation for disabled persons.

Disclaimer: This text is meant as an introduction only and might contain errors. Always refer to a lawyer in your area to get the facts in your particular case.

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