What is a Service Dog?

More and more these days, dogs are being specifically trained to provide assistance to individuals with varying disabilities. These dogs are referred to as “service dogs.” According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is “any guide dog, or signal dog or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including, but not limited to guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or fetching dropped items.”

Reference:  28 CFR 36.104;  (CFR = Code of Federal Regulations);


For example, if a person is deaf or hard of hearing and cannot hear sounds such as smoke alarms, doorbells, or sirens, or if the person cannot hear people talking, this person is unable to function without some form of assistance.  A service dog is considered a type of assistance and can be specifically trained to help this person when a sound occurs (e.g. smoke alarm, doorbells, baby crying).  Because this dog is performing specific tasks that allow an individual to function independently, this dog would be considered a service dog.


The (ADA), defines a disability as with respect to an individual as:


(A)  a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;

  1. (B) a record of such an impairment

(C) being regarded as having an impairment


Service Dogs: Service Dog is the catchall term for any dog that helps a physically or mentally disabled person. There are many different categories of service dogs, and the level of their training will vary depending upon the type of work and support that the dog is expected to provide.


Canine Companions for Independence (See below)


Canine Helpers for the Handicapped Inc - Beverly Underwood, 5705 Ridge Rd, Lockport, NY 14094. (716)433-4035, voice/tty


Canine Working Companions, Inc -  Pat McNamara, Director, RD 2 Box 170. Gorton Lake Road. Waterville, NY 13480. (315) 861-7770 voice/tdd


East Coast Assistance Dogs - West Granby CT; ECAD1@aol.com


Independence Dogs, Inc.  - 146 State Line Road, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. 610-358-2723
Phone; 610-358-5314 Fax; idi@ndepot.com


National Education for Assistance Dog Service (NEADS) (See below)


Guide Dogs: Probably the most familiar type of service dog is the guide dog that is trained to help blind or visually impaired people. These dogs serve as the eyes for their owner, navigating them through traffic, stairs and sidewalks while avoiding all obstacles that could cause injury.


Guide Dogs for the Blind - http://www.guidedogs.com

Southwest Guide Dog Foundation, San Antonio TX   http://cust.iamerica.net/swoidgf/Index.HTM

Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation P.O. Box 142, Bloomfield, CT 06002. 203-243-5200

Guide Dog Foundation 371 Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, New York  11787. 516-265-2121


Hearing Dogs: Similar to guide dogs, "hearing" or "signal" dogs are specially trained to assist deaf people. They alert their owner to sounds, usually by approaching their owner and then by going back to the source of the sound. They signal such noises as doorbells, phones, smoke alarms, crying babies, microwave bells and even teakettles whistling. These dogs have the same access privileges as guide dogs and are permitted in all public and private facilities.


American Humane Association 

5351 S. Roslyn Street, Englewood, Colorado 80111.

303-779-1400


Audio Dogs 

27 Crescent Street, Brooklyn, New York 11208

212-827-2792


Dogs for the Deaf

10175 Wheeler Road, Central Point, OR, 97502

800-990-DOGS

fax 541-826-6696.

Website: www.dogsforthedeaf.org  email info@dogsforthedeaf.org.

Verified Dec 2000


International Hearing Dog, Inc.

Martha Foss (current president and Director)

ihdi@aol.com, //members.aol.com/IHDI/IHDI.html

Verified Oct. '98


NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Service)


San Francisco SPCA, Hearing Dog Program - 2500 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. 415-554-3020. Verified March '92.


Sound Companions - contact Connie Kniseley at cck9@naxs.com (serves the mid-Atlantic states in the US). Verified July '96.


Handi-Dogs, Inc. - PO Box 12563, Tucson, Arizona 85732. 602-326-3412 or 602-325-6466.


The National Information Center on Deafness at Gallaudet University, publishes a fact sheet on hearing ear dogs. It can be obtained by sending $1.00 to NICD, Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002. The fact sheet discusses commonly asked questions about hearing ear dogs and it lists training programs across the U.S.


Mobility Assist Dog: Pulls a person's wheelchair, carries things in a backpack, picks up things a person drops, opens/closes doors, helps the handler get dressed or undressed.

Assistance Dogs International - (See below)

Canine Companions for Independence - (See below)

Canine Helpers for the Handicapped Inc - Beverly Underwood, 5705 Ridge Rd, Lockport, NY 14094. (716)433-4035, voice/tty

Canine Working Companions, Inc - Pat McNamara, Director, RD 2 Box 170. Gorton Lake Road. Waterville, NY 13480. (315)861-7770 voice/tdd

East Coast Assistance Dogs - West Granby CT; ECAD1@aol.com

Independence Dogs, Inc. - 146 State Line Road, Chadds Ford, PA 19317. 610-358-2723 Phone; 610-358-5314 Fax; idi@ndepot.com

National Education for Assistance Dog Service (NEADS) - (See below)


Walker Dog: Helps the handler walk by balancing or acting as a counter balance.


Seizure Alert/Response Dog: This dog is trained to respond to a person's seizures and either stay with the person, or go get help. Some dogs are trained to hit a button on a console to automatically dial 911. When the dog hears the voice over the speaker, the dog starts barking. The disabled person would have arranged that the system is dog activated.


Psychiatric Service Dog: A person with a mental disability may need a dog to be able to go out in public (agoraphobic), or may be autistic and need the dog to keep them focused. These dogs are trained NEVER to leave their handler's side.


Psychiatric Service Dog Society - www.psychdog.org/faq.html#Get_PSD


SsigDog: A dog trained to assist a person with autism. The dog alerts the partner to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping). A person with autism may have problems with sensory input and need the same support services from a dog that a dog might give to a person who is blind or deaf.


Combo or Specialty Dog: Some programs, Paws with a Cause and other programs across the country for example, have started training dogs for people with multiple disabilities, like a  guide /mobility assist dog and deafness and physical disabilities, and needs more specialized help.  Services can be trained as needed. 


Therapy Dogs:  Social dogs work with children and adults who cannot assume total responsibility for a working dog but who can benefit from the therapeutic value of a dog. They are trained for residential settings such as nursing homes, care facilities, halfway houses and psychotherapy centers and visiting hospitals to cheer up patients.


In the school setting, a social/therapy dog for the classroom is an innovative teaching tool used by social workers, therapists, early education and special education teachers for working with children with physical, emotional and developmental disabilities. The dogs help them teach basic concepts like "up," "under," "down." Children with histories of sexual or physical abuse often need a catalyst to prompt disclosure. An assistance dog, non-judgmental and unconditionally loving, provides the help necessary to identify children in crisis. Therapy dogs have the advanced skills of a service dog but can be sometimes handled by a third party. They are certified for public access. You should note that therapy dogs ARE NOT considered BY LAW in the United States to have the same status as SERVICE DOGS. Service dogs directly assist their handicapped owners with daily tasks in some fashion; therapy dogs are handled by their owners to assist others at specific times, such as visits to a facility. Thus laws mandating access for service dogs, who must accompany their owners do not apply to dogs who need not be with their owners at all times but rather work at specific locations.


A national organization that dispenses information about therapy dogs is the Delta Society, 289 Perimeter Rd. East, Renton WA 98055-1329, fax: 206-226-7357, TTY: 800-809-2714; or via email: deltasociety@cis.compuserve.com. They put out a magazine called Interactions as well.



State Laws

Many states have specific laws granting a disabled person access with a Service Animal. Please check with your state to see if you are protected under a state law, as it is often easier to get resolution about an access problem at the state level. State Service Dog laws


Resources and obtaining a service dog in other areas not stated:

Canine Companions for Independence -CCI was founded in 1975. They estimate that each of their dogs takes about $20,000 to train, a cost covered by donations and volunteer work. It is a national-wide organization with many regional chapters.


National Headquarters

P.O. Box 446, 2965 Dutton Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-0446. 707-577-1700 voice; 707-577-1756 TDD; email: info@caninecompanions.org

SW Regional Center

PO Box 4568, Oceanside CA 92052. 760-754-3300 Voice; 760-754-3308 TDD

NC Regional Center

4989 State Route 37 East, Delaware, OH 43015-9682. 614-548-4447 V/TDD

NW Regional Center

1215 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95407-6834. 707-579-1985 V/TDD

SE Regional Center

P.O. Box 547511, Orlando, FL 32854-7511. 407-834-2555 V/TDD

NE Regional Center

P.O. Box 205, Farmingdale, NY 11735-0205. 516-694-6938 V/TDD


This organization is involved in training dogs to assist handicapped people. They train signal dogs for the deaf, and dogs for physically disabled or developmentally disabled persons.


Canine Companions for Independence has provided highly skilled assistance dogs for people with disabilities since 1975. CCI started as a small, at-home organization and has grown into a dynamic non-profit agency with five regional centers nation