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Service dogs, because of the wide variety of services and assistance they provide, come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds. Yes, any dog, from a 2-pound Chihuahua to a 200-pound Newfoundland, as long as they are providing a necessary service to a disabled handler, can legitimately be service dogs.
Likewise, the handlers who service dogs assist can include those with obvious physical limitations, like blindness or mobility impairments, or those with “invisible” disabilities, like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or mental illness, and many conditions in between.
Service dogs are not “pets.” They are as important to their handler’s day to day life, mobility, and ability to function as a wheelchair, crutches, or cane is to someone with a disability that warrants their use. Additionally, the ADA protects the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places not normally considered dog-friendly.
There are other types of assistance dogs, too. Emotional dogs and therapy dogs are more than just “pets” but not all are granted the same access rights as service dogs. If you’re unsure the rights and responsibilities of each type of assistance animal, compare the three below:
Is That a Real Service Dog? Developed by Orvis.