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I am trying to find out which agency governs service animals...

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Question by Debi
Submitted on 4/23/2004
Related FAQ: rec.pets.dogs: Service Dogs FAQ
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I am trying to find out which agency governs service animals certification. Or how can I find out who governs an service animal agency?
HELP, Please.

Answer by Gorda Loca
Submitted on 8/8/2004
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There isn't an agency that governs service animal certification, in the sense that you appear to mean it, i.e. a government agency. Under federal law, certification (proof that a handler and service animal have passed a public access test) isn't required.

There isn't a government agency that regulates service animal providers, either. Service animal providers often need only a business and/or non-profit organization license to train dogs as service dogs, as is the case with pet dog trainers (the only exception of which I'm aware is that in California, dog guide [aka guide dog] trainers must have licensing given only to people who have apprenticed with a licensed trainer or school and proved their ability to effectively train a dog to be a guide).

The closest thing to either is an organization called Assistance Dogs International or ADI, which has requirements and guidelines by which its members, non-profit service dog providers, must abide that include administering its rigorous public access test. Some ADI member groups will give the test to owner-trained service dogs, too. Either way, once the test is passed, the handler is given I.D. indicating that the dog is a certified service dog. Its web site is http://www.adionline.org (anyone is free to give the test to their own dog, of course, as long as they don't represent the dog as having been certified by ADI; it's on the site).

I object to ADI because its requirements contradict the federal definition of "service animal" which is, "any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability". According to this definition, an animal may be trained to do work that assists an individual with a disability that doesn't involve task performance and it is still a service animal. But ADI requires its member groups to insure that their dogs perform at least three tasks that assist handlers with their disabilities.

This may not seem so bad, until you consider the fact that people with disabilities other than deafness, or mobility or visual impairment, don't have conditions that affect physical functions, so don't necessarily need service animals to perform tasks (which, by their nature, are physical-at least, for animals). People disabled by medical conditions, cognitive dysfunctions, and psychiatric disorders often need only dogs trained to be well-behaved in public that offer assistive behaviors spontaneously and/or with which they have a strong enough bond for the dog to benefit them. ADI doesn't recognize these (with the exception of seizure alert or assistance dogs) as service dogs at all.

In fact, ADI belongs to the Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations, or CADO, a special-interest group that is trying to get the legal definition of "service animal" changed so that an animal that "only" (!!) provides comfort and/or that doesn't perform tasks wouldn't be a service animal. Its alleged agenda is to eliminate animals that lack proper public access skills from being service animals, but this isn't how to do it (educating the public and business community about what behaviors service animals should demonstrate would be far more effective). All this will do is deprive people of dogs that may behave perfectly well in public of assistance they need to function.

Because I disagree with the position held by ADI and CADO, as I have a psychiatric disability (as my nickname reveals!), I won't have anything to do with ADI, or another CADO member group for service dog handlers called the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, or IAADP. But I offer the information above in case you wish to use it.


Answer by ServiceAnimalInfo
Submitted on 7/3/2006
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At this time there is no national agency that governs certification or registration of service animals.

However, some states offer certification or registration. This varies from state to state, as do the requirements to have a Service Animal registered by that state.  In some cases, some states may only accept the papers of dogs trained by recognized service dog training organizations for physical disabilities, leaving other animals trained by individuals or professional trainers for psychiatric disabilities with no way to register with the state.

Each organization that trains service animals can and usually does certify their own animals, but they are often independent of one another.

Some online organizations also offer certification, but rarely require any reliable proof of the animal's temperament or training.

In fact, even individuals, if they so chose, could make up their own papers and ID card for their animal.

PLEASE NOTE that under federal law, there is no requirement that a Service Animal be certified. However, if proof is needed, generally, a letter from a doctor stating the person's disability, as well as two independent trainers signing statements that they have witnessed the animal well-behaved and performing the task(s) it was trained to do can go a long way towards proving the animal is a Service Animal.

Trainers can be from the organization that trained the animal, or, the person who trained it and an independent professional trainer.


Answer by percy
Submitted on 9/26/2006
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what kind of animal i am


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