Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Qualifying as a Service Dog

Most businesses, including cruise lines and airlines, require proof of a dog’s vaccinations, and up-to-date certification of the dog’s medical health, as well as a note from the owner’s doctor certifying the general nature of the medical assistance that the dog provides to the owner.  Formal certification is not required under the American Disabilities Act, but it is helpful. 
Some cities (such as San Francisco and New York City) provide service dog or assistance dog licensing registration through Animal Care and Control.  The registration provides a simpler way -- a ‘short-hand’ way -- to show businesses that your dog is indeed a service dog (instead of pulling out a sheaf of papers with every new visit).  You will likely be required to show a letter from your doctor summarizing the medical service your dog performs for you, up-to-date vaccination and health records, and in some cases, formal training by a certified service dog trainer (although this is rare).
For more information, call your local Animal Care and Control on how to register.
San Francisco Animal Care and Control: General Info: (415) 554-6364


  1. This has incorrect information: Please see Department of Justice information here: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

    Notice the Federal law is superior to any local law in place. ID cannot be required and paperwork is not necessary.

    Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

    There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

  2. The comment above is misleading. The blog post is correct, that while no documentation is required under the ADA to show proof that your dog is a service dog, it is helpful to do so. Additionally, any cruise ship or airline travelling outside of the US (which almost all cruises do), require proper documentation. So, for minimum hassle (and to be allowed on board), you should bring the require documentation, as well as double check with the cruise line or airline.

  3. By the way, see the below post on how one person's service dog was denied entry into Hawaii because of the failure to bring proper documentation.