International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners

IAADP Position on National Certification

IAADP believes national certification of guide, hearing and service dogs is detrimental to the assistance dog movement at this time.

The legal right to be accompanied by our guide, hearing and service dogs into all public accommodations is based on the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the deliberations surrounding the passage of the ADA, leaders of the disability community were determined that our civil rights would not be dependent on proving we were disabled in order to have access to restaurants, hotels, taxis, hospitals, etc. A principle underlying the disability rights movement is that most handicaps are not the result of our disabilities, but result from barriers created by the larger society. Sometimes these barriers are physical and sometimes they result from societal attitudes in which we are seen as second class citizens. These attitudinal barriers are even more difficult to change, but IAADP has taken on as one of its many missions the education of the public about our guide, hearing and service dogs.

Most assistance dog partners have been faced with painful, discriminatory experiences because of our dogs. In keeping with its educational mission, IAADP's recommended response to access denials is to explain the role of the dog, utilize the IAADP access and information brochure detailing in seven languages the serious penalties for violating state and federal laws, and, if necessary, take the access denial into the legal arena. IAADP's Information and Advocacy Center has been involved in a wide range of access denial issues.

For us to have to prove our dogs are assistance dogs, through certification, is to place the burden of proof on us, not those who would deny our federally guaranteed civil rights. IAADP has taken a pro-active approach and is participating in many outreach programs to educate members of the larger community. Among these is the development of videos and print material to educate members of the hotel, motel and restaurant industries about disabled people's right to be accompanied by their assistance dogs. In addition, a video has been prepared to educate law enforcement officers about the role of assistance dogs in the lives of disabled people and the role of law enforcement officers in guaranteeing the legal rights of disabled people choosing to work with assistance dogs.

Many of us believe a voluntary certification system will inevitably lead to a mandatory certification move that would be a direct incursion on our rights. If certification becomes a national issue, IAADP recommends forming a blue ribbon panel consisting of people with assistance dogs, including owner/trainers, assistance dog training programs, the American Kennel Club and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. This expert panel would develop the procedures to be followed and the organization responsible for carrying out a credible certification program.

Assistance dog partners have been faced with discrimination because of our dogs. It is these shared experiences that have helped bring us together as a community with common causes and common grievances. Many of us begin by becoming advocates for our dogs, then advocates for ourselves, then advocates for others. Being challenged by those in authority who would deny our legal rights is not pleasant. Rather than having our dogs certified, let's work together toward making our society one in which assistance dog teams are welcomed and incorporated into the larger society.

Last revised 12/01

Return to IAADP home page
Return to IAADP Advocacy