International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners

CADO Advocacy Effort


An estimated 20,000 disabled Americans currently benefit from civil rights legislation allowing them to be accompanied by specially trained canine assistants in public places. Guide, hearing and service dogs can be trained to perform many useful tasks enabling persons with disabilities to overcome or at least mitigate some of the limitations and difficulties imposed by their disabling conditions. This specialized task training mitigating the effects of the disability legally elevates a dog from pet status to service animal status for purposes of access rights. Such training is the cornerstone of the service animal concept. The Department of Justice tells businesses to view dogs with such training as mobility aids, a form of assistive technology similar to equipment like a wheelchair, an assistive listening device or a blind person's white cane.

Unfortunately, some individuals are interpreting the regulatory language on service animals in ways which distort the intent of Congress in granting access rights to citizens who have a disability. They appear to view this civil rights legislation as a clever legal loophole allowing them to escape zoning restrictions, the payment of pet deposits, shipping fees or as a way to get around other ordinances or rules about pets, barnyard animals and protection dogs. Most of them seem unaware of ADA's requirement for disability mitigating task training or view it as a mere technicality to be ignored with impunity.

It is not a joking matter to those of us whose chance of having an independent life is contingent on having access rights to public settings with a canine assistant. Many guide, hearing and service dog partners fear ongoing abuse of ADA's service animal provision will have a corrosive effect on societal tolerance for the presence of service animals in places of public accommodation.

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, representing more than a thousand members working with canine assistants, has been proactive in building a historic coalition between consumer organizations and umbrella organizations for assistance dog providers in the United States. IAADP has opened a dialogue with these organizations in response to member requests that something be done before it is too late and our rights are restricted.


Recent publicity about the ways in which the service animal provision of the Americans With Disabilities Act is being misunderstood or deliberately exploited by pet owners and protection dog trainers underscores a serious failure in communication. To help public officials, the media, the business world, the general public and the larger disabled community to better understand the service animal concept, the Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations (CADO) is proposing the government adopt a new definition of the term "service animal" in place of the one first published in the Code of Federal Regulations in October 1991.

The regulatory language in this definition comes up for an automatic ten year review in 2001. This provides a window of opportunity for the assistance dog community to advocate for the adoption of language clarifying the purpose of service animals and how such specially trained animals differ from pet or therapy animals, or dogs used for personal defense.

To distinguish between disabled people who work with a service animal to mitigate their disabling condition and those who are participating in pet based mental health or physical health facilitation with a pet dog, reptile or any other species of animal, CADO urges the Department of Justice to keep "task training"as the litmus test of legitimacy.

This current ADA requirement will be more plainly stated in the proposed new definition. It will state a service animal is specifically trained to perform physical tasks that serve to mitigate a disability.


CADO is a new networking organization, existing as a vehicle through which the assistance dog community works together to protect the assistance dog movement from being damaged by unscrupulous persons and groups misidentifying their animals and dogs as service animals. In addition, CADO wants to educate uninformed business owners and managers, as well as public organizations about the characterisitcs of legitimate service animals. These efforts stem from CADO's primary goal of preserving access rights under ADA for the next generation.

CADO was launched when the consumer advocacy organization, Guide Dog Users, Inc.(GDUI) invited the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, (IAADP), the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU), Assistance Dogs International (ADI) and the US Council of Dog Guide Schools (USCDGS) to meet with them in Columbus, Ohio, on February 18 & 19, 2001 to discuss new developments widely perceived as threats to the enormous good will and public trust the assistance dog movement had earned over the past seventy years. A decision was made by delegates to that meeting to develop and propose a new definition of service animals to the U.S. Department of Justice. This new definition would clarify the function of a service animal and eliminate language that has become extremely problematic.


In the proposed new definition, examples given of typical tasks performed by assistance dogs will not contain any words or phrases that might be taken out of context and misconstrued by protection dog trainers, as happened with the words, "minimal protection or rescue work" in the original definition.

CADO would like to substitute a new example, "assistance in a medical crisis," for the problematic "minimal protection or rescue work." This new example seems to be just as inclusive if not more so, with regard to people with invisible disabilities who work with canine assistants to better cope with certain aspects of a seizure disorder, a psychiatric disorder or a hidden medical condition like leukemia.

Those unfamiliar with physical tasks a service dog could be trained to perform for someone with a psychiatric disability, may visit IAADP's website's Service Dog Tasks for Psychiatric Service Dogs. A list of more than 30 possible tasks has been posted there. If unfamiliar with why protection dogs are so unsuitable for a service dog career, you may wish to consider the input contributed by a savvy psychologist Disaster is not what a trauma victim needs: Risks and negative consequences of protection dogs for individuals with post traumatic stress disorder. To better understand how a guide, hearing or service dog is trained to mitigate other kinds of disabilities, visit Assistance Dog Tasks in the About Assistance Dogs section for an article describing more than 100 different physical tasks.


The CADO definition was finalized and presented to the Department of Justice on April 16, 2001. Information packets supporting the need for these language changes were also furnished. The delegation met with John Wodatch, Chief of the Disability Rights Section and with Joan Magagna, Chief of the Civil Rights Division of Housing and Civil Enforcement and members of her staff. The two hour meeting attended by Joan Froling, IAADP Chairperson, Debby Grubb, GDUI President and Debby Gavelek, ADI President led to a productive exchange of views. The proposed definition was well received.

CADO does not expect action to be taken until the official review process begins. We will keep our respective constituencies updated through our websites and newsletters. CADO would also like to prepare and distribute a Public Service Announcement with a positive message, educating the media and public that a pet and a service animal are not the same thing. It will inform them that unlike pets, service animals receive special training to perform physical tasks vital to the independence, mobility and safety of the disabled human partner.

Individuals or organizations not already members of the umbrella organizations referred to herein are very welcome to participate in CADO's efforts. Contact IAADP if interested. Other educational approaches by assistance dog partners to prevent abuse of ADA's service animal definition are strongly encouraged.


It is CADO's understanding, based on our meeting with John Wodatch, Chief of the Disability Rights section, that he's already been contacted by business and industry representatives, but that everyone's opinions will be heard and respected before any decision is reached. It is IAADP's hope that when we ask you for a letter of support, you will take the time to phone, email or snail mail it to the designated address. We've seen how much good can come from presenting a united front on a service animal access issue in the past.

The old definition of a service animal and the new proposed definition from CADO follows.


Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including, but not limited to guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items.


28 CFR 36.104 - Definition of Service Animal Revised to read:

Assistance animal means an assistance dog, and may include other animals, specifically trained to perform physical tasks to mitigate an individual's disability. Assistance dogs include: guide dogs that guide individuals who are legally blind, hearing dogs that alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to specific sounds; and, service dogs for individuals with disabilities other than blindness or deafness. Service dogs are trained to perform a variety of physical tasks including but not limited to pulling a wheelchair, lending balance support, picking up dropped objects or providing assistance in a medical crisis. The presence of an animal for comfort, protection or personal defense does not qualify an animal as being trained to mitigate an individual's disability and therefore, does not qualify said animal as an assistance animal.

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