- The ADA defines a service animal as
any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal
individually trained to provide assistance to an
individual with a disability. If they meet this
definition, animals are considered service
animals under the ADA regardless of whether they
have been licensed or certified by a state or
Service animals perform some of the functions and
tasks that the individual with a disability cannot
perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type
of service animal, used by some individuals who are
blind. This is the type of service animal with which
most people are familiar. But there are service
animals that assist persons with other kinds of
disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some
- Alerting persons with
hearing impairments to sounds.
- Pulling wheelchairs or
carrying and picking up things for persons
with mobility impairments.
- Assisting persons with
mobility impairments with balance.
Some, but not all, service animals wear special
collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are
licensed or certified and have identification
papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a
service animal, you may ask the person who has the
animal if it is a service animal required because of
However, an individual who is going to a
restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying
documentation of his or her medical condition or
disability. Therefore, such documentation generally
may not be required as a condition for providing
service to an individual accompanied by a service
Although a number of states have programs to
certify service animals, you may not insist on proof
of state certification before permitting the service
animal to accompany the person with a disability.
We train a variety of Breeds
Most Service dog programs don't even think of
training smaller working dogs. Many different
breeds can become wonderful helper dogs. Poodles,
Havanese and little mixes as well as Golden
Retrievers and Labs have a history of great
You may need size and strength depending on your
disability. A little dog can not brace and pull you
up. A big dog can't sit in your lap. You need a dog
that wants to please. The little ones are very
smart and creative.
Little Dogs are Big Helpers
Sparky lives with his family in Florida and can
do all sorts of helpful things.
Here's a note from his Mom:
Thanks for Sparky. He has made my life so much
better. As soon as I am dressed,
Sparky helps me make the bed. He barks and jumps up
on the other side of the bed, waiting for me to say
"Let's Make the Bed"
Sparky takes the sheet between his
teeth and carefully pulls it up toward the
headboard. Next we pull up the blankets.
"Pillow Time Sparky". Sparky drags them to the top
of the bed and seems to ask "What's next". I quickly
say "Breakfast" and we are off to the kitchen
After breakfast Sparky helps
me with the housework. We do one room at a time,
picking up anything on the floor. I tell him if it
is trash or treasure. As he finds my
phone, and he fetches it and puts it back on the
charger. The TV remote goes in the pouch on the arm
of my wheelchair. Then I send him to put his
toys back in his basket.
I use the laser pointer on the lower cupboard and
say "Open It." Sparky pulls on the leather tug
attached to the handle, then waits, as I empty the
waste basket into the container under the sink. With
a touch of his paw, he closes the cupboard door.
When we go out together, Sparky jumps on my lap
and presses the handicap door opener button for me.
We roll to the elevator, and he presses the button
with his nose, and we are off. He will touch
anything I point at with that laser pointer.
Laundry is something I can do again, thanks
to Sparky. I say "Get the Laundry and he empties out
the hamper. Then he drags the clothing to me one
piece at a time. It's quite a site to see. Sparky
can even empty the dryer into the Laundry
Basket. He can't fold them, but I can. Then we ride
back to my bedroom together and put them away.
Most people are used to seeing large breeds doing
service dog work, but a small dog performing these
tasks always causes a commotion. People are amazed
at the things he can do to help me. Everyone wants
to pet him and I have to say "Sorry, he is working".
He is a joy.
So many of us have electric chairs today - a
little dog can ride along and hop off when it's time
Dogs can do amazing things - here is a link to
some of them
Service Dog Tasks