Living With Disabilities – What is a Service Animal?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,977
    Becky Canale, National Client Services Coordinator of Paws With A Cause discusses the purpose of service animals.

    Ken Kirsch: Hi! I am Ken Kirsch, Training Manager at Paws With A Cause. Today I am discussing the basics of what a Service Animal is.

    According to the Americans with Disabilities Act or the ADA, a Service Animal means any dog that is individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Under the new Department of Justice Regulations, taking effect March 15, 2011 other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not Service Animals. The only animal that can qualify as a Service Animal under the ADA is a dog, however, the ADA also requires that reasonable accommodation be made to permit the use of a Miniature Horse by an individual with a disability, so long as it has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with the disability. The work or tasks performed by a Service Animal must directly relate to the handler's disability, which is define by the ADA as physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual. For example, Service Animals can assist individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation or other tasks. Alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, pull a wheelchair, assist an individual during a seizure by being at comfort, retrieving the phone or bracing to a standing position, retrieve items such as medicine or the telephone, provide physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities and the provisions of emotional support, well being, comfort or companionship is not the type of work or task considered in the ADA's definition of Service Animal. The ADA authorizes the use of Service Animals for the benefit of individuals with disabilities. While the ADA does not limit the type of disability one must have in order to use a Service Animal there must be a direct link between the task an animal performs and the person with the disability. For example, a service dog will retrieve dropped item for a person with a decreased range of motion or a hearing dog will alert to everyday sounds for a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.

    As you can see, a Service Animal can be trained for many tasks, which can enable an individual to live a more independent and active lifestyle.