How to Qualify a Dog As a Service Animal

By David Stewart

A service dog helps disabled individuals perform tasks that they cannot do on their own. The special tasks he performs include guiding the blind, alerting the hearing-impaired to sounds or carrying and picking up things for those with limited mobility. According to the Americans Disabilities Act, all businesses that serve the public should allow people with disabilities with their service animal into their facility. The Federal law does not necessitate any certification for service animals. But, having your dog qualified as a service animal makes it easier for you to deal with issues of accessibility to public places, public transportation and other areas.

The most well-known service dog is a seeing eye dog.

german shepherd seeing eye dog image by Stephen Orsillo from

Train your dog to perform tasks that meet the qualifications of a service dog. This would include order-obeying skills in public places and other skills as your disability would require. For example, your dog would be expected to obey all your commands without hesitation and not be distracted by noises of other animals, people, machinery, traffic and so on. Find out the training standards required of a service dog from service dog certification organizations such as National Service Animal Registry or Service Dogs America. The bottom line of all training standard requirements is that you have complete control of your dog. Consider getting your dog enrolled in a service dog training program.

Seek out organizations that certify service dogs. You could start with National Service Animal Registry or Service Dogs America. Certification procedure usually includes describing your disability and verifying if your dog is capable of performing tasks as listed by the organization to meet their training standards. Check the amount you would have to pay for the certification process.

Receive identification materials that would identify your dog as a service animal, upon certification. Identification packages usually include an official service animal certificate and service dog vests and patches. Dog photo IDs may also be provided. Identification materials help avoid awkward confrontations at public places where officials will look for physical indicators such as vests, harnesses or capes that identify the dog as a service animal.

Be prepared with the identification materials and your certificate whenever you are in public places. You may be asked to explain the type of tasks the dog has been trained to do. However, always remember that the law is with you; you and your service animal cannot be denied access.