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Service Dog Laws – (+ Emotional Support Animal) 7 Facts to Know

Service Dog Laws – Everything You Need to Know


You may have noticed that there are no special laws that protect service dogs.

For example, in California and Indiana, fraudulently presenting your dog as a service animal is punishable by law. But there are some exceptions to service dog laws.

For example, in Indiana, claiming your dog to be a service animal is a misdemeanor. So how do you make sure your service dog is protected?


Which Disabilities Entitle an Individual to Utilize a Service Dog or Support Animal?

Typically, California law provides higher protections for individuals with disabilities than federal law.

California, for example, defines “disability” more broadly than the ADA. A physical or mental impairment qualifies as a disability under the federal ADA only if it limits” a significant life activity.

In California, a physical or mental handicap need merely limit (not “significantly limit”) a major life activity, which simply implies that the impairment must make achieving the major living activity challenging.


Which California legislation provide protection for service animals, and when?


The applicable California law depends on three factors: the type of animal, how the animal assists the disabled individual, and the location.


What is Service Dog?

Under California law, a “service dog” is a dog trained to assist an individual with a disability with tasks such as retrieving dropped goods, minimal protection work, search-and-rescue missions, and pulling a wheelchair.

There are two key points to consider about California’s definition of service dogs.

First, it is restricted to canines. (However, because the ADA permits the use of miniature horses as service animals in some limited circumstances, so does California.)

Second, it is restricted to dogs that have been trained to assist persons with specific needs. Therefore, no animal other than a dog can qualify as a service animal, even if it has been trained to aid a disabled person.

Additionally, a dog does not qualify as a service dog if it has not been individually trained to assist a person with a disability (in a way that is related to his or her disability).


A Definition of “Psychiatric” Service Dog

There is no separate definition for “psychiatric service dog” in California, but a dog that is individually trained to assist a person with a mental disability with specific tasks is considered a service dog, and a person who uses such a dog is entitled to the same legal protections as a person with a physical disability who uses a service dog.

The following are examples of tasks or jobs that a service dog can be trained to undertake for a person with a mental disability:

  • A dog with a responsibility of awakening and enticing someone with clinical depression out of bed at a particular time in the morning.
  • A dog with a responsibility of responding to an owner’s panic attack by beginning contact to reassure the individual and notifying a driver with impaired judgment owing to bipolar disorder that he or she is driving recklessly.


Definition of Emotional Support Animal

An “emotional support animal” is a dog or other animal that has not been specifically taught to do tasks that are directly associated with the individual’s condition. In contrast, the animal’s friendship and presence provide the owner with a sense of well-being, security, or tranquility.

A dog is not required to be an emotional support animal, although it is permissible.

See American Kennel Club (AKC) on service dogs and support animals for further information on the fundamental distinction between service dogs and support animals.


Psychiatric service dogs are not covered by California state law

Psychiatric service dogs are dogs that have been trained to help a person with a mental disability.

The law in California protects such dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and allows them to go places they would otherwise be prohibited from visiting. It guarantees full public access for the dog’s owner and the person with a disability.

In California, these dogs are also known as emotional support animals.

Cadence was a service dog for a returning veteran suffering from PTSD and mild traumatic brain injury. Her trainers trained her in three general areas related to PTSD, and she was trained to calm Arndt during panic attacks.

The Ford plant took months to determine her request, so Arndt filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the courts. The EEO commission decided to take the case to trial.


Psychiatric service dogs are not covered by Indiana state law

Psychiatric service dogs, also known as emotional support animals, are not covered by Indiana state law. Psychiatric service dogs are individually trained to aid a person with a mental illness.

These animals may perform various tasks such as reminding a person to take prescribed medications, keeping a disoriented person from wandering off, or performing room searches for a person suffering from PTSD.

However, it is important to remember that an emotional support animal is not the same as a pet.

In addition to the ADA, Indiana has its own service animal laws. These laws cover dogs that help people with physical and mental disabilities. They do not include emotional support animals. They are not allowed in public accommodations, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels.

However, Indiana has adopted a more expansive definition of “service animal” and does not have a separate law for psychiatric service dogs.


Fraudulently representing a service dog is a misdemeanor in some states

The state in which you live will determine whether or not fraud is an offense.

Many states have laws governing service dog usage. Fraudulently representing a service dog may involve using an identification, harness or leash without the proper training. It is not a felony to misrepresent a service dog, but the penalty for misrepresenting a service animal may be as high as $500.

The punishment for falsely representing a service animal is severe. In some states, people can be jailed for up to 6 months and fined up to $1,000.

It is important to remember that the law only applies to a person who intentionally falsely represents a service animal.

In order to be found guilty, you must have knowledge of the service animal or its training.

A first offense will be punishable by a fine of $25. A second offense can lead to a fine of $50 to $200. A third offense could result in a fine of $100 to $500.


Exceptions to service dog laws

Exceptions to service dog laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, an animal with a known mental or sensory disability must be admitted only if it is individually trained for the person’s use.

In addition, public places must permit the individual training of service animals. However, a person with a disability must accompany their service animal when attending these public places. This can be tricky to determine, especially if the dog is not housebroken or trained to perform its work well.

However, hospitals will not prevent the use of service animals in their waiting rooms, but they may deny them access to certain parts of the building, such as the emergency room.

Other government organizations and businesses may ask people to remove their service animals.

These organizations have different policies when it comes to service animals, but all require that they behave well and do not present any safety or health hazards. In addition, some local governments require that service animals be vaccinated.



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