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Service Dog Laws

The following information is from the 2010 Revised Requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act: 

Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under titles II and III of the ADA. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Generally, title II and title III entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.


Where Service Animals Are Allowed:

Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.


Service Animals Must Be Under Control:

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.


Inquiries, Exclusions, Charges, and Other Specific Rules Related to Service Animals:

When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.

A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.

Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.

If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.

Staff are not required to provide care or food for a service animal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Paws 4 Liberty charge for dogs?

No. Paws 4 Liberty provides service dogs at no cost to the recipient. However, we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and depend on donor funds to operate our service dog program.


How can I get a service dog?

Paws 4 Liberty is focused primarily on providing service dogs to post 9/11 veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). Visit the page "Apply for a Service Dog" in the menu to apply!


Can I train my own dog to be a service dog?

If you already own your own dog and think your dog may be a good candidate to become a service dog, we may be able to help. The first step is to contact us to schedule an evaluation. We will test your dog’s reaction to other dogs, trainability, relationships to people, and physical health, among other things. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that the dog you have chosen will have the degree of socialization, emotional fortitude, and physical characteristics required to become a service dog. If we accept you and your dog into our Train Your Own Dog Program, be prepared for hard work over a significant period of time. This is not a commitment to be made lightly! We can only help those that live within a reasonable driving distance to our Lake Worth facility.


Does the Veterans Administration pay for service dogs?

No. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not pay for service dogs for veterans, including those with PTS. Veterans with mobility disabilities do receive a minimal VA stipend for dog shots and supplies that amounts to about $400 a year. Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence showing that service dogs help with combat-related PTS, the empirical research that is necessary to back up anecdotal evidence is lagging behind. Until that gap is bridged the VA will not provide the same minimal support for service dogs for veterans with PTS.


Can I breed my service dog?

No. According to the standards of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), all service dogs must be neutered. All of the dogs in paws 4 Liberty programs must be neutered at an appropriate age and cannot graduate from our programs unless they are neutered.


What is PTS?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) “includes both an event that threatens injury to self or others and a response to those events that involves persistent fear, helplessness or horror.” With severe or repeated exposure to traumatic events, such as during the conditions of war, the brain can be affected in such a way that the person feels like the event(s) are happening again in real time. Studies show that PTS is linked with physical changes in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area of the brain that controls executive functions such as decision making, planning, and self-regulation.


What are symptoms of PTS?

In order to be diagnosed with PTS, a person must have the following three types of symptoms and these symptoms must be persistent over an extended period of time: re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance and numbing symptoms, and arousal symptoms.


Re-experiencing symptoms involve re-living the traumatic event(s). For a veteran with PTS, these symptoms can be triggered by such things as a car backfiring, which then triggers vivid memories, or “flashbacks,” that are so realistic it feels like the event(s) is happening again in real time. These flashbacks can cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror.


Avoidance and numbing symptoms are the efforts a person makes to avoid situations that trigger flashbacks or numb themselves to those feelings. For instance, a veteran with PTS may stay in the house in order to avoid triggers or may seem emotionally numb and isolate themselves from social interaction.

 Arousal symptoms occur when a person with PTS feels as though they’re always on “high alert.” This increased arousal can cause insomnia, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Picture it as a perpetual state of “fight or flight.”


Additional symptoms of PTS may include hostility, aggression, depression, paranoia, agoraphobia, nightmares, panic attacks, poor coping skills, memory loss, and lack of trust. It also common for sufferers of PTS to experience other conditions along with PTS, such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems.


How does a service dog help someone with PTS?

Service dogs are a medically proven recovery aid for veterans that are suffering from PTS. The benefits of a service dog to the veterans we serve are numerous  “For a veteran with PTS, their service dog can help them gauge the safety of their surroundings by allowing them to process what’s happening as it’s happening, what to do about it, and then doing it,” said Joan Esnayra, a geneticist whose research team has received $300,000 from the Defense Department to study the issue. “You can use your dog kind of like a mirror to reflect back your emotional tenor.” Those with PTS are often bombarded with environmental stimuli (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) that overwhelm the senses and trigger anxiety. Service dogs help alleviate the impact and mirror a calm reaction to the current environment.

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