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What is a ‘service dog’? Can they be used by non-handicapped people?

Ken Little
StarNews
Bigstock photo

Bigstock photo

Q. What is definition of service dog? Is any official training/certification necessary? What prevents someone putting a Service blanket on their personal dog? Must a service dog service a handicapped person after training/certification – or can a dog be used as personal dog for a non-handicapped person?

A. Pat Hairston, program manager of Wilmington-based Canines for Service, provided the following answers to the reader’s questions:

What is the definition of a service dog? The Americans With Disabilities Act defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.”

“Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind,” according to the ADA.

For more information, visit www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm.

Is any official training/certification necessary? Service dogs must be trained to perform tasks to assist the person with their disability. While there is no legal requirement defining what the training entails, service dogs generally have numerous hours of training in obedience skills, have been well socialized in various public situations (outings to stores, restaurants, movies, banks) and the specific tasks the dog is trained to do for the person with a disability.

What prevents someone putting a Service blanket on their personal dog? It is illegal to impersonate a service dog. In North Carolina it is a Class 3 misdemeanor, according to N.C. State Statute 168.

Must a service dog service a handicapped person after training/certification, or can a dog be used as personal dog for a non-handicapped person? A service dog must assist a person with a disability by mitigating (lessening, or easing) the disability. By definition in the ADA “service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself.”

Hairston said that information about service dog definitions and laws can be found through an Internet search.

Canines for Service also has information available on its website at www.caninesforservice.org/#!access-information/cain

RELATED LINKS:

Do New Hanover County leash laws apply to service dogs when just being walked by the owner?

Is there a law that bans pets, other than service animals, from stores?

 

 

 

 

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