Service Dog Certifications
Not worth the paper they’re printed on
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides rights and protections for people with disabilities in the United States. This includes the right to be accompanied by service animals in public places without having to pay extra fees or provide proof of certification. Under the ADA, a service animal only needs to be individually trained to perform tasks that help mitigate their handler’s disability. There are no legally mandated registrations or certifications required.
However, this has not stopped numerous online companies from selling registration documents and IDs for service and emotional support animals. These documents imply official legitimacy, using language like “certified” or “registered” or “licensed.” Some even have an embossed seal that looks quite impressive and official at first glance. But the truth is these documents have absolutely no legal standing under the ADA. They are not recognized by any government agency or public establishment.
These companies will register just about any animal for a fee, without proof of training or even a letter from a licensed therapist. They prey on uninformed pet owners who believe that obtaining one of these registrations will suddenly grant their pet special access and rights. In reality, it simply results in more people fraudulently passing off untrained pets as service animals.
Legitimate service animal training organizations are very concerned about the proliferation of these meaningless online registrations. Groups like Assistance Dogs International actively try to educate the public that these registrations are placebo documents with no value. They only create more problems for people with legitimate service dogs.
When pets are falsely passed off as service dogs, it causes issues like:
- Disruption in public places by untrained animals
- Health concerns around uncontrolled animals near food
- Dangerous situations when fake service dogs exhibit aggression
- General erosion of trust in real service dogs that are well-trained
This ultimately jeopardizes public acceptance of service dogs for people who truly rely on them. If too many businesses have bad experiences with disruptive pets registered as “service animals”, they may resist making accommodations even for people with real disabilities.
Advocates argue the best solution is education on the legal definition of service animals, not useless paperwork. The ADA grants access rights based on whether the dog is individually trained to help their handler’s disability, not based on some unrecognized registration. While documentation can help in rare cases, like disputing a fine on an airplane, generally the focus should be on the dog’s observable behavior and training.
No person with a disability should ever feel they need to buy a meaningless registration to gain public access for their service dog. And the registrations do nothing to prevent those intent on fraudulently sneaking untrained pets into public places. In summary, these paid service dog registrations only create a false sense of legitimacy. For people with disabilities, they are essentially a placebo that grants no medically recognized benefits.