What defines a service dog?
Service dogs are specially trained to “do something” that directly helps their handler’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. The work or task a dogs as been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.
Examples of service dog work or tasks given by the ADA:
- Guide people who are blind.
- Alerting people who are deaf to sounds or to a person who is having a seizure.
- Pulling a wheelchair or retrieving dropped items.
- Interrupting hyper-vigilant behavior in a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. You may ask two questions:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- 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 dog identification card or dog training documentation, or ask the dog demonstrate its ability to perform work or task.
Other types of assistance dogs
Emotional support animals, comfort animals and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA, and therefore do not have public access right. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Emotional support animals,however, are covered under the Fair Housing Act & the Air Carrier Access Act.
Every individual with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog in any public place without being required to pay an extra charge.
A violation of the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 also constitutes a violation of this section, and nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the access of any person in violation of that act.
West’s Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.2
Anyone who denies or interferes with admittance to or enjoyment of the public facilities or otherwise interferes with the rights of an individual with a disability is liable for each offense for the actual damages up to a maximum of 3 times the amount of actual damages, but in no case less than $1,000, and attorney’s fees.
“Interfere,” for purposes of this section, includes, but is not limited to, preventing or causing the prevention of a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog from carrying out its functions in assisting a disabled person.
West’s Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.3
It is a denial of equal access to housing accommodations to refuse to lease housing to an individual who uses an assistance dog.
West’s Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1
Trained guide dogs, signal dogs, and service dogs trained may be transported in a school bus when accompanied by disabled pupils enrolled in a public or private school or by disabled teachers employed in a public or private school or community college or by persons training the dogs.
West’s Ann.Cal.Educ.Code § 39839
Harassment of/Interference with Service Dogs
Any person who intentionally interferes with the use of a guide, signal, or service dog or mobility aid by harassing or obstructing is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail up to 6 months, or fine of not less than $1,500 nor more than $2,500, or both.
West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 365.6
Injury or Causing Death to Service Dog:
Unlawful to permit any dog to injure or kill any service dog while the service dog is in discharge of its duties. Violation is infraction punishable by a fine if the injury is caused by the person’s failure to exercise ordinary care.
Violation is a misdemeanor if the injury is caused by reckless disregard in the exercise of control over his or her dog punishable by fine of not less $2,500 nor more than $5,000, or both. Upon conviction, the defendant shall make restitution, including veterinary bills and replacement costs.
West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 600.2
Any person who intentionally causes injury to or the death of any service dog, while the dog is in discharge of its duties, is guilty of a misdemeanor is guilty, punishable by imprisonment up to 1year, or by fine up to $10,000, or by both. Upon conviction, a defendant must make restitution to the person with a disability who has custody or ownership of the dog for any veterinary bills and replacement costs of the dog if it is disabled or killed.
West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 600.5
A totally or partially blind pedestrian who is using a guide dog, shall have the right-of-way. Driver must yield the right-of-way and take all reasonably necessary precautions to avoid injury to this blind pedestrian.
Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 6 months, or a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000, or both.
West’s Ann. Cal. Vehicle Code § 21963
For a license, person must sign affidavit stating dog is trained assistance dog. Person who makes false affidavit faces 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine.
Upon the death or retirement of an assistance dog, the owner or person in possession of the assistance dog identification tag shall immediately return the tag to the animal control department that issued the tag.
West’s Ann. Cal. Food & Agric. Code § 30850.
Any person who knowingly and fraudulently represents himself or herself, through verbal or written notice, to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed/qualified/identified as a guide, signal, or service dog shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 6 months, by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.
West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 365.7