1. Myth: Guide dogs for blind people are the only real service dogs.
Fact: There is no limit to the variety of jobs a service dog can perform, as long as the handler of the dog is disabled and the dog’s task or work mitigates the disability.
2. Myth: Businesses are only required to allow guide dogs and can prohibit pets and other types of service dogs.
Fact: Any business that is open to the public is required to allow any type of service animal. Occasionally, you will come across a posted sign that states only guide dogs are permitted, but these signs carry no legal weight.
3. Myth: Restaurants and businesses that sell or deal with food can legally deny access to a service dog team.
Fact: The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of disabled service animal handlers to enter all places of public accommodation. Food service businesses are not exempt
4. Myth: A certified or registered service dog is more legitimate than other service dogs who are not.
Fact: Some service dog handlers, trainers and programs certify their service dogs, even though it isn’t required by law. Certain certification or registration can be as insignificant as a piece of paper, if it’s not with a reputable organization. Some unscrupulous companies charge customers a fee to certify or register a dog with their company, without any verification whatsoever that the dog is a legitimate service dog. To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference between one of these companies and a legitimate service dog organization, nullifying any value of presenting proof of certification. Regardless, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require service animals to be either certified or registered with a service dog program or company.
5. Myth: A service dog team can be denied access to a public place because another person is afraid of or allergic to dogs.
Fact: A service dog team must be allowed access to a business or place of public accommodation, regardless of other people’s feelings toward dogs or allergies. In most cases, it is possible to accommodate both parties, as they will usually be happy to keep a distance from one another.
6. Myth: Service dogs never get time to relax and just be dogs.
Fact: Service dogs get lots of “off-duty” time. They get plenty of time to rest, play with toys, play with their families and play with other dogs. Many even participate in fun recreational activities like agility, flyball, rally obedience, dock diving, disc dog, canine freestyle and more! While service dogs are more than just pets, they get tons of time to act like regular family companion dogs.
7. Myth: Service dogs have access rights in places of public accommodation.
Fact: It is the disabled handler whose rights are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act; not the dog’s. The dog must be accompanying a disabled person and perform a task or do work that mitigates his or her handler’s disability.
8. Myth: Dogs who provide emotional comfort through companionship are service dogs.
Fact: A service dog must perform a task or do work that mitigates his or her handler’s specific disability. A dog whose only job is to provide companionship for someone with a psychological disability may be designated by a mental health professional as an emotional support animal but he or she is not a service dog.
9. Myth: If it’s not a Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever or other large breed, it’s not a service dog.
Fact: Service dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds; from dogs, as small as Chihuahuas to dogs as massive as Mastiffs, and almost everything in between.
10. Myth: Service dogs must wear a vest, special harness or ID Badge to distinguish them from pet dogs.
Fact: Under ADA regulations, service animals are not required to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness to be identified as service animals. Having said that, many people put a vest or identification tag on their service dog to avoid the confrontation from business owners’ questioning. At the same time, it makes it clear for other people that their service dog is currently on duty and cannot be distracted. By having a bright vest with labels “Service Dog” and “Do Not Pet”, you will have an easier time fending off strangers who want to come over to pet your service dog and distract it from performing its duty.