Psychiatric service dogs are dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks to help people with psychiatric disabilities, such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. The specific tasks performed by psychiatric service dogs depend on the needs of their handlers, but Service Dog Central explains that tasks may include things like reminding them to take medication, interrupting them if they engage in compulsive behaviors, helping them determine if something is real or a hallucination, and helping them find their way home if they get disoriented. Some people with psychiatric disabilities rely on dogs or other pets for companionship and emotional support, but those are not tasks that dogs must be trained to perform so those animals are not considered to be service dogs; they are usually referred to as emotional support animals instead.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives disabled people that use service dogs the right to go almost anywhere the general public is allowed with their service dogs. This is a federal law enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice and it applies only to people with service dogs, not to those with emotional support animals.
You can take your psychiatric service dog into most stores, including grocery stores and other stores where food is sold. Your service dog must be on a leash, unless a leash prevents it from doing specific tasks you need it to do, and must be well-behaved and not bother other customers or store employees.
You can take your psychiatric service dog into the dining area of a restaurant. However, service dogs are not permitted in the kitchen or other food preparation areas. Your dog should remain on the floor and should not sit on chairs or tables in a restaurant. You should not feed your service dog in a restaurant and if you must give your dog water, you should bring a bowl with you for that purpose; don’t use dishes the restaurant serves food on for that purpose.
You can take your psychiatric service dog into most other businesses, even when pets are not normally permitted. A service dog is not considered a pet. There are a few exceptions. If the presence of the dog would interfere with the business in a significant way, you may be unable to take your dog in. For instance, you will not be able to take your service dog into a room where computer chips are made, because a single dog hair could ruin the equipment. You may not be able to take your dog to certain exhibits at a zoo, if the animals in the exhibit are frightened of the dog or if the dog might pass on certain illnesses to the animals in the exhibit.
Hospitals and Other Health Care Facilities
You can take your psychiatric service dog to a hospital, doctor’s office or other health care facility, with a few exceptions. Service dogs are generally not permitted in areas that require special clothing or other precautions, such as operating rooms, burn care centers and some intensive care units. Since a dog cannot be gowned and masked, and cannot be sterilized, it would create an infection risk in an operating room.
If you are hospitalized, your service dog can probably remain with you but hospital staff is not required to care for your dog and if you are sick enough to need hospitalization, you probably won’t be able to care for your dog by yourself. You would need to arrange for someone to come to the hospital to take your dog out for walks, to feed your dog and provide other care as needed.
You can take your psychiatric service dog with you on buses, trains and air planes. Your service dog can also ride with you in taxi cabs. Your service dog can stay with you in hotels, even if they typically do not allow pets, since your service dog is not a pet.