What disabilities qualify you for a service dog?

I was told that if one or more of your major life activities are limited and a dog can be trained to migate that then you qualify for a service dog. Of course this sounds a little too roomy to be completely true, if at all.

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    5 Responses to “What disabilities qualify you for a service dog?”

    1. lil_farfa says:

      It is not the diagnosis that matters. It is the degree to which the condition affects you that does matter. Most conditions are disabling in a percentage of the people affected by it, but not by the rest. Yes, the ADA definition of disabled is:

      " The term "disability" means, with respect to an individual -

      (A) A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;

      (B) A record of such an impairment; or

      (C) Being regarded as having such an impairment."

      Also, in your previous question about medical alert dogs, you were given incorrect information. Alerting is a valid tasks/work as confirmed by the DOJ in the final rule signed on Sept 15, 2010. The DOJ stated that when the dog takes action to alert, they go beyond just sensing something and it becomes a task. While it is true that the ability to alert is natural to the dog and can not be trained, it can be molded. How the dog alerts can, and normally is, trained. For example, the dog can be taught to paw at the handler instead of barking as an alert. So, yes, a dog that only alerts is a valid service dog.


      No, you do not have to have a doctor’s note or even approval to have a service dog, though it is recommended as the service dog is part of treatment. The only times you have to have a doctors note is if requesting an accommodation for work/school under the ADA, housing under the FHA, or for Psychiatric service dogs flying under the ACAA. For every day life, no doctors note is necessary, though programs training a dog will require documentation from a physician.

    2. SSA Registered Disabled PWD KING ♕♛ says:

      Autism is one Disability that will qualify you.

      Deafness, Epilepsy, and Severe Psychiatric Illness (Severe Mental Illness) are other Disabilities that will qualify you.

      Being a manual Wheelchair user will also qualify you.

    3. Eoforhilda says:

      It’s basically true, but your medical provider has to agree that the dog would be an effective accommodation and you have to be sure you can properly care for the dog (food, grooming, vet bills, etc.) Here is a link to the FAQ at Service Dog Central users group.

    4. Pearl says:

      It’s not the name of the disability or the specific diagnosis that matters. What matters is whether you meet the legal definition of "disabled." Also be aware that having a diagnosis doesn’t automatically make you disabled either. For example, 1 in 5 people in the US have a diagnosed mental illness, but only 6% of Americans are disabled by mental illness.

      "The term `disability’ means, with respect to an individual– a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual… [such as] caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working." — Americans with Disabilities Restoration Act

      The issue is actually how you interpret "major life activity" and "substantial limitation." Leaving the house, going shopping, eating out and such are not major life activities. Seeing, breathing, hearing, and thinking are. Major life activities are the most basic functions needed to survive, not the things people might do daily, but what they need to be able to do in order to in order to function in the world.

      While you must qualify as disabled in order to have a service dog, the dog must also qualify to be a service dog. A service dog is trained to do something concrete that the person with a disability cannot do for themselves because of their disability, and which mitigates one or more of their substantially limited major life activities. Emotional support does not count. The Department of Justice (who administer and enforce the ADA) made this statement two years ago clarifying this point: "Animals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals." So, for example, for the phobias, he’d have to be trained to actually do something about them, not be there for companionship or reassurance.

      They also recently changed the legal definition of "service animal" to clarify some issues and this will become effective March 15, 2011, “Service animal means 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 work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”

      For the leg problem it’s going to come down to whether your leg substantially limits you. I know that before the ADA Restoration Act, it pretty much meant you had to not be able to walk at all if you were going to claim walking as the source of the disability. This was supposed to be changed and broadened under the Restoration Act, but no one is exactly sure how much it has been broadened.

      Now for argument’s sake, let’s suppose that the leg issue is not by itself disabling, but the phobias are. Training the dog to mitigate the walking problem, say by fetching dropped items, still would not make the dog a service dog because by law he must be trained to do something that mitigates the actual disability. So in this hypothetical example, he would have to be trained to do something about the phobias. You would be free, of course, to add on any additional training for walking, it just wouldn’t be what makes the dog a service dog. I have no idea how limited you are, it’s not my business, and I don’t want to know. Maybe each individual thing you listed disables you. That’s a discussion to have with your medical providers. I’ve just used this hypothetical scenario as an example to illustrate how it might apply and what to consider in evaluating whether it applies in your personal situation.

      — edited to add —

      Autism does not automatically qualify a person as disabled. No specific diagnosis does. There are people on the spectrum who are not disabled. Here’s an easier to grasp example: There are many people with vision impairments. Some get by fine with glasses. Some don’t and are considered blind. Those that need glasses are not disabled (not substantially limited) and those who are blind are disabled (substantially limited). It is the extent and nature of the limitation, not the name of the limitation, that determines whether a person is disabled.

    5. FHA Training says:

      I know several high functional autistic’s that are not disabled and completely agree with Pearl.

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