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Service and emotional support dogs are specially trained animals that assist people with physical disabilities by performing life tasks they cannot do for themselves. US laws recognize that these animals are an important part of many individuals’ lives.

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Service animals aren’t restricted in the same way that ordinary pets are. Any business discriminating against someone who has a service animal may get charged with a misdemeanor. A business can verify that the animal is a service animal and not a pet by asking what tasks the animal performs, but the business is not allowed to require documentation of any kind. Businesses must not charge a fee for a service animal to enter the establishment even if there is a fee for pets to access the area.

People requiring service animals can’t be denied housing or employment due to their service animal. A service animal’s owner is liable for any damages or injuries caused by the animal just as if it were a regular pet in any public or private place. Job seekers may still be denied employment if their disability prevents them from fulfilling their job duties.

emotional support dog letter from doctor

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The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) legislation, enacted in 1990, is so vague that it has created two classes of service animals. The first is for animals that perform a specific task - Guide Dogs for the blind, wheelchair assistance, hearing dogs, and animals that can detect medical emergencies, like seizures, and summon help. These dogs have been specifically trained for their service mission.

The problem is the second classification - emotional support animals. All animals - lizards, chickens and snakes - can be designated service animals because they lend emotional support to the owner. In most cases they have no task-specific training. While this definition is currently under review, it has placed an enormous burden on those people who truly have a Service Animal.

Bringing your Service Dog into a restaurant, theater, or other public venue can also create some problems unless you can explain that your dog is allowed access under Federal law. Of course this means that you animal must be suited for crowded environments and trained to act properly around people. This is another case where a Service Dog ID Card will be of value.

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One scroll through social media is probably enough to convince you--if you needed convincing--that people love cute animals in general, and their dogs in particular. But while humanity in general may be endlessly enamored of man's best friend, bosses frequently disagree.

From fears of litigious allergy sufferers to costly personal injury claims to animal-hating landlords, there are plenty of reasons company leaders might be skeptical of joining the dog-friendly office trend.

If your boss is among them and you're a die-hard dog lover, is there any way to persuade him or her to open up your workspace to fuzzy friends?

Here's yet another area of life where science might be able to help you out. New research from Central Michigan University offers a rationale for dog-friendly offices that you just might be able to sell to your wary boss.

The furry secret to improved collaboration

The study, which was highlighted recently by UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, is based on a simple premise: Have groups complete short tasks that involve creativity and cooperation, such as coming up with a fictional 15-second ad, and see how having a dog present for the experiment affects outcomes. So, how did it go?

It turns out canines are great for collaboration. Both the participants themselves and outside experts who rated the videotaped tasks for closeness, warmth, and cooperation said that adding a dog to the mix made people more trusting and more helpful. In short, just having a dog around seems to do wonders for teamwork.

"When people work in teams, the presence of a dog seems to act as a social lubricant," lead author Steve Colarelli commented. "Dogs seem to be beneficial to the social interactions of teams."

Why do dogs have such outsize impacts on how we treat each other? The answer offered by the researchers will come as no surprise to most pet owners--it seems that having animals nearby just makes us happier, and people who feel better tend to be nicer.

So if your boss is not sold on opening your office to canine companions, you might want to show him this study. And if you need to apply a little more pressure, earlier research showing that dogs also reduce stress, or this useful post from my Inc.com colleague Christine Lagorio-Chafkin on overcoming objections to dog-friendly offices might also be helpful.

Do you find your personality or behavior changes when there are dogs around?

register dog as emotional support animal

What's the Difference Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals?

Service dogs are specially trained animals that assist people with physical disabilities by performing life tasks they cannot do for themselves. Florida laws recognize that these animals are an important part of many individuals' lives.

If Someone Asks

Service animals aren't restricted in the same way that ordinary pets are. Any business discriminating against someone who has a service animal may get charged with a misdemeanor. A business can verify that the animal is a service animal and not a pet by asking what tasks the animal performs, but the business is not allowed to require documentation of any kind. Businesses must not charge a fee for a service animal to enter the establishment even if there is a fee for pets to access the area.

Housing and Employment

People requiring service animals can't be denied housing or employment due to their service animal. A service animal's owner is liable for any damages or injuries caused by the animal just as if it were a regular pet in any public or private place. Job seekers may still be denied employment if their disability prevents them from fulfilling their job duties.

Don't Interfere

In Florida it is illegal to harm or hinder a service animal from completing its duties. Anyone unintentionally injuring or endangering a service animal can be charged with a misdemeanor. Anyone who intentionally injures or kills a service animal will face felony charges.