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Step-by-Step Guide to Registering Your Pet as a Service Animal

Ever wondered about registering your pet as a service animal? You're not alone—this guide will give you all the information needed to register your beloved animal.

By Armando CarreraPublished 5 years ago 8 min read
Photo by Vladimir Kudinov from Pexels

Our pets are more than just animals; they provide comfort, love, and companionship when we need it the most. Officially registering your furry friend provides a number of benefits, allowing the pet to accompany you in public places and even travel with you. The process of registering your pet as a service animal can seem daunting, but it's not as difficult as you think.

Follow the steps before embarking on the journey of raising a future service dog.

Determine whether you want to register your pet as a service, therapy, or emotional support animal.

You have three options when it comes to registering your pet as a service animal: service, therapy, or emotional support animal. These registration processes have differing requirements and varying rights associated with them.

A service animal is trained to provide assistance and complete tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are recognized under the ADA, (Americans with Disabilities Act), and aren’t required to be certified. As long as the animal aids a disabled individual by performing a trained action that the individual couldn’t do themselves, it’s considered a service animal.

A therapy animal provides comfort to individuals in facilities such as medical centers, nursing homes, and rehab centers. Although a certain temperament is needed, therapy animals don’t require special training.

Emotional support animals (ESA) provide comfort to their owners and have specials rights. To gain the official rights of an ESA, you must have a letter from a therapist.

Evaluate your pet’s temperament, behavior, and other characteristics.

Therapy animals are around new people all the time, which can be an over-stimulating experience for some pets. To comfort those in need, an animal should be calm and amiable. While some breeds are more inclined to those characteristics than others, it’s possible for animals to learn them through training and experience. Testing your pet’s behavior in crowded or loud public settings is a great idea if you’re considering registration. Because people aren't always aware of what not to do around service dogs, it becomes you and your dog's responsibilities to behave appropriately in busy and overwhelming situations.

To successfully complete the process of registering your pet as a service animal, he or she will need to be able to provide assistance, which generally requires training. There are certain breeds for therapy dogs which are better suited to perform a specific task than others; for example, large, obedient dogs like Labradors make excellent guide dogs.

Head to the vet for a checkup.

Photo by Henri Joubert on Unsplash

Health is incredibly important before registering your pet as a service animal. Especially for service animals, health conditions like degenerative joint diseases can inhibit the animal’s ability to work. So, before you register, go to the vet to make sure that your pet is in good health and has all of the needed shots. Service or therapy animals should also be neutered or spayed—this will ensure that the animal is reliable and behaves predictably.

It’s important for all pets to visit the vet regularly for check-ups. Our animals can’t tell us when something is wrong, but the vet can spot potential problems and health risks.

Research a local trainer that will meet your needs.

Registering your pet as a service animal involves training that teaches dogs the skills needed to perform tasks and be receptive to emotions. With good training, your pet will be prepared to fully meet your needs and respond well to any situation.

As mentioned previously, federal law and the ADA don’t set strict guidelines for service animal training. So, you can choose a trainer for your pet depending on their needs.

It’s best for service dogs to be trained by their owner, since the owner will be administering commands in real life. That doesn’t mean you can’t find professional help, though—there are plenty of programs that direct the owner throughout the training process so that both you and your pet learn in a trusted, controlled environment. Research professionals near you that have excellent testimonials and offer training specifically for service dogs with their owners.

Complete the necessary training.

When registering your pet as a service animal, as the pet owner, it's crucial for you to be involved in the training process. Not only will you learn how to control your pet and get them to perform the desired tasks, but you'll also develop a deeper bond. After training, your pet will understand your emotional habits and know when to provide support.

Service dogs must be trained thoroughly to ensure that they’ll be able to behave in public and properly perform tasks to help with a disability. This requires basic obedience training in addition to specialized disability training. Depending on how well-trained your dog was beforehand, the process can take as long as a year or two.

Since therapy and emotional support animals don’t need to perform specialized tasks to help the disabled, their training doesn't need to be as extensive. Often, basic obedience and public behavior experience will suffice.

Make sure your pet is experienced in public settings.

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

Before registering your pet as a service animal, you should be confident in his or her ability to behave in public. The only way to gain this confidence is through experience. Head to the dog park, the pet supply store, and simply take walks in populated outdoor areas. Before your pet is registered, you’ll have to stick to public places that allow pets. Some businesses do allow pets, but always double check before entering. Your pet should be able to handle adults, children, and other animals without barking or becoming aggressive.

For emotional support animal registration, get a letter from your therapist.

Registering your pet as a service animal or an emotional support animal grants you the benefit of bringing your pet in some public places. For your pet to become an ESA, you’ll need a medical professional to administer an official letter asserting that your pet provides therapeutic services to you. Pets have an unparalleled ability to provide comfort, ease stress or anxiety, and help with loneliness. Therapists and other mental health professionals are becoming more familiar with ESA registration and are often happy to help.

For therapy pets, find an organization that you can work with.

Working therapy pets are essentially volunteers and provide comfort at schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and more. Once your pet is trained and has proven to be well-behaved around all types of people and animals, you can reach out to organizations that may appreciate your pet’s service.

The American Kennel Club has verified a number of therapy dog organizations that provide certifications. During the process of registering your pet as a service animal, an obedience test must be passed that ensures the animal can react well to all situations. Reaching out to an AKC organization such as Therapy Dogs United is a great way to get started toward your first visit to a medical center, school, retirement home, etc.

Fill out and submit the required forms.

Photo by Ben Chin on Unsplash

To document the process of registering your pet as a service animal, it’s a good idea to submit forms to a trusted organization such as the United States Service Dog Registry or the American Kennel Club Therapy Dog Program. While not required under federal law, you’ll receive a certificate that you can use as proof if needed. You can also purchase a vest or labeled harness for your service dog to wear in public for simpler identification.

For an emotional support animal, you’ll simply need that letter from your therapist or other licensed mental health professional. If you need to bring your ESA on an airplane or into other public places, it’s wise to inform the airline or business beforehand; then you can display the letter as proof.

Know your rights.

As mentioned previously, service, therapy, and emotional support animals have different rights. After registering your pet as a service animal, your pet can come along with you in all public places, and the animal doesn’t have to be wearing a labeled vest. If an employer is unsure as to whether an animal is a service animal, they can’t ask for proof, documentation, or details about the person’s disability.

Therapy animals require approval to enter a public place. Always reach out to an organization to schedule a visit first, don’t just show up unannounced.

The rights of emotional support animals can differ from state to state. Many states have laws in place that enable emotional support animals to accompany their owners in public. Emotional support animals can travel with their owners on an airplane without an added fee. Also, property managers are generally required to allow emotional support animals in pet-free properties without charging a fee.

Bask in the love.

Once you’ve taken the steps involved in registering your pet as a service animal, you can relax and enjoy the company of your companion. Always be mindful when bringing your pet to new places, and make sure that those around you know when your pet is on duty.

After registering your pet as a service animal, you'll have a caring friend by your side, and the world will get a little bit brighter.


About the Creator

Armando Carrera

Sous chef in San Francisco. Will convert you from a carnivore to a seitan worshipper, one tofu lentil salad at a time.

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