Service Dogs

Guide dogs aren't just for blind people anymore

Guide dogs are a godsend for many blind and disabled people.

Guide dogs play a huge role in many peoples lives. Not only are they a treasured companion, they can also be trained to carry out tasks to aid people who simply cannot perform these duties themselves.

Guide dogs — also known as service dogs or service animals — undergo rigorous training before being placed into service. They are trained in many skills from fetching items to guiding their owner (often blind) around town to providing seizure alerts and assistance with balance. They may be taught to open and close doors and turn light switches on and off.

Legal Protections and Rights

Disabled individuals who depend on the assistance of a service dog generally have the legal right under the federal Americans with Disability Act of 1990 to take their animals anywhere the general public is allowed, and additionally, housing laws and air travel laws protect the right of these individuals to take their animals on commercial flights and to have their service animal live with them even in homes where pets are generally not permitted.

Business owners are permitted to ask the individual if the dog is a service dog, and if the dog is trained to perform tasks for the individual that the individual cannot do for themselves. But they are not permitted to ask what the individual's specific disability is. No specific certification is required under the law, and special vests and tags are not needed.

If an animal is not trained to perform tasks to assist the individual, then it's not really a service dog. Additionally, service dogs that misbehave — such as eliminating indoors, barking, or behaving aggressively — can be denied access by business owners.