Therapy Dog Prep School has returned to our Training Center!

Service Dogs & Public Access

Service Dogs & Public Access

Date May 28, 2018

It’s not a vest or an ID card that defines a true service dog with public access rights as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service dogs must have been trained to perform specific tasks which directly impact the person’s disability.

by Carol Davis

Simply providing emotional support to the person does not qualify for public access where pet dogs are not allowed. A dog can be taught fifty commands or tricks, but none qualify as a “trained” task unless performing the trained behavior does not result in lessening or removing the effect of the partner’s disability. If you’re interested in more information about therapy dogs, feel free to go to out Therapy Dogs page and you can read what they do for their handlers.



It’s usually pretty easy to spot a fake service dogs because true service dogs are focused on the human partner and do not interact with strangers unless given permission. True service dogs don’t ride in shopping carts or react to other dogs while on duty or sit on chairs in restaurants or toilet in inappropriate places.

Partners of true service dogs are aware that public access is both a right and a responsibility. Even a true service dog can be denied access if it is not behaving appropriately. It’s the partner’s responsibility to also respect the rights of others.

So, what can you do to help reduce the number of people taking their pet dogs into public places? The first step is to educate. Many fake service dog owners don’t really understand the difference an “emotional support dog” and a “service dog.”

Many of those with “fake” service dogs simply need to understand how their acts affect others.

You might also want to point out that misrepresenting a dog as a service dog is a criminal violation.

The penalties for violating these laws vary. In California, for instance, it is a misdemeanor to falsely and knowingly claim that you are the owner or trainer of a service animal. The crime is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In New Jersey, you can be fined from $100 to $500 for putting your dog in a guide dog harness to falsely pass it off as a guide dog. In Texas, outfitting your dog as a service animal (when it is not) is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $300 and 30 hours of community service

by Lisa Guerin, J.D

Travel with “true” service dog as told from a dog’s perspective

by service dog Courage (partnered with Renee)

Renee and Courage



Boy, has the world changed for Renee and me. She still has problems, but I am pushing her out of her comfort zone and broadening her world. We flew from San Diego to Houston to Memphis before the December holidays. We got to the airport EARLY, not knowing how to go through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Because of the new requirements, Mom had to completely undress me and send all of my gear through the machine. Then she had to walk through the machines while I waited for my turn. When Mom is stressed, I have to keep my eye on her. And this was stressful for her. Mom informed TSA that we would be working  with hand signals so that I would have my complete attention on her and what she needed. The TSA staff respected that and occasionally asked what she was telling me, while I followed what I was told. Hand signals in extremely stressful situations make it easier to communicate. That means, if someone else gives the regular commands we use or tries to distract me or pet me, I do not get distracted. I am completely focused on Mom. TSA stopped several people from engaging with me while I was working with Mom and explained that I was a service dog and I was working. Someone commented, “Yeah right, that’s a service dog.”  TSA’s response was, “That is a true service dog . Just watch.”  We had a crowd in front of and behind us. Mom was stressing, but it was okay because I had her back. I did everything perfectly. I walked through the scanner and did not roll on the ground when they patted me down. Mom kept dropping things, trying to hurry, but I just picked the stuff up, and gave her a kiss and helped her get me dressed. Once we were through TSA and away from the crowd, Mom was in her element. People asked questions about “TRUE SERVICE DOGS” and the difference between them.

Then…along came a dog in a “SERVICE VEST”, lunging and barking at me. I ignored it, but Mom simple pointed to the dog and said, “Not a service dog.”

On the flight from Memphis to Houston, the airline attendant was talking with Mom. She explained that the airline had notified the employees that a new regulations were in the process because of the increase in the number of incidents with service animals on the planes. She looked at Mom and said, “That is a REAL SERVICE DOG.” She told Mom that  she recently had a passenger who had a “service dog” for her “service dog.” The passenger explained  that it was perfectly legal for her “service dog” because HER “service dog” got anxious on airplanes. Mom looked at the attendant and said, “You are kidding?”
The response was “True story.”

Public Access Certification Test

The Public Access Certification Test evaluates the dog’s obedience and manners and the handler’s skills in a variety of situations which include:

The handler’s abilities to: 

  • Safely load and unload the dog from a vehicle
  • Enter a public place without losing control of the dog
  • Recover the leash if accidentally dropped
  • Cope calmly with an access problem

The dog’s ability to:

  • Safely cross a parking lot, halt for traffic, and ignore distractions
  • Heel through narrow aisles
  • Hold a Sit-Stay when shopping cart passes by or when a person stops
  • Hold a Down-Stay when a child approached and briefly pets the dog
  • Hold a Sit-Stay when someone drops food on the floor
  • Hold a Down-Stay when someone sets a plate of food on the floor
  • Remain calm if someone else holds the leash
  • Remain calm while another dog passes with 6 ft. of the team