International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners


Proposed Changes to the Definition of "Service Animal"

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has opened many avenues for people with disabilities who choose to work with trained animals to mitigate their disabilities. The broad nature of the ADA's regulations is beneficial in most cases. Recent developments in the assistance animal movement, however, have called into question the practicality of such breadth.

On February 18, 2001, the undersigned gathered in conference to craft language that might more accurately portray the role of responsibly trained and handled assistance animals. This coalition of consumer groups and professional organizations training assistance animal teams proposes the following revised definition of "service animal" under CFR 36.104 - Definition of Service Animal. Supporting documentation, including reasoning for each change in wording of the definition, is located in the appendices to this document.

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.

The undersigned organizations seek to preserve the right of an individual with a disability to obtain and work with an assistance animal to mitigate a disability as defined above. Members of all organizations involved in the Assistance Animal Coalition have reported considerable public confusion as to the role and function of an assistance animal and the role responsible representation and handling of said animal plays in access for an individual with a disability. The coalition believes this confusion will gravely undermine efforts by the Department of Justice and undersigned organizations to gain compliance in the public and private sector with federal and state laws that give access rights to disabled individuals. The Coalition believes that rights to public access and other provision of state and federal law regarding assistance animals belong to the individual with a disability, not the assistance animal.

The coalition does not oppose the responsible development of future methods to mitigate a disability which may include a species of animal other than canine. The Coalition believes strongly that any entity developing and/or implementing regulations regarding assistance animals must consider the impact of sanitation, public health and safety, and the welfare of the animal when granting public access to individuals using other species of animals or reptiles to mitigate a disability. The coalition promotes the responsible training and handling of assistance animals with minimal disruption to places of public accommodation, employers and other entities. We appreciate the interest and responsiveness of the Department of Justice and other federal regulatory agencies.

Debbie Grubb, President
Guide Dog Users Inc.

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