Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I have been in the dog field for 25 years and I am a therapy dog evaluator and an Evaluator for AKC CGC. First you must know that that there is a big difference between a therapy dog and a assistance or service dog. A therapy dog is brought in by a third party to give emotional support only to another party. Generally this is a residence where people live or a hospital, school etc.
With the American Disabilities act you cannot be denied access if you have a working assistance dog or service dog. A Service dog is one that would lead the blind or deaf and after proper training from an outside company can cost 10 grand and up. An assistance dog aids humans in other ways such as retrieval of items, seizure alert, opening and closing of doors,used for calming autistic people or people that suffer post traumatic stress syndrome. etc. You can get a note from your doctor stating that you require this dog to aide you and is needed to live with you. Your own dog can be trained by you to assist you in life but should pass the public access test, and pass other tests like the AKC canine good citizen. If you can get these under your dogs belt you will have back up needed to enter an establishment, however it is still up to the owner of the establishment if they want to allow you, though against the law, they take that risk that you will not take them to court.
I have written a whole article on this, but do to restrictions of this site I cannot direct you to that article under my own web site but I can copy and past it here for you to read and there are plenty of links to help you have your own dog certified as well as the ADA laws. It was written for the general public __________________________________________________
Recently I had been asked the question about how to get a dog certified for therapy to aide a family member suffering illness. I had explained that the therapy work that my dogs do is different than what they were looking for which was an assistance dog. I did surmise though that I was pretty sure they would probably need a note from a doctor stating that the person would benefit from such a dog. Yup, sad but true I knew very little on the subject, but thankfully the Good Lord has blessed me with Google! I have to admit before I got into the field of therapy dogs the difference between the titles did not give me 'paws' for thought. Like most people, my dogs were to love, care for, and be family companions. Back in the day (& back in the day is a polite way to say my age is none of your damn business!), if a dog adorned a badge or odd apparatus it was not to be approached or distracted lest the blind owner step off the curb and get hit by a bus! Today we hear more and more about Therapy dogs, Assistance dogs, Guide dogs and Service dogs, so what’s the difference? Therapy dogs work to stimulate and make happy the lives of others at the direction of their handler. Assistance dogs assist physically or mentally challenged people in everyday tasks Guide dogs lead the blind through everyday life & Service dogs are basically the same as assistance dogs. I personally was not aware of any specific training or testing sites for an assistance dog such as there are for therapy dogs or Guide dogs for the blind. But let’s face it; I am not the keeper of all things dogs! So thus I began my hunt in a different forest. What I do know is that people who are physically or mentally challenged benefit from dogs that are trained by the owner or by others to assist them in everyday self help skills. But where and how are they tested? These dogs at some point have to be around the public so they have to have manners and be able to handle many situations. There are websites that will sell you any type of equipment you ask for if paying the price, but that does not lend credibility to the dog if someone challenges the owner or if the dog owner wanted to challenge a business. For instance, if I shelled out the money I could buy specific equipment to fit any of my dogs, however if I walked into a privately owned business and they wanted to challenge me on this, the equipment would be all the credibility I had! No point in making a fuss in a courtroom without something to back you up! Keep in mind that business owners need to think about the safety of all their patrons, so they might not allow access unless they feel you have the right credentials. And who’s to say other than a court of law or statute, what those credentials are? Are you prepared to challenge a business in a dispute if you only have a badge and the special apparatus you purchased over the internet? State Laws also have to be taken into consideration as they may vary. The American Disability Act no doubt has your back, but businesses are run by a diverse culture of people so I’m sure that somewhere someone has been turned away from a business because of an assistance dog. I also find (which really disgusts me) , is that people who have their dogs registered as a therapy dog sometimes abuse that privilege which can ruin it for the people who really need an assistance dog by their side. Here is a perfect example of what I mean. Every year I volunteer with an organization at a popular fairground where I give information about State Animal Response Teams in Pennsylvania. I often bring with me one or both of my certified therapy dogs, (Chance & Steeler) to lure the people in because let’s face it, people at a fair don’t want to see an information booth they want to see or buy something special! Hey, everyone needs a gimmick! But in order for me to bring my dogs onto the fairgrounds I had to get special permission because aside from the dogs that are contained in cages for the dog show, family dogs are not allowed on the grounds during fair week. So, picture it, there I stood, behind the great information table that holds baskets of peanut butter biscuits and other chotchkie items while my dogs sat in front of the table bringing in the crowd. Once the crowd hovers, it is my chance to pounce on them and make that perfect spiel! But on an unusually warm day standing back looking out at the crowd, I see a man and women briskly walking through the fair with two golden retriever pups, cute as could be, maybe about 5 or 6 months old, and dangling from each dog’s collar were yellow therapy dog tags clearly identical to the group I belong to and test for! I am suspecting that the gatekeeper of the fair allowed the dogs in because of those tags; however, being an evaluator for this particular organization I knew full well that those dogs were too young to have been tested for therapy work! Needless to say, this couple really pissed me off and if I had in me the sprint of a 20 year old gymnast, I may have jumped across the table and confronted them on it! (But alas, this older mind asked this older body, what are you nuts? And I let it go.) This is what I mean by abuse and it is this type behavior from previous patrons that might have a business owner chase legitimate dogs off their premises risking the possibility of a lawsuit. When the T.A.G.S. thought again filtered through my mind I got to looking a little deeper into this subject and I came across a site called psychdog.org. I don’t know if it is deep enough for all that one might need it to be, but I think it is a good start for anyone who is looking to get a paper trail going for their dog to become an assistance dog. This paper trail serves as the back up file you would need to challenge a business if necessary for denying you access. While I don’t think this happens very often and most businesses will probably accommodate you, it is a good idea to be as prepared as possible. As stated above a note from your doctor is a good place to start. Second, get a reputable trainer, someone with credentials to help you in training the dog. Even if you have already taught the dog what you need it to do for you, having as much of a paper trail coming from qualified people as you can is a plus. Keep everything documented and in a safe place. Key things needed to succeed Do a minimum of four months of basic obedience; get an AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate, & six months of Public Access Training.
The botXXXXX XXXXXne for success: http://psychdog.org/training_ownerstandard.html
Public access standard http://psychdog.org/publicaccess.html
Pass the Public Access Test which can be administered by any professional dog trainer.
I contacted the person of the psychdog website and I mentioned to her the confusion or difference in titles between a service dog and an assistance dog to which she kindly replied.. “One point of clarification, assistance dogs and service dogs are essentially the same thing. Both dog types may be trained by their disabled owners under the law.” To me this makes sense as any need that a dog can fill whether it is for sight, daily function, or mental stability would basically be providing a service to the owner no matter who trained it. Another site I came across was Assistance Dogs of America Incorporated (ADAI). It does seem that they are similar to many Guide Dog centers which foster pups out to families then take them back and evaluate them. They also seem to get dogs from pounds and breeders and look for mostly retriever or retriever mixes for this job. Their site can be found here. http://www.adai.org/getinvolved/ The Assistance Dogs International Inc. (ADI) developed a public access test 15 years ago.
Although they state that they do not supply or certify the dogs and that Certification is not required in the USA they do have credited members and list the chapters by state and country here.
This site was fairly helpful in how to get started in training your own dog with a qualified dog trainer as well. This site also tells you how to keep a log of trainings. http://www.iaadp.org/iaadp-minimum-training-standards-for-public-access.html
The ADI is trying to model a standard law as a template and you can find that here: http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/modellaw.php
Law links with helpful information below.
Guide dog laws by state http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer?pagename=resources_access_statelaw
Service Dogs for Psychiatric Disabilities http://www.iaadp.org/psd_tasks.html
Assistance /guide dogs by state http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stusmnguidedoglaws.htm#s01