Service animals are animals that can be trained to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Service animals may also be referred to as assistance animals, assist animals, support animals, or helper animals depending on the country and the animal's function. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is used in many different settings to enhance well-being, provide comfort and supplement conventional medical treatments.
Dogs are the most common service animals, assisting people in many different ways since at least 1927. Other animals such as monkeys, birds and horses have also been documented.
As of 2011, only dogs, and in special circumstances miniature horses, are legally considered service animals in the United States. There is a broader definition for assistance animals under the US Fair Housing Act as well as a broader definition for service animals under the US Air Carrier Access Act.
The international assistance animal community has categorized three types of assistance animals:
- Guide animal—to guide the blind
- Hearing animal—to signal the hearing impaired
- Service animal—to do work for persons with disabilities other than blindness or deafness.
Despite regulations or rules that deny access to animals in restaurants and other public places, in many countries, guide dogs and other types of assistance dogs are protected by law, and therefore may accompany their handlers most places that are open to the public. Laws and regulations vary worldwide:
- In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits any business, government agency, or other organization that provides access to the general public from barring guide dogs. However, religious organizations are not required to provide such access. Current federal regulations defined "service animal" for ADA purposes to exclude all species of animals other than domestic dogs and miniature horses. Other laws, though, still provide broader definitions in other areas. For instance, the Department of Transportation's regulations enacting the Air Carrier Access Act permit "permit dogs and other service animals" to accompany passengers on commercial airlines. The Fair Housing Act also requires housing providers to permit service animals (including comfort and emotional support animals) without species restrictions in housing.
- In most South American countries and Mexico, guide dog access depends solely upon the goodwill of the owner or manager. In more tourist-heavy areas, guide dogs are generally welcomed without problems. In Brazil, however, a 2006 federal decree requires allowance of guide dogs in all public and open to public places. The Brasília Metro has developed a program which trains guide dogs to ride it.
- In Europe, the situation varies[clarification needed]. Some countries have laws that govern the entire country and sometimes the decision is left up to the respective regions.
- In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects guide dog handlers. Each state and territory has its own laws, which may differ slightly.
- In Canada, guide dogs along with other service animals are allowed anywhere that the general public is allowed, as long as the owner is in control of them. Fines for denying a service animal access can be up to $3000 in Alberta, Canada.
- In South Korea, it is illegal to deny access to guide dogs in any areas that are open to the public. Violators are fined for no more than 2 million won.
Animals for individual assistance
Most service animals are dogs; however, other kinds of animals may be trained to perform tasks to help their disabled partners live independent lives. Other animals include:
- Capuchin monkeys, which can be trained to perform manual tasks such as grasping items, operating knobs and switches, and turning the pages of a book.
- Miniature horses, which can be trained to guide the blind, to pull wheelchairs, or support for persons with Parkinson's disease. Miniature horses may be chosen by people whose religion considers dogs to be unclean or who have serious allergies to dogs.
A helper monkey is a type of assistance animal, similar to an assistance dog, that is specially trained to help quadriplegics, other people with severe spinal cord injuries or others with mobility-impairments.
Helper monkeys are usually trained in schools by private organizations, taking 7 years to train on average, and are able to serve 25–30 years (two to three times longer than a guide dog).
After being socialized in a human home as infants, the monkeys undergo extensive training before being placed with a quadriplegic. Around the house, the monkeys help out by doing tasks including microwaving food, washing the quadriplegic's face, and opening drink bottles.
Debbie Leahy, manager of captive wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States says that monkeys are not legitimate service animals and that their training sometimes involves abuse.
- Comfort animal—an animal that makes the owner feel better emotionally
- Working animal—an animal that is trained to engage in productive tasks
- Harrison Eustis, Dorothy (November 5, 1927). "The Seeing Eye". Saturday Evening Post: 43.
- Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals. US Department of Justice. 12 July 2011. Accessed 28 January 2014
- International Association of Assistance Dog Partners Retrieved on October 17, 2007.
- "Service Animals". Civil Rights Division. US Department of Justice. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "14 CFR Part 382 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel". Department of Transportation. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
- "Fair Housing Information Sheet # 6: Right to Emotional Support Animals in 'No Pet' Housing". Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Decreto nº 5904". Planalto.gov.br. 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
- "Canada – Alberta – Service Dogs Act". Animallaw.info. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
- http://mydog.samsung.com/blind/guidedog1_1.html[dead link]
- Helping Hands Retrieved on October 17, 2007.
- Guide Horse Retrieved on October 17, 2007.
- "Monkey Helpers Lend a 'Helping Hand'". Retrieved August 14, 2006.
- Leahy, Debbie (02 April 2013). Interview with Marc Silver. "Why Justin Bieber Shouldn't Have a Monkey". National Geographic News. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/04/130402-justin-bieber-capuchin-monkey-pet-germany-zoonotic-diseases/. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
- The Animal Legal and Historical Center at Michigan State University College of Law
- "Creature Comforts", by Rebecca Skloot, New York Times, December 31, 2008. Discusses the many types of service animals.
- Capuchin monkey helpers MSNBC Feature
- Allowed on Airplanes Transport Security Administration
-  Pet Partners (Formerly the Delta Society)