How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

To determine if an animal is a service animal, you may ask two questions:  

1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

2) What work or task has the dog been trained to  perform? 

You may not ask these questions if the need for the service animal is obvious. Examples include when a dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair. You also may not:

  • ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability 
  • require proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal
  • require the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag
  • ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work

Under the ADA, it is the training that distinguishes a service animal from other animals.  Some service animals are professionally trained; others are trained by their owners.  However, the task that the service animal is trained to do must be directly related to the owner’s disability.

Service animals in-training are not specifically addressed in the ADA.  However, some state laws may afford service animals in-training the same protections as service animals that have completed their training.