Position Statement

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Service Animals

We do not support the use of primate, wildlife or exotic animals as service animals

American Humane supports the U.S. Department of Justice’s service animal guidelines published in March 2011 outlining:

“Service animal as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”

We support the use of other kinds of domesticated animals as service animals when specifically prescribed by a medical professional. We do not support the use of primate, wildlife or exotic animals as service animals.

American Humane advocates the use of service dogs in assisting individuals with disabilities. We recommend that a health care provider provide a medical prescription for the service animal that defines what precise “functions/ behaviors” the dog will provide to the individual, that the service dog is trained using humane methods to provide those functions and that the dog is professionally evaluated for the capability to perform that assistance in a manner safe for both the service dog and its handler. As with all companion animals, we advocate for the responsible and humane care and well-being of the service dog by its trainers and handlers throughout its working life and into retirement.