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A boy with sandy blonde hair in a compression vest uses an ipad while a service dog lays on his lap

Service and emotional support animals

What is a service animal

A service animal is a dog or miniature horse trained to help you do something that is hard for you to do. If the animal is a dog, it can be any breed and any size.  An animal that makes you feel better but does not do a task, is not a service animal. It would be considered an emotional support animal.

The federal government has not approved any type of form, application, vest, or picture ID to show an animal is a service animal. People often buy online documentation that says their animal is a service animal. This does not prove or mean anything.

If you have a disability that people can’t see, businesses and government agencies are allowed to ask:

  • Is this a service animal needed because of a disability?
  • What task has the animal been trained to perform?

They are not allowed to ask:

  • Anything about your disability
  • To see the service animal do its task
  • For documentation that says an animal is a service animal

Learn about what a disability is (according to the ADA) and who the ADA protects.


A service animal needs to do a task for you. The task must be something you can observe.


  • Guiding a handler who is blind
  • Pawing at a handler who is deaf when the animal hears a baby cry
  • Picking items up off the floor and giving them to the handler
  • Sitting close when the handler has a seizure
  • Licking the hand of a handler with anxiety to calm them

An animal that makes a person feel better, but does not do a task, is not a service animal under the ADA.

Where a service animal can go

Service animals that behave well can go everywhere you go. Even if someone has allergies or is afraid of dogs, you are still allowed to have your service animal with you.

Sometimes businesses and government buildings say that no pets are allowed. Your service animal is not your pet. They need to let you bring your service animal with you.

Learn more about service animals in businesses and public places.

Behavior and care

You need to care for your service animal all the time. This means you need to:

  • Stop the service animal from running around
  • Take it outside to use the bathroom
  • Make sure the animal behaves well

The service animal should not bark, growl at, or bite other animals or people.

If a service animal does not behave, the business or government agency can ask you to take the animal out of the building. You can come back later without your animal.

Ask us

Do you have questions about service animals? Our technical assistant specialists are here to help, Monday to Friday.

You can contact us by phone, email, or online form.

We also offer trainings, webinars, and online courses.

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