Service animals are animals that have been trained and certified to perform a specific task or set of tasks for a person with disabilities. They have been referred to as assistance or support animals and are most often dogs. The breed of dogs that are most commonly used as service dogs are the golden Labrador followed closely by German shepherds. Finding the proper place to register and certify your service animal can be difficult and the internet is a great place to start.

Service Dog Certification and Registration

Service-Dog-certificationService dog certification should come before registration. Certification is what really matters when it comes to service dogs. Gettting a cert will be useful if someone challenges you on whether your service animal is legitimate or not. Most business owners and the public are very accepting of people and their service animal as long as the animal behaves well.  The animal should be trained and certified as a true service dog, before it is registered with any registry. There is no legitimate registry in the country that services the ADA. Some registries certify that the dogs who are members have been trained and tested others do not. The programs that certify the dogs have been properly trained will only be helpful if an individual is required to go to court and prove their dog is trained.

Therapy Dog Certification

There are differences between service dogs and therapy dogs. Service dogs are not considered pets; they are trained for a specific purpose, such as seeing-eye dogs or pulling wheelchairs. A therapy dog is considered a pet, and helps its companion deal with more of a psychological issue. They are often found in settings where therapeutic healing is often taking place. They can be found in schools, hospitals, and retirement homes. There are several websites that certify a therapy dog. Therapy dogs are treated differently than service dogs. They are not allowed inside most public places as service dogs are.  Therapy dogs are often volunteers that are not specifically trained to perform a specific task, or set of tasks. You can find out more about getting your pet certified, click here to read more.

The United States Service Dog Registry

The USSDR represents assistance animal registry for training and behavior standards. This registry is free and non-governmental and has the hope of becoming the most democratic registry yet. The USSDR wants people to recognize that registering animals that are false is not ok or fair to those who actually need them. The USSDR takes the ADA requirements a step further. They provide a special harness, certificate, and registration. It helps show business owners as well as others that your dog is indeed a real service animal.

ADA Service Animal Requirements

ada-service-dog-certificationAs of March 15, 2011 the ADA has updated the guidelines for ‘service animals.’ Service animals are henceforth recognized as only dogs. It must be individually trained to work and perform tasks for a person with a disability. They are to be permitted wherever the person they service, anywhere in public their owners are allowed to go. A business cannot exclude access of a facility due to fear or allergies to dogs. The dog cannot be asked to leave unless they are out of control, or not housebroken. This should not be a concern for a person with a properly trained service dog. Service dogs go through rigorous training to ensure that they remain calm and collected under any situation, no matter how chaotic or busy it might be.


The general requirements for the ADA are:

  1. When in public the dogs should obey all commands and not be distracted.
  2. When entering a building your dogs should stay beside you, and not have its attention diverted or want to investigate other areas of the building.
  3. Once inside an establishment your service animal should not be distracted by people or try to attract their attention.
  4. In a restaurant your service animal should be happy out of sight and not expecting food or be startled by people passing by.
  5. When approached by others the service animal should always look to its owner for guidance.
  6. Your service animal should obey all commands at all times, and always be under the owner’s control.

What Questions can a business legally ask a person of a Service animal?

  1. Is the dog a service animal?
  2. For what has the dog been trained?

Any other questions fall outside the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It was meant to protect disabled people from being asked unnecessary or unfair questions. If the animal in fact a certified service animal then any other questions are irrelevant. The animal is supposed to provide a service for a disabled person and others are taking advantage to bring their family pet along.

Psychiatric Service Dog Certification

Psychiatric trained service dogs are trained to assist their owner to cope with a psychiatric disability similar to post traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia. These types of service animals are recognized as therapy dogs, not service animals; though they are specifically trained to assist with their handler’s disability. There has been much debate about which category a psychiatric dog falls under. Depending on how you have your dog certified could mean the difference between being allowed to bring your service animal wherever you go. Under the law, businesses are required to allow you and your service animal access to any and all spaces that a customer or patron would have if they did not have a service animal. This can include food preparation areas, the law states that service animals are exempt from those requirement. They complete tasks such retrieving medication or interrupting injurious behaviors or repetitive ones. They can also be a friendly face and companion so that a person does not have to be alone.

Fake Service Dog Certificates

There are companies that will provide certificates to service animals via the internet. These are easily found and the animal is often times never validated to be a service animal. People can go online and purchase ‘certifications’ sight unseen.  Often the fee is $30-$200 and it is not a legal certification. This is similar to diploma mills, and they are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Purchasing fake service dog certifications is a new trend, owners are willing to pay to be allowed to take their pets with them into restaurants and stores. This gives the impression that pets are in fact a service animal when they are not.  Owners are snatching up bogus vests, patches and certificates for the ability to keep their best friend at their side regardless of the situation.

These fake dogs are causing problems in establishments across the country. They do not act in accordance with the training of a certified animal. These animals eliminate inappropriately or do not sit and wait patiently without disturbing other guests or service dogs. They jump up on people and in some situations bite. These puts the people that are actually in need of service animals in a bad position. When people encounter these unruly “service” dogs, it give a bad name for all of them even if they are acting in accordance with the law.

Fake service dog certificates are causing grief to those who have real needs.

Service Dog Certification Online

Many websites provide service dog certifications; most of them charge a fee. Most all of these websites are not legitimate. There is no way to determine via the online forum whether or not your animal meets the criteria needed to be a true service animal.