It is becoming more and more common for assistance pets to provide independence and companionship to people all over the world. With more opportunities to own working animals, come many rules and regulations on how to handle them in public places.
Because assistance animals are often a problem of fraud, there are four groups of assistance animals that are recognized by law.
“Any animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.” – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
“Any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.” – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Emotional support animal
“An emotional support animal (ESA) may be an animal of any species, the use of which is supported by a qualified physician, psychiatrist or other mental health professional based upon a disability-related need.” – Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. Part 3604) and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and C.F.R. Part 382.117
“A therapy animal is a type of animal-assisted intervention in which an animal meeting specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. Animal-assisted therapy is provided in a variety of settings, and may be group or individual in nature.” – Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and CFR Part 382; AVMA
It is likely that we have come into contact with or have seen an assistance animal with their handler in a public place. Always consider these tips when spotting one of these special pets in public. It is important to remember they are doing a job. You can greet the handler, but it is extremely important not to touch or speak to the pet without permission from the handler. Distracting the pet could be dangerous to the handler. These pets are tools to assist handlers in situations that could turn deadly.
With access to these special pets, important tasks and capabilities are being provided to those who may otherwise not have help or have “invisible disabilities” that are not apparent to those around. Never assume that a handler needs help. The pet and handler together can usually perform any task needed. The acceptance of assistance animals in more public places has been on the rise. It is creating life changing independence for children, adults and veterans.