support animals / service animals / guide dogsLast updated
A service animal has received specific training to perform tasks for a person with a disability. Support animal refers to an animal that provides emotional support for a person, for instance someone with PTSD or anxiety; these animals may not have received specific training and are not recognized as service animals under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The most common tasks performed by service animals include visual navigation, providing alerts to auditory signals, opening doors, fetching and carrying items (for a person who uses a wheelchair or has limited mobility), and recognizing medical conditions such as seizures. When describing a dog that assists someone with blindness or low vision, the default term should be “guide dog” as Seeing Eye Dog is a trademarked term and refers only to animals trained at the Seeing Eye, Inc. school in New Jersey.
Using language such as “pet” to describe a service animal can minimize the specific utility of the animal’s role in a person’s life.
When interviewing or speaking with a person who uses a service animal, avoid interacting with the animal unless specifically instructed by or granted permission by the person who uses the service animal. It can distract the service animal from obeying commands or fulfilling its duties.
- Guide Dogs of America: Best Practices (Guide Dogs of America)
- Service Animals and Support Animals (ADA National Network)
A service animal is trained to perform specific tasks and provide support to a person with a disability. When describing a dog that assists a blind person or person with low vision, the default term should be “guide dog,” as Seeing Eye Dog is a trademarked term. Using language such as “pet” to describe a service animal can minimize the specific utility of the animal’s role in a person’s life.