We can sometimes underestimate how important animals are to our lives. If you've ever seen a service animal at work, however, you may witness how useful animals can be. Even an untrained animal can be a companion, a protector, and a friend, but service animals do all that and more. In many cases, a service animal can literally save your life.
Types of Service Animals
There are a few different varieties of service animals. The most well-known is a guide animal or, as it's better known, the seeing eye dog. They are trained specifically to guide the blind and vision-impaired.
There are hearing animals, who work with the deaf and hard of hearing. Another form of guide animal, hearing animals alert their owners to any noises, good or bad, that they should be aware of, from a car crash to a ringing phone.
There are many other types of service animals. People confined to wheelchairs, for example, find that a service animal can reach things that they can’t. Also, if you experience seizures, a service dog can be trained to assist you. Dogs can often predict seizures, can call for help if one occurs, physically blocking you from hurting yourself, and more.
Service animals don’t always need to be active, they can be appreciated as comfort animals. If you've ever been to a rest home, for example, you may have noticed a few resident cats roaming around. they're simply a different kind of service animal. Cats and dogs alike are great mood-boosters.
The fact is that service animals can be a boon to any number of different types of people with different challenges. Therapy animals are useful for any number of issues, from post-traumatic stress disorder to antisocial behavior to autism. There are hundreds of different conditions that can be helped with a service animal, although the choice of whether or not to get one is often a personal one.
Service Animal Varieties
When you think of service animals, you probably think of dogs, and there's a good reason for that; the majority of service animals are dogs. Dogs have been helping us out, in one way or another, for the last fifteen thousand years, so there shouldn't be any surprise that they're still doing it today.
Service animals aren't limited to dogs, however. We've already discussed therapy cats and the great effect they can have on mood. And although more rare, there are also helper monkeys. Helper monkeys are a type of highly-trained service animal trained specifically to help people with mobility issues. With their high intelligence and dexterity, a helper monkey can perform a wide variety of services. They can prepare food, turn switches, fetch medicines, and much more.
And while they're a much rarer sight, there are also therapy horses. As you might imagine, a full-size horse isn't the easiest animal to get in and out of a building, so miniature horses are often used. A mini horse is about the size of a dog, and just about as cute. Service horses can be used to guide the blind just like a dog and, due to their larger size and strength, a miniature horse can also pull wheelchairs, and have better eyesight than dogs.
Service Animal Laws
So, what is the legal status of service animals? The short answer is that, as far as property laws and restrictions go, a service animal is not treated like normal animals. As the ADA puts it, a business may ban pets from entering, but a service animal is no pet.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly known as the ADA, it is illegal for any business to discriminate against individuals based on their disability. An individual with a service animal has the legal right to enter any business with their animal, regardless of the business' policy on animals.
If an individual with a service animal enters a business, they are entitled to certain rights under the ADA. They cannot, based on their disability or the presence of the service animal, be segregated, turned away, or charged any kind of fee.
There are, however, a few exceptions. If the service animal isn't provoked but is acting in a violent, destructive, or otherwise aggressive manner, you can still get kicked out. Much like a badly behaving customer, a service dog, and thus their owner, can be removed if they're acting in a dangerous manner.
Also, if the inclusion of the service animal would disrupt business in some huge way—like a service dog that is continuously barking during a movie, for example—they may be excluded. But these cases are fairly rare; if trained right, a service animal will be the best-behaved customer in the place. These rights don’t extend to private property, however.
Identifying Service Animals
So how do you identify a service animal? Usually, it's pretty easy. They typically have harnesses or other equipment not seen on normal dogs, and will often have some kind of identification. However, according to the Department of Justice, a service animal doesn't require any of these identifiers.
And while most states do have a certification process for service animals, service animal owners are not required to carry those papers on them. In short, if you have a service animal, you are not required to carry around paperwork proving it, and business owners are legally barred from insisting on seeing certification.