What is a Registered Service Dog?
Service dogs are dogs that have been trained to perform a specific task to help their handlers with a disability. Service dogs are intended to improve the quality of life of their handlers, and allow them to function independently. Service dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and can be trained to aid countless disabilities, including many anxiety related issues.
Disabilities can be visible, or non-visible. Visible disabilities may include Hemiplegia, Paraplegia, Quadriplegia, MS, Cerebral Palsy. Non-visible disabilities include hearing impairment, stress, depression, intellectual impairments, autism and neurological disease. Service dogs can be trained to help with many types of visible and non-visible disabilities. For example:
- Dogs can be trained to detect oncoming seizures in epileptic patients.
- Dogs can be trained to sense low blood sugar for diabetics.
- Dogs can be attuned to mental states and physically relieve stress for a variety of conditions, including anxiety, PTSD and ADHD.
What are the Requirements to Register a Service Dog?
It is important to understand that there is no official registry for service dogs and service dog certificates and physical markers such as collars, bandanas and dog tags are not a formal requirement. Business operators and government officials cannot legally require proof of registration, training or licensing as a condition to enter their establishment where the public is permitted.
The only two questions that are permissible for you to be asked about your service dog are:
- Is the animal required because of a disability?
- What task has the animal been trained to perform?
Once you confirm the above, businesses must make reasonable accommodations. Unfortunately, many businesses that interact with the public are unfamiliar with the laws surrounding service animals and insist on receiving physical proof of service dog status. Although not a legal requirement, physical markers such as such as collars, bandanas and dog tags are an extremely efficient way to show the public that your dog is a service dog without having to communicate it directly.
As a matter of convenience and to ensure proper access, many service dog handlers choose also to voluntarily register their dogs as service dogs and carry a digital ID card and/or certificate with them. This can prevent uncomfortable situations or confusion when interacting with staff at public establishments.
How do I Train my Dog as a Service Dog?
There are multiple ways to get a trained service dog.
- Buy a trained service dog.
There are professional organizations that will sell you a fully trained service dog. This is a great way to guarantee you will end up with a fully trained dog, but it will come at a high cost. Trained service dogs are extremely expensive and can go for tens of thousands of dollars.
- Take your dog to training.
There are many training services and programs across Canada and the United States that will work with you to train your service dog. They have tons of experience and you can be confident you will end up with a high performing service dog.
There are no rules or regulations on who can train a service dog in North America and you are permitted to train your own service dog. While this will save you money, it will require dedication, patience and consistency.
How do I Register My Service Dog?
Service dogs are not required to be certified or legally registered. However, the unfortunate truth is that many individuals and their service dogs are turned away from public establishments unless they have “proof” that their dog is in fact a service dog. This is particularly true for non-visible disabilities. Business owners and service providers ARE PERMITTED to ask if your dog is a service dog and if they are trained to assist you with a disability, and they may want documentation or proof which evidences that the dog is a service dog as well. Common proof that can be provided includes:
- A doctor’s note or letter from another medical professional.
- A physical maker affixed to your dog such as a collar, bandana or dog tag.
- A service dog certificate containing relevant information on the dog and handler. As there is no official department that records this information, we recommend you certify your trained service dog with a reputable and trustworthy organization that maintains their own internal and searchable registry, which provide a high level of accountability.
- A graduation certificate from a reputable trainer or training school.
To Wrap things up, registering a service dog is not legally required, but it is often necessary to be able to confirm to business and service providers that your dog is in fact a service dog.