ADA Service Dog Requirements & Disability Rights
The Department of Justice published revised final regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for title II (State and local government services) and title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new and updated requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards).
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Physical Limitation Service Dog:
Service dogs that are trained to perform major life tasks to assist people with physical limitations. To legally qualify to have a service dog, he/she must have a disability that substantially limits his/her ability to perform at least one major life task without assistance. To qualify as a service dog, the dog must be individually trained to perform that major life task.

Emotional Support Animals:

An emotional support animal is an animal that has been prescribed for a person by his/her licensed therapist (a licensed mental health professional) in a properly formatted letter. This letter should state that the person is determined to be emotionally disabled and that the presence of the animal is necessary for the disabled person's mental health.

Psychiatric Service Dogs:

A Psychiatric Service animal is a dog that is individually trained for people with an emotional or psychiatric disability so severe that it substantially limits his/her ability to perform at least one major life task. Psychiatric Service Dogs are considered service animals. To legally qualify, a Psychiatric Service Dog must be prescribed for a person by his/her licensed therapist (a licensed mental health professional) in a properly formatted letter that specifically states that a Psychiatric Service Dog is needed to perform necessary tasks that the person is unable to perform for him/herself during certain events.

Therapy Animals:

Many people confuse Therapy Animals with Service Dogs. A therapy animal is normally a dog (but can be other species) that has been obedience trained and screened for its ability to interact favorably with humans and other animals. The primary purpose of a therapy dog is to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with learning difficulties.
  • Physical:
  • Asthma / Breathing Problems
  • Blindness & Partial Blindness
  • Deafness & Partial Deafness
  • Diabetes
  • Dizziness/Balance Problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Mobility Problems
  • Neurological Problems
  • Paralysis
  • Physical Weakness
  • Speech Problems
  • Seizures
  • Emotional / Mental:
  • Age-Related Cognitive Decline
  • Psychiatric Conditions
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Dyslexia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Emotionally Overwhelmed
  • Panic Attacks
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.)
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Social Phobia
  • Stress Problems

ADA Definitions of Qualified Disability

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who:

  1. Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  2. Has a record of such an impairment; or
  3. Is regarded as having such an impairment.

A physical impairment is defined by the ADA as:

Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine.

A mental impairment is defined by the ADA as:

Any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

NOTE: The ADA does not list all conditions or diseases that make up physical, mental, and emotional impairments, because it would be impossible to provide a comprehensive list given the variety of possible impairments.

Exclusions to the Qualified Disability Definition
Neither deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) nor conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of a dysfunction in the individual. According to Title II of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, current or future interpretation of psychological disabilities excludes common personality traits such as poor judgment or a quick temper.