Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate? The Truth [2023]

which service dog registry is legitimate

Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate?

It’s an honest question, wondering which service dog registry is legitimate. The answer may surprise you, and it’s not really a question that can be easily answered. Service dog registries found online are generally not recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Air Carrier Access Act, or Fair Housing Act for people with service animals. In other words, no service dog registry may be legitimate.

*Some states, counties, schools and universities may have service dog registries that are legitimate. One of the purposes of these is to help find registered animals in the event of an emergency situation or disaster. These are optional, not mandatory. Requiring registration for service animals is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The other good thing to know is that service animals are not exempt from city or local dog licensing and registration requirements. In other words, if a place requires that all dogs be registered, service animals must be too. New York City is one place off the top of my head that I can think of that requires all dogs be registered as a dog. But that is mostly not what we are talking about in this article.

Mandatory registration of service animals is not permissible under the ADA.  However, as stated above, service animals are subject to the same licensing and vaccination rules that are applied to all dogs.

Americans with Disabilities Act – FAQ

Q21. My city / college offers a voluntary registry program for people with disabilities who use service animals and provides a special tag identifying the dogs as service animals. Is this legal under the ADA?

A. Yes.  Colleges and other entities, such as local governments, may offer voluntary registries.  Many communities maintain a voluntary registry that serves a public purpose, for example, to ensure that emergency staff know to look for service animals during an emergency evacuation process.  Some offer a benefit, such as a reduced dog license fee, for individuals who register their service animals.  Registries for purposes like this are permitted under the ADA.  An entity may not, however, require that a dog be registered as a service animal as a condition of being permitted in public places.  This would be a violation of the ADA.

Americans with Disabilities Act – FAQ
which service dog registry is legitimate
Multipurpose Service Dog @_service_pawzOpens in a new tab.

Why do service dog registries exist?

If service dog registries are not legitimate, then why do they exist? Your guess is as good as mine, but it is likely due to sad reasons: someone hiding behind a computer, shamelessly making money online from people who do not know any better.

Or worse, making money off people who believe that service dog registries are legitimate so that they can take non-service-dogs – their pets – to public places where pets aren’t allowed. In other words, more or less taking advantage of the fact that other people must live with disabilities.

service dog registrations
Multipurpose Service Dog @bri.and.piperOpens in a new tab.

ADA Service Dog Registration

Let’s see what the ADA has said about service dog registrations

Q17. Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?

A. No.  Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Americans with Disabilities Act FAQ Opens in a new tab.

We have a full ADA service dog laws article on our blog. Check it out to learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, and service dog laws as they pertain to public access rights in the U.S. Learn what businesses can ask, what the general public should know, and much more. Or check out the ADA website. Opens in a new tab.

service dog poodle
Tandem Medical Alert and Response @cricket_n_saraphenaOpens in a new tab.

Air Carrier Access Act – Service Animals on Aircraft

The ACAA is responsible for governing service dogs when they will be flying on aircraft with their handlers. When viewing the ACAA requirements for traveler with service dogs, it says nothing about service dog registrations.

What kind of documentation can be required of persons travelling with service animals?

Service Animals – U.S. Department of Transportation
Canadian service dog
Canadian Multipurpose Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelleOpens in a new tab.

Fair Housing Act Requirements of Assistance Animals

Under the Fair Housing Act, the definition of “Assistance animals” does include service animals as well as other animals – including animals other than dogs – used for emotional support reasons. The Fair Housing Act, similarly does not require “service dog registrations.”

What information may a provider seek when a reasonable accommodation or modification is requested?

A provider is entitled to obtain information that is necessary to evaluate if a requested reasonable accommodation or modification may be necessary because of a disability. If a person’s disability is obvious, readily apparent, or otherwise known to the provider, and if the need for the requested accommodation or modification is also readily apparent or known, then the provider may not request any additional information.

If the disability and/or the disability-related need for the requested accommodation or modification is not known or obvious, the provider may request only information that is necessary to evaluate the disability and/or disability-related need for the accommodation.

This information may be from the requesting individual, medical professional, a peer support group, a non-medical service agency, or a reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual’s disability.

In most cases, an individual’s medical records or detailed information about the nature of a person’s disability is not necessary for this inquiry and may be inappropriate.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Opens in a new tab.

How would a random “service dog registration” website online ever be considered a “reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual’s disability?” Oh yeah, they aren’t, and will never be.

service dog husky
“Kylie’s Lucy On Duty” @lucytheservicesibeOpens in a new tab.

Why don’t service animals need to be registered?

If there is so much “fraud” in the form of fake service dogs, and fake service dog registration websites, and people trying to pass off their pets as service dogs, then why aren’t real service dogs required to be registered? It’s a good question. But if you stop and think about it for a second, another way to phrase that would be, “How can we make people’s lives who are living with disabilities even more difficult?”

So just because there are “bad guys” in this world, it would be the people who genuinely need service animals because of disabilities that would need to ultimately pay the price? Literally the price of a registration, but also the price of the inconvenience of getting the registration, when their lives are already difficult enough?

Many people who need a service dog tend to train the animal themselves or with some help from a dog trainer. Sometimes, their “service dog prospect” or “service dog in training” – a dog they are training to become a service dog – doesn’t work out. This is called “washing” a service dog.

Sometimes this is due to health issues that the animal may have (issues with hips, heart, etc), or because of the animal’s inability to simply be a good candidate for a service dog (some dogs just aren’t meant to work). In that case, the person with the disability would need to get a new registration each time they got a new animal?

Do people need to get a driver’s license to drive a car? Yes. Are there still fake driver’s licenses out there? Yes. Forcing people with legitimate service animals to get an authentic registration is unfortunately not magically going to get rid of fakes and frauds.

Portland, Oregon explains

With the increasing visibility of service animals, confusion over emotional support animals, and conversation around fraud, there are lots of people wondering why service animal handlers don’t have to provide proof that their animal has been trained or registered as a service animal.

Requiring registration would also mean additional costs for both individuals and society, including financial, transportation, and administrative costs. And fraud could still be an issue.

And service animal handlers could potentially be stopped at every public place.

Would you want to show paperwork every time you went into a business? What if the paperwork itself were questioned? Or you forgot it? Or they didn’t ask but you knew that they could at any time? 

Besides being an ordeal just to run errands, history and current events shows us these kinds of rules are enforced in biased and harmful ways. Racism, classism, ethnocentrism, heterosexism, transphobia, Islamaphobia, and other forms of oppression would likely affect when and how documentation rules would be enforced. 

Requiring some form of registration or certification brings its own set of complex issues and is not a straightforward solution.

Service Animals – Portland, Oregon Government
service dog registry are not legit
𝙲𝚎𝚕𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚊𝚕 𝚋𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚎𝚛 𝚌𝚘𝚕𝚕𝚒𝚎𝚜 @celestialbordercolliesOpens in a new tab.

Conclusion

Which service dog registry is legitimate? Maybe none of them that you find online. There are a frightening amount of service dog registration websites online. Be aware of them and please share this article to get the word out as much as possible. Many people are not inherently evil, but a bit of education could go a long way to help the service dog community and avoid more people literally purchasing a piece of paper from the internet for no reason at all. Service dog registries are not legitimate in Canada, either, for anyone wondering.

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Sam Nelson

Sam is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

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