Service Animal Certificate: What It Is and How to Obtain It

Service Animal Certificate: What It Is and How to Obtain It

Updated on May 9, 2024
Written by Brenda Mejia

fact checked by Andre Gregatti

A service animal certificate is an important form of identification that recognizes an animal as a trained helper to individuals with disabilities. This document confirms the animal’s vital role in supporting its handler. It ensures the animal can enter public areas and facilities where pets usually cannot go. It also reassures others that the animal needs to be there for its handler’s well-being and mobility.

To get this certificate, the service animal must complete specialized training. This training helps the animal perform specific tasks that meet the handler’s needs. This includes demonstrations where the dog demonstrates its ability to perform these tasks reliably. This guide offers valuable insights for those looking to secure this certification. However, it does not reveal all the details right away.

What Is a Service Animal?

A service animal is specifically trained to perform tasks that assist individuals with disabilities. According to guidelines, these animals are predominantly dogs, though miniature horses may also qualify in some cases. Service animals are essential for people with various disabilities, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities.

The main characteristics of service animals include:

  • Reliability
  • Predictability
  • The ability to be trained to perform specific tasks directly related to their handler’s disability

They must also behave appropriately in public places. For example, they should stay calm and not show aggression.

Service Animal Tasks

There are many types of service animals, trained to perform various tasks based on their handler’s needs. Some common tasks include:

  • Guiding the Blind: Leading visually impaired individuals around obstacles.
  • Alerting the Deaf: They lead visually impaired people around obstacles.
  • Pulling a Wheelchair: Providing mobility assistance by pulling a wheelchair.
  • Alerting to Seizures: Warning individuals of impending seizures and providing safety during seizures.
  • Calming with PTSD: Assisting individuals with PTSD by providing comfort during anxiety attacks.
  • Reminding to Take Medication: They remind their handlers to take their medicine at the right times. These tasks are crucial for the independence and safety of disabled people. They help improve their ability to participate in life.

What Does the ADA Recognize as a Service Animal?

The American Disability Act (ADA) sees a service animal as a dog trained to work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. The tasks the service dog performs must directly relate to the person’s disability.

According to the ADA, emotional support animals (ESAs) are a class different from that of service animals. These animals are not trained to perform specific tasks for emotional disabilities. Instead, they provide comfort simply by being with a person. They play an important role, even though the category defined by ADA is not service animals. They help their owners’ emotional well-being.

Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals

The key difference between ESAs and service animals is their tasks and training. Any type of animal can be an emotional support animal. It fulfills therapeutic aspects through companionship.

They do not receive specific training to assist disabled people, a key requirement for service animals. On the other hand, service animals receive training to perform specific tasks. These tasks help individuals with disabilities, like the ones mentioned earlier.

Also, the legal protections that both animals receive are much different. For one, the legal protection of service animals under the ADA accords them the right to be accompanied to most public places. On the other hand, emotional support animals do not get access rights under the ADA. They have separate federal laws that may grant them access to housing and flights.

Where Service Animals Can Go

Service animals can go with their handlers to most places where the public is allowed. This includes businesses, nonprofits, universities, and restaurants.

Service Animal Laws

These laws protect the rights of disabled people. They make sure service animals can access public and private spaces. This includes housing, transportation, and work.

Laws Apply to Airplanes

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), airlines must let service animals fly in the cabin for free. This helps passengers with disabilities.

Laws Apply to Employments

The ADA requires workplaces to accommodate employees with disabilities. This includes allowing service animals to help these employees work better.

Laws Apply to Housing

Both the ADA and the Fair Housing Act allow service animals in all housing facilities. This helps disabled people avoid discrimination at home.

Service Animals are Exempt from Pet Fees for Housing

According to the FHA, Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals are exempt from any housing pet fees, deposits or pet rents.

Learn More about Pet Fees

Service Animal Registration Benefits

Registering a service animal provides significant benefits, facilitating access and legal protections for individuals with disabilities. It makes it clear that registering a service animal helps in many ways. It makes access easier and provides legal protections. The certificate shows that the service dog is trained and necessary.

Access to Public and Private Universities

This ensures that students with disabilities can receive the necessary and emotional support throughout their educational pursuits. This promotes equal opportunities in learning environments.

Legal Protections Under the Fair Housing Act

It protects the rights of individuals using service animals, ensuring they can live without facing housing discrimination. The certificate clarifies that a service animal is required, which helps secure appropriate accommodations without restriction.

Recognition in Public Places

A Service Animal Certificate allows service dogs into many public spaces where pets are not usually allowed. This includes restaurants, stores, and parks, which help to reduce mobility barriers and enhance the independence of individuals with disabilities.

Assurance in Employment Settings

In the workplace, a Service Animal Certificate shows the need for a service dog for the handler’s well-being. It ensures compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also helps with reasonable accommodations, and promotes an inclusive work environment.

Simplified Air Travel

The certificate simplifies such travel by documenting a required service animal. Airlines recognize this certification, allowing these animals to accompany their cabin handlers, ensuring safety and comfort during flights.

Enhanced Public Awareness and Education

Possessing a Service Animal Certificate also plays a crucial role in enhancing public awareness of support animals and educating local governments and others about the rights and needs of individuals with service animals. It promotes a more inclusive society by clarifying these animals’ important roles in supporting their handlers.

Emergency Preparedness

In emergencies, the Certificate quickly tells first responders that the dog is a necessary support animal. It clarifies that the dog is not just a pet. This ensures both handlers and animals are properly considered, keeping safety measures appropriate.

Why Should You Have a Service Animal Certificate

Having a Service Animal Certificate is crucial for several reasons:

  • Ensures Compliance: It confirms that the service animal meets all legal requirements. It also meets all training requirements to support their handler’s disability.
  • Facilitates Access: The certificate prevents disputes over the animal’s presence. It ensures fair access in public and private places.
  • Provides Documentation: Having a certificate makes it easier to show a service animal’s status. This reduces stress for the handler.
  • Builds Confidence: It boosts the confidence of individuals with disabilities. They feel empowered to assert their rights and move freely in public spaces.
  • Supports Emergency Situations: In emergencies, the certificate clearly states the animal’s essential role. This ensures both the handler and the animal receive appropriate treatment.

How to Get a Service Animal Certificate

Obtaining a Service Animal Certificate involves several key steps to ensure the animal is legally recognized as a service dog. One helpful solution is the ESA Pet service, which streamlines the certifying service animals.

Understanding ESA Pet’s Services

ESA Pet provides an online platform where individuals can apply for Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) Letters. It’s important to note that ESA Pet does not offer certification for service animals; instead, the focus is on ESAs, which do not require the same level of training as service animals, and also PSDs, which ensure emotional care and psychiatric support for their owners.

Steps to Obtain ESA or PSD Letters through ESA Pet

Step 1: Complete a Simple 2-Minute Screening

Start by answering a brief survey designed to maintain confidentiality. Your responses will guide mental health care providers in assessing your eligibility for an ESA or PSD.

Step 2: Connect With a Licensed Healthcare Professional 

After submitting a secure payment, you’ll be connected with a licensed healthcare professional in your state. They’ll evaluate your mental and emotional health to determine the potential benefits of an emotional support animal.

Step 3: Receive Your ESA Letter 

Once approved, the licensed health professional will issue you a signed ESA letter within three business days. This digital document confirms your eligibility for an ESA or PSD, providing legal recognition and asserting your rights in various settings.

ESA Pet guides users through each step, ensuring the process is clear and correctly followed. By using ESA Pet, individuals can confidently secure ESA or PSD letters, helping ensure their support animals are recognized and their rights upheld.

Get your Official ESA Letter Consultation from a licensed therapist.

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FAQs About Service Animal Certificate

Can Someone Ask Me for Papers on My Service Animal?

Yes, you can be asked for documentation in some situations. Public places can’t ask for extensive documentation, but a Service Animal Certificate helps. It confirms that the animal is needed for disability-related tasks and makes interactions easier.

What Animals Are Classified as Service Animals?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), dogs alone are regarded to be service animals. Such dogs should exhibit that they have been trained to execute tasks or work directly related to the handler’s disability.

Is Service Animal Certifications Legit?

Certifications for a service dog are valid in terms of proving whether a dog is trained to help a disabled person. The certification must be credible, that is, by credible organizations, showing that the dog is actually well trained.

What Are the Three Questions You Can Ask About a Service Animal?

If it’s not clear what service an animal provides, you can ask two questions:

1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

2) What tasks has the dog been trained to perform?

These questions protect the individual’s privacy while verifying the service animal’s legitimacy.

Can a Service Animal Be Kept Out?

A public place can only exclude a service animal if it is out of control and the handler does not take action. A public place can also exclude it if it is not housebroken. As per the Housing Act, most housing situations must accommodate service animals. This accommodation helps disabled people effectively.


This guide has provided detailed insights into the significance of obtaining a Service Animal Certificate. Such certification is crucial under the ADA and the Fair Housing Act applies to ensure that service animals are not unfairly excluded from housing or public places.

The certificate confirms the need for the service dog and supports the independence of disabled people. It ensures that service dogs are recognized and allowed in various environments, legitimizing the necessity of the service dog and enhancing the independence of their handlers.

Contact ESA Pet for Personalized Assistance