frequently asked questions



What is a service dog?

As defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

What is a disability?

A disability is a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Most people are familiar with the use of service dogs to assist blind and deaf individuals, however service dogs can also be trained to assist individuals with less obvious psychiatric disabilities such as bipolar disorder, depression, autism, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder.

What is the difference between a Psychiatric Service Dog (aka Mental Health Service Dog), a Therapy Dog, and an Emotional Support Dog?

“A Therapy Dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and in stressful situations, such as disaster areas.” – Wikipedia Though it is not a requirement, customarily these dogs are well trained enough to pass a Canine Good Citizen test.

An Emotional Support Dog provides therapeutic benefit to an elderly individual or individual with a disability. Their primary purpose is to provide affection, companionship, and provide motivation. The hallmarks of an Emotional Support Dog are trustworthiness and a friendly disposition. They should be well trained, although they need not be trained to perform tasks. There is no category for Emotional Support Dogs in the ADA, however, these dogs are covered under the Fair Housing Amendment Act or FHA and Amended Air Carrier Access Act or ACAA. Though it is not a requirement, customarily these dogs are well trained enough to pass a Canine Good Citizen test.

A Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD), also known as a Mental Health Service Dog, is a category of service dog that is individually trained to provide an individual assistance with a mental impairment that rises to the level of a disability. This is a form of service dog and is therefore guaranteed the privileges enjoyed by other service dogs, like the more well-known guide dogs. These privileges include accompanying their handler almost everywhere, including restaurants, airplanes, and schools. There are no formal, government sanctioned certification process for service dogs, though they are required to be trained to perform a minimum of three tasks for their handlers that directly assist with their disability. It is extremely important that psychiatric service dogs/mental health dogs be trained well enough to not be burdensome or disruptive to other members of the public or the facilities they are allowed to enter, as such behavior can create a backlash that poses a risk to all disabled individuals losing the privileges currently afforded to all service dogs. Psychiatric service dogs/mental health dogs have only gained widespread support and use fairly recently, yet much of the population is still unaware of their effectiveness and use. Individuals who do not train their PSDs well enough to ensure they are not disruptive or burdonsome to the general public make it much harder for psychiatric service dogs/mental health dogs to gain the widespread acceptance they deserve. Such acceptance is critically important to eliminating the social stigmas and negative responses that individuals with disabilities accompanied by service dogs to often are forced to deal with.

What are some tasks that service dogs can be trained to perform?

Service dogs can be trained to perform an amazing variety of tasks to assist individuals with disabilities, depending on their needs.

Please see our ‘About’ page for descriptions of the types of service dogs we place.

What can a service dog do for you?

We work closely with all individuals that we train service dogs for in order to ensure that we understand the individual’s needs and train the service dog accordingly. Our dogs are trained to meet each of our client’s specific needs. We specialize in training and providing medical-alert, psychiatric and mobility* service dogs.  (*Our mobility dogs are non-load-bearing. We do not put weight on our service dogs.)

How much will a service dog cost?

It is accepted in the service dog industry that the true cost of a service dog, to the organization that produces them, is up to $50,000.  However, this would be beyond the reach of so many, so Diggity Dogs are placed for a fee of $20,000. In order to make up the difference, our organization fundraises extensively annually and is supported by several generous major donors and organizations.

How can I recoup some of the cost of acquiring, training and caring for a service dog?

When doing your taxes, you can include the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal in your medical expenses. In general, this includes any costs, such as food, grooming, and veterinary care, incurred in maintaining the health and vitality of the service animal so that it may perform its duties.

For more information download this PDF from the IRS website.

How do I apply or find out more?

If you are interested in applying for a service dog or service dog training for an existing dog, please carefully follow the instructions on our Apply Page.

Where can I find out about the laws and regulations that apply to service dogs?

Learn more about the specific regulations pertaining to service dogs by clicking the following links.

U.S. Department of Justice ADA
Americans with Disabilities Act information, resources, and updates U.S. government web site containsa vast array of resources for individuals with disabilities, including information about health, housing, education, transportation, recreation, and employment. See Commonly Asked Questions about service dogs in places of business.

Changes to the rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which pertain to service animals (Section 35.136) took effect March 15, 2011.
Part 35 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
Part 36 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities

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