Assistance Animals

Assistance Animals

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) recognizes that humans rely on animals in multiple capacities and, as such, recognizes some domestic animals as appropriate assistance animals. ARL recognizes “assistance animal” as an inclusive term for animals who help humans for disability, emotional support, or therapy purposes.

Service Animals

A service animal is an animal trained for specific task work in order to mitigate a person’s qualifying disability. The Animal Rescue League does not support the use of primates, exotic, or wild animals as service animals.

The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes a service animal as a dog individual or miniature horse individual trained to do work or perform a specific task or tasks for a human with a disability. The task or tasks performed by the dog or miniature horse must be directly related to the person’s disability. As such, the animal must be trained to perform non-species specific tasks such as leading a blind person, retrieving objects, pulling a wheelchair, alerting to sounds, responding to seizures, altering to impeding medical emergencies, and more. The animal may be trained by the person with the disability, and no identified certification class is required. The handler of the animal must care for and supervise the animal. This supervision includes, but is not limited to, toileting, feeding, grooming, and veterinary care. Service animals are not required to wear a vest, ID tag, any apparel, or a specific harness identifying them as service animals.

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the human with a disability to have access to public accommodations. Only two questions may be asked of a person who appears to have a service animal: (1) Is this a service animal?; and (2) What is the animal trained to do? An entity may deny access of an animal based on the behavior of the animal and the disruption of normal business. Entities may not ask the person with a disability to disclose or identify the disability and cannot require certification of the animal.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals provide emotional support to owners. These animals may include dogs, cats, or other species, and they are not required to undergo specialized training. Unlike a service animal, emotional support animals do not need to be trained to perform a specific task. Emotional support animals are not considered to be service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As such, a person with emotional support needs cannot claim that an emotional support animal is required to enter a place of public accommodation. Under the Fair Housing Act and the DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act, a human individual may have the right to reside in housing or be accompanied by an emotional support animal. Documentation from a medical professional is required in order to be accompanied by an emotional support animal in certain situations and locations. The medical documentation does not allow for public access accommodations guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Therapy Animals

Therapy animals provide therapeutic support to non-owners. Often, these animals visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and similar settings, and they are encouraged to be touched and socialized while they are working. They are granted permission to visit these institutions by these institutions.  Therapy animals do not need to be trained to perform a specific task. As such, therapy animals are not considered to be service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act because they have not been trained to perform a specific task for the owner. Absent a disability need or emotional support need, owners of a therapy animal are not entitled to reside with a therapy animal in housing under the Fair Housing Act.

The Animal Rescue League will:

  • Support and encourage education of persons seeking to obtain and handle an assistance (service, emotional support, or therapy) animal;
  • Support measures for assistance animals to become housed or cared for as a companion or domestic animals after retirement;
  • Encourage that assistance animals receive proper training, if necessary and proper care for the animal;
  • Support and encourage the use of shelter and rescue animals as assistance animals, if the animal is the appropriate animal for the work;
  • Encourage public awareness of the issues involved with assistance animals; and
  • Take advocacy steps and measures to support or oppose laws or measures based upon the best interest of assistance animals or prospective assistance animals.