Rhode Island SPCA

We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves

Service Dogs and Therapy Animals

We often get questions from the public regarding finding a service dog, the feasibility of “certifying” a pet for service work for a family member, or animal assisted activities and therapy. While we do NOT offer training, we have provided the following resources to learn more.

Service Dogs

Here are some good informational links regarding the process. First of all, service dogs do not need “certification”. The organizations on the internet offering certifications are essentially providing you with a piece of paper about your dog, sight unseen, that will state your animal is a “certified” service dogs. This may be useful for people and organizations who don’t know any better. However, federal law prohibits discriminating against individuals or their service animals by asking anything other than the two questions detailed below.

Service Dog Regulations for the state of RI.

SECTION 40-9.1-2

§ 40-9.1-2 Personal assistance animals in public places. – Every disabled person has the right to be accompanied by a personal assistance animal, specially trained for that person in any housing accommodation or in any places listed in § 40-9.1-1(b) and (c) without being required to pay an extra charge for the personal assistance animal. Each disabled person using a personal assistance animal is solely liable for any damage done to persons, premises or facilities by the personal assistance animal.

These links are about organizations offering service dog training:

Pet Partners Service Animal Trainer Directory

You’ll find that they include:

Operation Delta Dogs in Chelmsford, MA (978) 835-4726

Faithful Friends Service Dogs in Ellington, CT (860) 926-4055

Service Dog Central’s How do I find a service dog program or trainer?

The Service Dog website has valuable information, including the following:

(Speaking of those certificates) 

“How can you tell a REAL service dog if ID cards and certificates are actually meaningless? The US Department of Justice permits businesses to ask two questions:

1. Is this a service dog required because of disability?
2. What is it trained to do to mitigate the disability?

Remember that “[a]nimals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals…” so a service animal must be specifically trained to DO something.” ~ quote from Service Dog website

Most of those certification companies sound rather official, and may also offer equally official looking badges and animal vests. You’ll see on their websites that you fill out a form, give them a credit card, and hey presto you’re all set and they send you the paperwork and an optional doggy vest, etc. MANY people do not know that this is superfluous so it looks good to those folks who may otherwise give you a hard time.

Bottom line, the only way to find or train a dog to become a legitimate service dog, is through professional training to perform a task or set of tasks specifically designed to help the disabled individual.

Therapy Animals

These are a totally different requirement. An animal who has been registered as a Therapy Pet can go into nursing homes, hospitals, etc. with his or her handler, in order to offer everything from simple company in Animal Assisted Activities to more specific Animal Assisted Therapy. Animals can include dogs, cats, small animals, etc.

The prerequisites for consideration are listed here.

If you are interested in registering your pet as a Therapy Animal, you will have to go through a brief online training process, an evaluation by a local dog trainer who also acts as a representative of Pet Partners, and registration paperwork once you and your pet have passed the evaluation as a team.

You will be able to find the Therapy Animal prerequisite (training video about the process), process and registration at the Pet Partners (formerly the Delta Society) web site here. Pet Partners has an exceptionally thorough web site which will answer your questions and walk you through the whole process.

Bringing furry joy.

Bringing furry love.