When is a Dog a Service Dog OR an Excuse?

Have you met Amber, our Service-Dog-in-Training? She is learning her job to assist my son who has MS to be more independent in our home and neighborhood. But, don’t get to excited thinking that you can train your pet dog or pig to go to 7-11 and pick out the COKE from the cooler for you so you can stay in car. Keep reading for some of the answers you may asking about whether or not you can have  your own service dog to take any where you want.

 Alison Daniels, Esq. and Emily Harvey, Esq. nailed my concerns on the head about people abusing the “service dog ” rights.  https://disabilitylawco.org/news/what-do-you-mean-fluffy-isn%E2%80%99t-service-dog/04-08-2016

“…there are multiple different legal rights that attach to a person depending on the type of animal, many people do not understand these differences. This lack of knowledge and understanding has created the opportunity for people to inadvertently violate the law and others to outwardly abuse the system.

Amber Service-Dog-in-Training is learning to performs tasks that will help her owner be more indendent at home and the neighborhood. Note: Amber is at rest in public with her Service-dog-in-training vest that alerts people DO NOT DISTRACT by trying to pet The fact is she is “on-duty.” She will learn to sit and wait a lot when waiting for a command to do a job.


U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section Defines a Service Dog https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. click to read more https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm


  • Part of Amber’s eaarly servide-dog-in-training is to get her out in public while using her good puppy manners. We keep it short for success.
  • I plan small errands at where David will hopefully be navigating with Amber’s help without me in the 6 to 9 months. ( He may drop his wallet, debit card or cell phone.. as he does often.. Or he may help finding a product that Amber has been trained to identify.)
  • I call ahead to our favorite wheelchair accessible businesses to introduce Amber as a service-dog-in-training. Staff can then support my training efforts knowing that if Amber misbehaves I will promptly deal with it.

Last week I took Amber to a nearby Walgreen’s. (She had been in there several times already.) She was walking in a “heel;” amazingly well for a six month old pup on that day…”YAP! Yap! Yap!” A fluffy white minature poodle jumped out of an aisle. The older woman ignored her dog as she continued to shop.

I commanded Amber to SIT STAY IGNORE. 

I was a nervous wreck! but very proud!

Our pup service dog in training did an amazing job of maintaining composure. ! I know that if she misbehaved we could be legally be kicked out. soem days Amber is just in the mood to be a puppy. When I put her vest on she is expected to use her very best manners.

I looked over at the employees who gave me a quick smile. At the time I could not understand why they said nothing. Apparently, too many businesses have been bullied by fraudulant service dog owners who manipulative with a snarky threat of being sued over issues with allegeded Service Dogs.

What the Heck! Below is what the law says:

Inquiries, Exclusions, Charges, and Other Specific Rules Related to Service Animals

  • When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task… https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

Service Animal – This is defined by federal and Colorado law as a dog (or miniature horse) that has been individually trained to perform a specific task or service for a person with a disability. A service animal is considered an extension of a person with a disability and is allowed in any place that is open to the public. A service dog can only be excluded from a business or public place if it is acting aggressively or causing a nuisance https://disabilitylawco.org/issues/category/service-assistance-animals

So, When is a Dog a Service Dog OR an Excuse? I think to many people are abusing the TAKE You Dog Anywhere You Want Crap with a laminated card. You don’t need a freaking card to take a legit service dog with you. Service dogs should display the manners of a service dog for a person with a disabiity.

I have be seeing many homeless people on the street or people who live high crime areas get dogs as guards dogs then claim the dog is a service dog so they don’t have to pay a pet deposit.. A guard dog is not a service dog altho’ a service dog may just happen to alert its owner of an intruder, but, that is not a task performed for a person with a disability.

This post shares links to the REAL Service Dog Laws and tips  along with what is happening with our new service dog in training.

Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm


At 6 months Amber has learned the basics like sit, lie down; paw; stay; roll over. etc. She is trained on good manners. She is already doing many tasks. The fact that she is learning to take laundry out of the dryer where he can not reach in far enough to take clothes out will be a very specific tas for her as a service dog.. This does not mean other people who want a dog to do chores can be taking their pet in public or to the laundro-mat and call it a service dog. No! NO! NO!

In order to be a “service-dog” she must perform tasks specific for her owners disability.

Note: Amber is replacing my son’s late service dog Attack with Love. We called him “Tacks”. The late service dog, Tacks , originally helped to balance David when he was still up and walking.

Later on when David needed to use a manual wheelchair one of the things Tacks did was to help guide the chair by pulling it on the ramp of a city bus. ( You sort of had to see Tacks do it.)

David with his late Service-Dog Attacks With Love. (We called him Tacks.) The team enjoyed playing when Tacks was not “working”.

Depending on where the ‘scars” are people with MS may become nuerologically visually impaired. David was diagnosed with Optic Neuritis-glasses won’t help him see -but, Tacks could act as a Seeing Eye Guide Dog. And he was a pair of EYES for David.

(Note in the image above David has dark glass on to block the specific light rays. One of his early symptom of multiple sclerosis was “light sensitivity.)

Amber will be learning many of the same skills and more over the next 2 years. She is not developmentally ready to be a full on service dog, yet. She does have the same rights as a full srvice dog as long as she is under the handlers control.

Tacks was trained to pick up the many items David frequently dropped but could not reach to pick up. That “job” is one of the kind of SERVICES that a SERVICE DOG would need to do in order to go any where with my son. An online laminated card you get from those websites to register your service dog to go anywhere.. is BULLSHIT!

I wish people who want to take their dog everywhere would stop abusing the SERVICE DOG RIGHTS!

There is no legal registration nor is there a state licence for any service dog.

Wanting a ‘slave’ to get a beverage out of the frig because you are to lazy to get it your self is NOT a disability to need a service dog to go any where with you. 

 Those laminted cards, tho’ helpfull to pull out, will NOT excuse even for a fully trained legitimate dog from mis-behaving in public- It can happen when any service dog is provoked in public thus preventing the service animal from doing the intended service to the person with a disability. (See link below to a news clip to learn what happen to someone.)

Service animal laws vary from state to state. Sometimes the laws are broader and more specific. Since I live in Colorado at this time I look at the Colorado laws most specifically. https://disabilitylawco.org/issues/category/service-assistance-animals 

 A SERVICE ANIMAL is limited to a dog or small horse only.

One day when I took Amber into our neighborhood bowling ally where we eat at the snack bar I talked to manager. The manager appreciated my communication about the dog in training and was willing to support her training. Then he told me, ” Some one had brought in a parrot on his shoulder claiming it was a service animal. That bird crapped all over the lanes.”

When the manager told him to leave, the guy started yelllng “I’ll sue you. You can’t kick me out with my service animal!”

Oh really? What did the bird do as an extention of the bowlers disabiity? Squack “STRiKE!”

  • Companion or Assistance Animal – Companion and assistance animals are a product of federal and state laws regarding housing and are defined as animals that help a person with a disability alleviate one or more symptoms of their disability while in their home. This can include a dog that barks when the doorbell rings to assist a person who has a hearing impairment or a cat that provides a person with bipolar disorder a reason to get up in the morning, take her medicine and go to work. Only people with disabilities are entitled to have companion animals and even then, companion animals are only allowed in a person’s home. Business owners and other places of public accommodation are not required to allow companion or assistance animals into their businesses. https://disabilitylawco.org/issues/category/service-assistance-animals



Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm


Tacks was also a Psychiatirc Emotional Support Dog.

Sometimes there is a very fine-line between those definitions of service dog and companion. I can’t answer that question for you.

Of course, Tacks was an emotional support who forced David to get out of the apartment to be around people every day in addition to being a service dog who performed task related to David’s disabilities. But the emotional support was not a task he performed that made him a full right SERVICE DOG. The emotional support was very complimentaray to this man who was struggling with his new diagnosis and long standing diagnosis of anxiety. Tacks the Service Dog did so many things to help my son live a quality life.

How do you get a service dog?

I was prompted to write this post after meeting people in public who ask, “How do you get a service dog?”

Depending on the nature of the need it may cost $20,000 to get a specially trained dog for a person with viual impairment or a seizure disorder.

Sometimes dogs may be trained locally by agencies or by prison programs.

For my son we got on waiting list after long waiting list. When he was came up on a list we had to turn it down only beccasue I had no way of transporting him a long distance with power wheelchair. If it were easy then I would need to rent hospital bed and buy bulky supplies for a 6 week stay in a hotel while he was being trained with his new service dog…remember a service dog is trained specifically for the specifc needs of a disabled person…don’t be wishing for a disablity so you can take your pet dog anywhere. Having a service dog is ton of responcibility.

I don’t have the funds to do that for him ,altho it would be worth it. so, we opted to train a service dog our selves with help. Amber just graduated from Puppy class at Pet Smart ( another blog) along with otehr folks pet dogs. Puppy Class 101 was fun socialization but did not make her a service dog. We have a lot more work to do until she is about 2 year old.

Training this second service dog ourselves I get the opportunity to do a lot of education on Service Dogs. Since this is a blog I have the opportunity to share some very important links to help clear up the fact that there are far too folks slapping on a vest and telling business owner that they have “Service Dog” when they really don’t have anything other than a loyal pet..

What Do You Mean Fluffy Isn’t a Service Dog?

“When a business owner observes a patron who does not have an obvious disability or need for a service animal bring a dog (or miniature horse) into the business, the business owner can ask two questions: (1) Is the dog required because of your disability? and (2) What task does it perform? The person with a service animal cannot be asked any other questions, such as what their disability is, nor can they be asked to show the dog performing the task. Business owners should keep in mind that many disabilities are hidden disabilities and though the need for the dog may not be obvious, that does not mean that it is not a service dog…” Click Link below to read the informative article by By Alison Daniels, Esq. and Emily Harvey, Esq.


Setting Boundaries: do NOT pet the Service Dog

We now have a patio on a the neighborhood courtyard with lot of friendly kids who want to play with our puppy. Dogs are not allowed, except for service dogs. And even then we had to fill out Reasonable Accomodation forms.

We must do a great deal of educating; Amber is not a pet for the neighbor kids to play with. We must very kindly set limits. While Amber is not required to wear her vest it does help set the boundaries to not distract her from doing her job with her man.

With training a service dog we do not ever, ever, ever want to start any habit that we will have to break later. Amber is allowed to play with my grand children when she is not “working”. But, we do not want her to get inot the habit of running and jumping when excited kids run her way calling, “Doggie, doggie!”.. and small kids do that all the time. One neighbor boy insisted that he should teach her to fetch a stick.Well, Amber does fetch, but, she should never be taking commands off a random person. When the child did not stop nor step off of our patio, I simply ignored the kid and quietly walked the dog back inside out home and closed the door.

We have a courtyard and a small patio for David and Amber his Service-Dog-in-Trainng. Meet our new neighbors included educating and setting boundaries taht Amber is not a pet to play with.. It takes extra work for Amber to learn how to navigate around a power wheelchair safely. Frst she must bond and build trust with hter owner and IGNORE every one else..

Amber Service-Dog-In-Training has learned already how to be an ASSISTANCE DOG as well. The fact is that David may be falling over in his wheelchair needing me to straighten up/ repostion his weak body, but ,I don’t hear him call out for help, he gives Amber the command, ” Amber GET NANNA!” She will go to my room or bathroom door where ever I am in the apartment, to either bark or tap me with her paw. then i can go help David.

IF that assistance Amber gives is her ONLY task she would NOT be considered a SERVICE DOG under the law . If she were an assistance dog , no, she does not have the legal right to go to a restaurant with David even she had one of those laminated Service Dog cards any one can buy on line.


Did you know that it is againt the law to intentionally try to distract a service dog?

Class 3 misdemeanor.

Tips on 10 Things Service Dog Handlers Want you to Know http://www.anythingpawsable.com/10-things-service-dog-handlers-want-know/#.WPLw8YgrLIU


  • We service dog handlers do know all too well that sometimes people just need to be educated. A simple “No. Stop. sorry You can’t pet my service dog” should be enough boundary setting, but, for some it is hard to get the message.

Our Amber is a beautiful dog, no doubt about it. I have heard “but, your dog is so adorablely cute”.I just want my kids to pet the dog. If the person won’t stop I flately state, “Gee, your kids are so cute. but, I won’t grab them to hug and kiss them. That would be so wrong .”

The same thing goes for an atractive woman. It would be assault to.. excuse me, ” grope her body parts” because you just wanted to feel her ____. . In my opinion, I don’t want someone assaulting my son’s beautiful service dog either!

  •  Service Dg is considered to be an extention of the person with a disability like a pair of glass , a cane or a wheelchair.
  • It is not OK to take someone’s glasses off their face becaue they look cool, is it?
  • It is NOT OK to play with the controls on someone’s power wheelchair. Nor is it OK to play around with a power chair because “it would be so fun to ride around in wheelchair popping wheelies!” (I actually have witnessed people sit in my son’s wheelchair, turn in on and drive around for the fun of it… NO… NO…NO! That $20,000 wheelcahir is NOT a toy. It was made specifically for his needs. Why do some jerks think it would be fun to have a disabeling condition so they could “pop’ wheelies in a motor wheelchair? Grow up!)
  • The point is a service is like a piece of medical equipment. Look at, al to the dog’s owner not the dog. Don’t talk to dog even to say, “Sorry, puppy I can’t play with you ’cause you are service dog.. so sad..I really want to pet your.. you look so lonely…” STOP IT! Most service dogs get far more love and attention than most pets do. Trust me! And service dogs love having a job to do over being bored in the dog house in the back yard all day long.


Disclaimer: This post is my opnion from my personal experience combined with some valuable links. I am not an expert only experienced with our honest to goodness service dogs.

For legal and accurate information on Service dogs

ADA Website


To receive e-mail notifications when new ADA information is available,

visit the ADA Website’s home page and click the link near the top of the middle column.

ADA Information Line

800-514-0301 (Voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY)

24 hours a day to order publications by mail.


No Non-cents Nanna has collected/ pinned a wealth of links on Service Dogs along with our personal images recording Amber’s growth. To help you be more educated on When is a Dog a Service Dog OR an Excuse? Feel free to explore my Pinterest Board A Service Dog For David. 

Before You Buy the Take Your Dog Anywhere Card Read this First


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