Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Where Can You Take Your Service Dog in Training?

Service dogs are dogs that have been specially trained to perform tasks that mitigate their owners’ disabilities. While many people with disabilities get service dogs from organizations that train them, others choose to train their own service dogs. It’s perfectly legal to train your own service dog, although you may not succeed at doing so unless you have a lot of experience training dogs.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is a federal law, people with disabilities are allowed to take their service dogs most places they go, even if pets are not normally allowed, including stores, shopping malls, restaurants, doctors’ offices and hospitals. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to service dogs in training, though, only to fully trained service dogs.

So where can you take your service dog in training? It depends on the laws in your state. Some states, about half of them, allow people that are training service dogs to take service dogs in training to all the places fully trained service dogs are allowed to go under the American with Disabilities Act. In about half of those states, only professional dog trainers or those associated with recognized service dog training programs are allowed to take service dogs in training into public places. That means if you live in one of those states, if you are training your own service dog and you are not a professional dog trainer, you can only take your service dog in training to places that allow pets unless you speak with the owner or manager and get permission to bring your dog there.

Note that some states have laws pertaining to service dogs in training that only apply to certain types of service dogs. For instance, I live in the state of Ohio and state laws here do not recognize psychiatric service dogs, those trained to assist people with psychiatric conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. That means in Ohio, professional dog trainers that are training service dogs for blind people, deaf people or people with physical disabilities can take service dogs in training into public places but not professional dog trainers that are training service dogs for people with psychiatric disabilities.

Check the laws in your state before taking your service dog in training into public places that don’t normally allow pets. The website of the Animal Legal and Historical Center is a good place to start but if you’re not sure you have all the information you need, you can consult an attorney in your state for the most up-to-date info available.

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