International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners

ADA Training Requirements

QUESTION: Why don’t Companion Animals, Emotional Support Animals or Therapy Animals meet ADA’s training requirements?

ANSWER: In spite of diligent efforts over the last decade by the U.S. Department of Justice to educate the estimated 54 million Americans with a disability about the important difference between "service animals" and tens of millions of pets in the disabled community, misunderstanding still arise.

The Definition of a Service Animal under the Americans With Disabilities Act and Guidance documents from the U.S. Department of Justice have established two training requirements for a Service Animal. The first is that a service animal must be individually trained to perform tasks or work for the benefit of a disabled individual. The second is that a service animal must be trained to behave properly in places of public accommodation. Inappropriate behavior that disrupts the normal course of business or threatens the health or safety of others is automatic grounds for excluding the team from the premises.

Most animals, including but not limited to those labeled Companion Animals, Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Animals or pets are NOT service animals according to ADA’s Definition, as they have NOT been individually trained to perform disability mitigating tasks. Thus their handlers do not legally qualify for public access rights. Typically these animals also lack the months of training on obedience and manners needed to behave properly under challenging conditions in places of public accommodation.

The owner of a non task trained dog, whatever the label given to that dog, is NOT eligible to join IAADP as a Partner Member to receive our benefits for working assistance dogs that perform trained tasks.

IAADP appreciates the role that an emotional support animal or therapy companion animal may play in the life of a disabled individual. Such an animal can provide unconditional love, comfort, serve as a crime deterrent or perhaps in some way enhance someone’s physical or mental health by their presence. While these benefits will not qualify a disabled handler for public access rights, other laws may apply insofar as housing or travel by air.

Congress passed a law to permit companion animals in public housing for elderly and disabled citizens. More information can be found on the Delta Society website about this at www.deltasociety.org. You might also contact the Fair Housing office, HUD - Housing and Urban Renewal office or perhaps the Human Rights Commission in your state for information on housing access rules for non-task-trained animals.

The Department of Transportation guidance document for the Air Carrier Access Act will permit travel in the plane cabin with a therapy companion animal / emotional support animal if the handler carries documentation of a psychiatric disability on letterhead stationary, less than one year old, from a licenced mental health professional and tells the gate agent the animal is an emotional support animal needed due to the disability. You should always contact the airline before attempting to travel to ask what kind of documentation your airline requires for an emotional support animal and to ask if they require a health certificate.

We hope this information has been helpful in clarifying the differences between a service animal and other kinds of animals. Please feel free to contact us if you have more questions.

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