Definitions of Service Animals

Assistance dogs is the universal term that refers to dogs uniquely trained to assist individuals with disabilities to lead a more independent life, including Guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired, Hearing/Signal Dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing, and Service Dogs for those with disabilities other than vision and hearing.

Additionally, Facility/Therapy Dogs work with professionals in facilities & organizations where interaction with a dog is beneficial to the healing process  - each of these astonishing skill-sets is the result of lengthy, loving, & committed training.  Among these three main groups, there are many distinct specialties of skill sets, and organizations like PWP will often specialize in a few specific types.  Examples include Balance Dogs and Seizure Dogs  Additionally, there are varying types of certifications for Assistance Dogs.

Emotional Support Animals Dogs that provide companionship, relief from loneliness & depression, and similar support can be allowed in housing (even "No Pet" housing) without the requirement of a pet deposit. Those dogs are called "Emotional Support Animals", but they don't have access to public places, either.

More information on Emotional Support Animals is available from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the Disabilities Rights Center. Also the booklet, "Best Friends Forever", mentioned above, has been recently revised to include information for non-disabled folks who live in assisted living or federally supported housing. It is available from the Doris Day Animal League, and is available online (from their site) HERE

Because of the broad variety of physical abilities, these dogs also receive advanced training that is custom-designed for the particular needs of the specific human partner.  The dogs perform a number of exceptional tasks including:

  • Retrieving hard to reach objects (such as items that have been dropped, are on a shelf, under a chair, or even in another room) such as slippers, the phone, car keys, a pen, money, the stereo remote, a drink from the refrigerator, or even clothes out of the drier
  • Opening and closing regular or counterbalanced doors. The dog does this by pushing the door, pulling on a tether, or pulling on a removable door hook.
  • Balance work for people who have trouble walking. The dog wears a special harness and acts as a counterbalance as the person moves. The dog can also help going up or down stairs.
  • Pulling a manual wheelchair, including up inclines.
  • Turning regular light switches on and off.
  • Pushing buttons, such as those provided to open automatic doors, or activating emergency response buttons that contact medical assistance. 
  • Finding and retrieving a cordless or mobile phone.
  • Purchasing items in stores.  The dogs can transfer cash, or a credit card, for example, up to the counter to pay.  They can even return a pen & sales receipt from a salesperson behind the counter to their partner in a wheelchair so they can sign the receipt.
  • Going under tables or counters and being "invisible" in restaurants, refraining from picking up or eating food items dropped on the floor.
  • Providing constant loving companionship
From Paws With Purpose

Service Animal Law and Discrimination Facts

Service animals are those animals that have been specially trained to help people with disabilities. They are also called “support animals” or “assistance animals”. Besides assisting people with disabilities, service animals may be utilized for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations and the law enforcement agencies. Although dogs are most commonly used as service animals, other animals such as horses and capuchin monkeys are used for individual assistance as well.

Here is a list of websites that provide information on service animals and service animal laws:

FAQs about Service Animals

Information about Service Animals

What Do These Animals Do?

How are Service Animals Trained?

Additional Resources


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Service Dog's Generous Nature Inspires Young Owner To Help Others

 When Kiki entered the life of Adam Wolf, 10, a boy with cerebral palsy who spends much of his time in a wheelchair, it was a great moment. The boy and his dog would hang out together, grow up side by side, share the special kind of communication that happens only between kids and their dogs.

Bred for intelligence and sensitivity, trained to be responsive and helpful, Kiki, a jet-black Labrador retriever/golden retriever mix, quickly settled into the role of Adam's constant companion. She sleeps with him; picks up pencils and remote controls when he drops them; accompanies him everywhere but school; sticks like glue to his side, giving comfort, when Adam's dealing with one of his many medical procedures; and stays with him in the bathroom, leaving only when ordered to get Ali because he's finished in there.
Read the full story @

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Guide Dogs

From Wikipedia:

Guide dogs are assistance dogs trained to lead blind or visually impaired people around obstacles. Although trademarked, the name of one of the more popular training schools for such dogs, Seeing Eye, has entered the vernacular as a genericized term for guide dogs in the US.

Although the dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles, they are partially (red-green) color blind and are not capable of interpreting street signs. The human half of the guide dog team does the directing, based upon skills acquired through previous mobility training. The handler might be likened to an aircraft's navigator, who must know how to get from one place to another, and the dog is the pilot, who gets them there safely.

In several countries, guide dogs, along with most service and hearing dogs, are exempt from regulations against the presence of animals in places such as restaurants and public transportation.


The first guide dog training schools were established in Germany during World War I, to enhance the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in combat. The United States followed suit in 1929 with The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey.

The first guide dogs in Britain were German Shepherds. Three of these first were Judy, Meta and Folly who were handed over to their new owners, veterans blinded in World War I, on 6 October 1931[1]. This was followed, in 1934, by the start of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Great Britain.


Early on, trainers began to recognize which breeds produced dogs most appropriate for guide work; today, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds are most likely to be chosen, though by no means does this mean other breeds, such as Collies, Vizslas, and Dobermanns, are not. Crosses such as Golden Retriever/Labrador (which are popular due to both breeds' known intelligence, work-ethic, and early maturation) and Labradoodles (Labrador/Poodles bred to provide dogs with less shedding for those with allergies to hair or dander) are also common.

Guide Dog Training

Potential guide dogs come from various sources. Some organizations breed and raise their own puppies, while some rely on "foster families" to raise the puppies until they are ready for formal training. Also, some dogs are rescued from shelters, although any dog heading for a career as a guide dog must be sound and desensitized to most public situations.

When dogs become old enough to start training, most guide dog schools will conduct a physical exam to analyze the dog's potential for guide dog work. If the dog passes this test, they continue on to more advanced training in a harness where they learn to help a person move around safely, including such achievements as navigating curbs and avoiding overhead obstacles. The dogs may be taught additional skills, such as retrieving items for their handler.

At the end of approximately three months of individual training, visually impaired students that have applied and are accepted begin to work with their own guide dog under the instruction of the school or an individual instructor. When the newly-created team has finished their training, they are certified and released on their own. Depending on the organization, follow-up training to ensure the dog is still doing its job correctly may or may not be required.

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Guide Dogs Featured on UK Stamps

By Maryann Mott
HealthDay Reporter
Sun Feb 3, 5:02 PM ET

Following the global exploits of James Bond, a guide dog will be seen all over the world from 5 February, appearing on the air mail version of a new series of Working Dogs in Action stamps.

These Working Dogs stamps will follow the current 007 series, and will be available at post offices and from

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Taiwan Begins Training Guide Dogs

While there are 50,000 visually impaired people on Taiwan, the island is home to only 18 seeing eye dogs. This indicates a serious shortage of seeing eye dogs in Taiwan. The Huikuang Guide Dog Foundation, located in Taichung, has been working on training a group of people to train seeing eye dogs. The first group of locally trained seeing eye dogs graduated from training this year, indicating that efforts of the past 10 years to enable locals to train such dogs are starting to pay off.

Ko Ming-chi, the chairman of the Huikuang Guide Dog Foundation and the first person in Taiwan to employ a seeing eye dog, said that Taiwan introduced seeing eye dogs about 10 years ago. It has taken quite a while, however, to educate society about the use of such canines and achieve acceptance. Ko said that many people have certain set impressions about dogs. He said that one of the biggest problems people with seeing eye dogs face is that the animals are not allowed into restaurants or on public transportation. Ko lamented that even though laws have been amended to allow such, just recently someone trying to board a train at the Miaoli train station was prevented entry on the train due to having a seeing eye dog. He said the reason is that seeing eye dogs, while allowed to be on board non-express local trains, are not allowed to be on the Tsu-Chiang Class Express Train. Ko shook his head, saying that it is unbelievable how the rules can be structured like this.

In addition to having to change society's perception of such animals, at the most basic level, Taiwan is simply short of seeing eye dogs. According to standards of the International Guide Dog Federation, there should be a ratio of one to one hundred in the number of seeing eye dogs to visually impaired people. Based on the number of legally blind people on Taiwan, the island should have at least 500 seeing eye dogs. At present, however, this number stands at only 18. The main reason for this is that Taiwan has traditionally relied on importing seeing eye dogs from other countries.

Ko said that in localizing the training of seeing eye dogs, the first thing that needs to be accomplished is to train a group of people to train the animals. Taiwan, however, to this point has lacked a significant number of trainers, meaning that the process to train the dogs has also been painstakingly slow. Despite all of these problems, in April of this year a Labrador gave birth to eight pups, which were sent to foster families where they could get accustomed to interacting with humans. At an early age, the dogs then began to undergo training. It is expected that in the coming three years, this will provide Taiwan with another eight seeing eye dogs. After 2010, the number of seeing eye dogs on Taiwan is expected to increase by 16 dogs annually.

Ko and a guide dog trainer, Chen Ya-fang, both said that training dogs locally will significantly reduce the costs of preparing a dog to go into service. Importing a seeing eye dog from overseas costs between NT$500,000 and NT$1 million. However, the costs associated with training a dog locally will be much less at between NT$250,000 and NT$350,000. In addition, training dogs on Taiwan from the time they are young will enable them to be more accustomed to the local environment, which will reduce the time needed for an imported guide dog to adapt to the setting here.

Another problem facing users of guide dogs on Taiwan is that quite commonly the English comprehension ability of the dogs is better than that of the master. Imported dogs have been trained in English and respond to English commands, which means there is a language barrier once the dogs get to Taiwan. In the future, locally trained dogs can be trained in either Mandarin or Taiwanese, enabling the dog to respond to commands in local languages.

While progress is being made in the localization of training of seeing eye dogs, Ko admitted, however, that the foundation is desperately in need of donations from the public. He said that the costs of training a dog are significant and he hopes that society is able to provide assistance in helping the organization. The phone number of the Huikuang Guide Dog Foundation is (02) 2998-5588. The Web site of the organization is:

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The Seeing Eye Marks 10th Year of Canine Health Center

MORRISTOWN, N.J. January 2007

For ten years, Seeing Eye® dogs have enjoyed the best medical care possible, thanks in great part to the generous gift of industrialist and philanthropist Vincent A. Stabile. The dogs and staff of The Seeing Eye recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the Vincent A. Stabile Canine Health Center.

“The Seeing Eye has always maintained a high standard of veterinary care for its dogs,” said Dr. Dolores Holle, director of Canine Health Management. “This facility, though, with its 45,000-plus square feet of space, fulfilled our desire to provide the very best care in an optimum facility.”

The Stabiles’ interest in Seeing Eye dogs began when Mr. Stabile’s sister, Antoniette “Toni” Stabile had a New York neighbor who was blind and went to work daily, meticulously dressed and led by a black Labrador retriever. One morning, Ms. Stabile found herself behind the neighbor at a four-way crossing. The light was red, but before she could offer him her help, the light turned green and the man and dog were on their way.

Days later, Ms. Stabile was in busy Midtown Manhattan, waiting behind a teenage boy who seemed to have been blinded recently. The boy carried a cane, and an instructor followed closely behind, providing him instructions. A short time later, while waiting to board a train, Ms. Stabile witnessed a young woman with a dog guide easily board the train steps without help. It was then she realized how the teenager and many others could benefit by the use of dog guides.

As an investigative journalist, she researched the various dog guide schools and decided on the pioneering Seeing Eye. She and Vincent Stabile drove to Morristown to visit. Rosemary Carroll, the development director at that time, gave them a tour, and they were so impressed that they asked what The Seeing Eye might need. They were told that a new clinic would be most beneficial, and Ms. Stabile responded, “There’s nothing too good for these dogs.” Her brother agreed, and the idea for the clinic was born.

Following their visit to the campus, Mr. Stabile offered the largest donation in the history of the organization, and endowed funds to ensure ongoing maintenance of the facility. Mr. Stabile passed away in 2002. He had been an engineer, an entrepreneur, and a U.S. Naval officer.

During the anniversary celebration, marked by cake and an educational presentation for staff members who joined in more recent years, clinic employees displayed photos and memorabilia of the construction and dedication of the Canine Health Center. “The staff has enjoyed working in such an open and light-filled environment,” said Dr. Holle, “and the dogs have benefited greatly from the two examination rooms, the surgical suite, the dental and x-ray areas, and isolation wards.”

Music is piped into the kennel space, where as many as 200 dogs can play and exercise, protected from the elements under runs with numerous skylights.

The Seeing Eye, established in 1929, provides specially bred and trained dogs to guide people who are blind. Seeing Eye dog users experience greatly enhanced mobility and independence, allowing them to retain their active lifestyles despite blindness. The Seeing Eye is a philanthropy and is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, bequests, and other planned gifts.

The Seeing Eye is a trademarked name and can only be used to describe the dogs bred and trained at the school’s facilities in Morristown, N.J. If you would like more information on The Seeing Eye, please visit the website at or call (973) 539-4425.

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Shanghai Program Brings Guide Dogs From The U.K.

A plan to introduce guide dogs was launched earlier this year for Shanghai's 158,000 blind and visually impaired citizens.The first batch of labrador puppies from the U.K. has been in training since MArch of 2007, and officials are hoping to place some of them with families in February of 2008.

You can read more about the story by clicking on the link below, and learn more about Shanghai's Disabled Persons Federation here.

By Dong Zhen - Shanghai Daily - December 3, 2007

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Japanese Guide Dogs Assist Deaf And Hearing Impaired

Guide dogs for the visually impaired are relatively common, but only 13 dogs in all of Japan are certified to aid the hearing-impaired.

Two of these 13 dogs were trained by Kuniyoshi Shinden, who heads the Volunteer Dog Training Center, a nonprofit organization in Itanocho, Tokushima Prefecture.

Daily Yomiuri Online - December 1, 2007

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Indian Lab Retriever Named Most Socially Helpful Dog

A four-year-old Labrador Kutty from Thane near Mumbai has bagged top honours for being the world's most "socially helpful dog".

The honours for the Top Dog was courtesy an online poll conducted by the Washington-based Delta Society. Click on the link below to read more. - November 18, 2007

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Abandoned Puppy Gives Others Second Chance

Dobie the Labrador retriever touched the hearts of many and now he has found a new career after winning the fight for his life. Dobie's story began at a parking ramp in Golden Valley. When Dobie was a puppy, someone threw him from the ramp to the ground below. Click on the link below to see a video report and read how he's now, as a therapy dog, helping some people also discover a new lease on life. - November 7, 2007

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Guide Dogs Victoria Marks 50th Anniversary in Australia

Guide Dogs Victoria has come a long way – 50 years, in fact – and the organisation’s presence is hard to miss in Ballarat. If you’re out and about in the main street in the morning, it’s likely you will see senior guide dog trainer Paula Foote with a young dog in harness, teaching the dog the skills it will need when guiding a legally blind person.

Read more about this story at the link below, and find out more about Guide Dogs Victoria in Australia here. - November 5, 2007