Service Animals and the ADA

Service Animals and the ADA

by Patty L. Fletcher

Hello, Patty and Seeing Eye Dog Campbell here, back today to help clear up some things that I’ve learned folks just don’t understand. Of late I’ve had people come up to me and ask, “What exactly is a Service Animal, and how can we know what animals are truly recognized by the ADA?” (ADA Adults With Disabilities Act)  This brought about more questions. The most asked, “What is the ADA?” I’ll start there.

First I’ll give you the factual summary as found on the ADA website, and then I’ll talk to you about what having the ADA has done for me as a disabled person. This will then allow me to answer the first question concerning “Service Animals.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities.Trimming claws. Manicure and pedicure grooming

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

Being a disabled person who has lived both with and without the protection of the ADA, I can tell you that having the ADA has in many ways enhanced my life. It enables me to participate in activities just like anyone else, be eligible for, and work in jobs just as anyone else would, and have access to reading materials in a format designed for someone with my type of disability which is blindness. It also enables me to bring my “Service Animal” into any place of business I wish.

This brings me to my next topic. What are “Service Animals” and what animals are recognized by the ADA?

A “Service Animal” is an animal which provides a “Service to a person that assists them in some way with their disability. In my case my Seeing Eye Dog Guide assists me to get safely to and from places I wish to go. At the current time to my knowledge, the ADA recognizes dogs and miniature horses.

I have been asked, how a person can tell if an animal is a real “Service Animal” There are currently no laws which allow a person to ask for written proof saying that an animal is a “Service Animal” There are two questions a person can ask. They are, “Is that a ‘Service Animal?’ and ‘What Service does it provide for you?’

I personally do not agree with this law and believe that we should carry some sort of identification showing that our animals are “Service Animals” I personally carry an I.D card provided to me by The Seeing Eye. It is my belief that doing such would stop a lot of the confusion. There are valid arguments on both sides of the fence.

The ADA however doesn’t agree so there-for it is difficult to know who is real and who is not.

I can tell you some things to look for when observing an animal said to be a “Service Animal” that will assist you in knowing, but I can also tell you that doing something about an animal that is obviously not a “Service Animal” will be hard. First off some things to look for.

The “Service Animal” should at all times be under the complete control of the handler. It should always be on a leash, and should never at any time disrupt the public around it. It should either lie quietly at the handler’s feet when not working, or if a smaller dog, such as a Diabetic alert dog, at the very least be lying quietly in the handler’s lap if no reason to alert is occurring.

Things you should never see. You should never see an animal sitting at the table in an eatery partaking of a meal with its handler, and you should never see a “Service Animal” running loose among the public.

If the “Service Animal” in question is behaving in a disruptive manner, such as what I have described, you as a business owner should ask the handler to stop this behavior at once. A person with a “Service Animal” has the right to have their animal present but they do not have the right to disrupt the public at large.

Another thing you should know is that the “Service Animal” should always be clean. While having a “Service Animal” in your place of business will not get you into trouble with the Health Department which is many times a business owner’s fear a person should never bring any animal into the public when it is unclean. If you encounter such, you should contact the ADA immediately.

I hope this clears up some of the questions you the reader have. If you have more questions I’d suggest visiting for more details. There are many links that cover specific topics, and contact emails and phone numbers for you to use if you have further questions.

For now this is Patty and Seeing Eye Dog Campbell saying, may harmony find you, and blessid be.

About the Author

Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport, TN, where she worked for nine years at CONTACT–CONCERN of Northeast Tennessee, Inc. She now writes full time. Her autobiographical book is Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life (C 2014). There, she tells how she obtained her first guide dog from The Seeing Eye® in Morristown, NJ: what motivated her, the extensive training she had, and the good friends she made.

For more details about her and her book, including where to purchase the book in e-book or print format go to: To see my blog and newly updated website go to

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