Service Dog Requirements in California

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Service dogs can perform a variety of tasks to help their owner with disability-related tasks that enhance independence and safety. In California, a specitcial service animal license is available through the state that helps business owners see at a glance that your dog meets the requirements of performing specific tasks to help with a disability.

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It's not necessary for a service dog to wear a special vest in California.
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What is a service dog?

Service dog organizations can specifically train a dog to your particular needs. A service dog might need to guide the blind, alert the deaf to sounds, or use its mouth to help people open their medication or get an item that's out of reach. Dogs can also be trained to alert their owner to impending seizures, low blood sugar, or other sudden-onset disorders.

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A dog must perform a specific task or set of tasks in order to qualify as a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example, if you have seizures, your dog can be trained to position your body safely or protect your body from harm.

Sitting on your lap offering a comforting presence doesn't qualify as a service task. This would be an emotional support animal, and they are not afforded the same access privileges as a service animal. Although you're not required to get a service animal trained through any particular agency, your pooch must be capable of much more intricate work than responding to ordinary obedience commands.

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Getting a service dog certificate

A dog must perform a specific task or set of tasks in order to qualify as a service animal.
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Although a service dog certificate is available from many agencies on the internet, these certificates do not convey a right to bring your dog into a business. If your dog is not obviously working, such as leading a blind person, the business has a right to ask two questions to decide whether it will allow your dog to remain inside:

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  • Is your dog necessary for a disability?​ This is a way of asking whether your dog is trained to do something that you cannot do for yourself and if it is a necessity for you to function in the environment. A business cannot ask for the specifics of your disability.

  • What tasks is your dog trained to perform?​ This is a fair question, and you don't have to go into details that reveal the nature of your disability. Simply saying, "My dog is trained to alert me to changes in my medical condition" or letting them know what type of tasks your dog performs is usually enough. Refusing to answer the question is enough for them to qualify your dog as a pet and ask you to leave.

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California service dog license

You can usually avoid any questions at all when you license your dog as a service animal in the state of California. All dogs, whether pets or service animals, are required to be licensed through their municipality. California offers an optional official service animal tag available through your local animal control agency.

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Contact your city animal control office to fill out an application to receive a tag that identifies your dog as a service animal. In some jurisdictions, one tag fulfills the requirement to show that your dog is vaccinated for rabies and is readily identifiable through the animal control system as well as identifying her as a service animal.

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Emotional support animals don't have the same access privileges as a service animal.
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To get a California service dog license, your dog must be either spayed or neutered and must have a current rabies vaccination. You must fill out information regarding your dog's breed and assistive use and sign an affidavit that your animal is essential for aiding you with your disability.

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