Service Dogs

Service Dog Rights and Responsibilities

Some people with severe visual impairments choose to navigate their environment with a guide or service dog, rather than the white cane. The choice as to which tool to use is an individual one. Federal civil rights laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA) fair housing act, Air Carrier Access Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as well as Ohio law provide protection for service dogs and their handlers. See the links below for more information.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as dogs that have been specially trained to help people with disabilities do tasks that they would otherwise not be able to do for themselves. Examples of such work or tasks include but are not limited to: guiding people who are blind; alerting people who are deaf to sounds (such as a smoke detector, doorbell or person calling their name); pulling a wheelchair; retrieving dropped objects; balance assistance or bracing; alerting to seizures, alergies, or changes in blood sugar levels and preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behavior. While dogs whose sole purpose is to provide emotional support or comfort are not recognized under this law, they are afforded protection under laws that have broader definitions of service animals, such as the Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act, and Ohio law.


According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs can accompany their handlers wherever the general public is allowed – to restaurants, stores, doctor’s appointments, ambulances, hospitals, campus dorms, court houses, taxis, airplanes, buses, trains, cruise ships etc! businesses that require a deposit or fee to be paid by customers with pets, must waive those charges for service animals. Service dog handlers can only be charged for damages that they or their animals cause if customers without disabilities would be charged for the same damage. Furthermore, allergies and/or fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using these specially trained dogs. Businesses, however, may ask handlers to remove their dogs if the dogs are not house broken and/or the handlers can not effectively control them.


Service dogs come in all breeds and sizes. Sometimes they may be wearing a harness or vest identifying them as such. But this attire or any other form of identification is not required. To find out if it really is a service dog, the law permits businesses to ask these two questions only:

1. Do you need the animal because of a disability?

2. What tasks related to your disability has the animal been trained to do?

Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to do its job.


Under Ohio law, when an application is made for registration of an assistance dog as defined by Ohio Revised Code 955.011, and the owner can demonstrate proof by certificate or other means that the dog is an assistance dog, its owner is then exempt from any registration fees that otherwise apply. Furthermore, the registration is permanent and no annual renewal is necessary as long as the dog is an assistance dog, and the owner is issued certificates and tags which are stamped “Ohio Assistance Dog – Permanent Registration” and which contain a registration number.


Interfering with a service animal’s ability to do its job is a punishable offense under Ohio Revised Code. Charges range from first degree misdemeanor to third degree felony, based on the crime committed. Violators of the Ohio Revised Code must also pay veterinary expenses along with the costs of retraining the service dog team, or training needed to enable the handler to work with a new dog.

For more, please visit:

Ohio Civil Rights – Service-animals

Ohio Revised Code – Registration of dogs

Ohio Revised Code – Lawriter – ORC – 2921.321 Assaulting or harassing police dog or horse or service dog.

ADA.GOV requirements – Service-animals<


The first special relationship between a dog and a blind person is lost in the mists of time, but perhaps the earliest recorded example is depicted in a first-century AD mural in the buried ruins of Roman Herculaneum. There are other records from Asia and Europe up to the Middle Ages, of dogs leading blind men. However, the first systematic attempt to train dogs to aid blind people came around 1780 at ‘Les Quinze-Vingts’ hospital for the blind in Paris. Shortly afterwards, in 1788, Josef Riesinger, a blind sieve-maker from Vienna, trained a Spitz so well that people often questioned whether he was blind. In 1819, Johann Wilhelm Klein, founder of the Institute for the Education of the Blind (Blinden-Erziehungs-Institut) in Vienna, mentioned the concept of the guide dog in his book on educating blind people (Lehrbuch zum Unterricht der Blinden) and described his method for training dogs. A Swiss man, Jakob Birrer, wrote in 1847 about his experiences of being guided over a period of five years by a dog he had specially trained.

The modern guide dog story, however, begins during the First World War, with thousands of soldiers returning from the Front blinded, often by poison gas. A German doctor, Dr Gerhard Stalling, got the idea of training dogs en masse to help those affected. While walking with a patient one day through the hospital grounds, he was called away urgently and left his dog with the patient as company. When he returned, he saw signs, from the way the dog was behaving, that it was looking after the blind patient.

Dr. Stalling started to explore ways of training dogs to become reliable guides and in August 1916 opened the world’s first guide dog school for the blind in Oldenburg. The school grew and many new branches opened in Bonn, Breslau, Dresden, Essen, Freiburg, Hamburg, Magdeburg, M�nster and Hannover, training up to 600 dogs a year. These schools provided dogs not only to ex-servicemen, but also to blind people in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, the United States, Canada and the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, due to a reduction in dog quality, the venture had to shut down in 1926, but by that time another large guide dog training centre had opened in Potsdam, near Berlin, which was proving to be highly successful. This school’s work broke new ground in the training of guide dogs and it was capable of accommodating around 100 dogs at a time and providing up to 12 fully-trained guide dogs a month.

Around this time, a wealthy American woman, Dorothy Harrison Eustis, was already training dogs for the army, police and customs service in Switzerland. It was to be Dorothy Eustis’s energy and expertise that would properly launch the guide dog movement internationally. Having heard about the Potsdam centre, Eustis was curious to study the school’s methods and spent several months there. She came away so impressed that she wrote an article about it for the Saturday Evening Post in America in October 1927. A blind American man, Morris Frank, heard about the article and bought a copy of the newspaper. He later said that the five cents the newspaper cost him “bought an article that was worth more than a million dollars to me. It changed my life”. He wrote to Eustis, telling her that he would very much like to help introduce guide dogs to the United States.

Taking up the challenge, Dorothy Eustis trained a dog, Buddy, and brought Frank over to Switzerland to learn how to work with the dog. Frank went back to the United States with what many believe to be America’s first guide dog. Eustis later established the Seeing Eye School in Morristown, New Jersey, in 1929, but before this went back to Switzerland to do further work there. Meanwhile, an Italian Guide Dog organisation, Sculola Nazionale Cani Guida per Ciechi was also established in 1928. The success of the United States experience encouraged Eustis to set up guide a dog school at Vevey in Switzerland in 1928. She called this school, like the one a year later in New Jersey, ‘L’Oeil qui Voit’, or The Seeing Eye (the name comes from the Old Testament of the Bible – ‘the hearing ear and the seeing eye’, Proverbs, XX, 12). The schools in Vevey, New Jersey and Italy were the first guide dog schools of the modern era that have survived the test of time.

In 1930, two British women, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond, heard about The Seeing Eye and contacted Dorothy Eustis, who sent over one of her trainers. In 1931, the first four British guide dogs completed their training and three years later The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was founded in the UK. Since then, guide dog schools have opened all round the world, and more open their doors every decade. Thousands of people have had their lives transformed by guide dogs, thanks to the organisations that provide them. The commitment of the people who work for these organisations, and the people who financially support them, is as deep today as it ever was, and the heirs of Dorothy Eustis’s legacy continue to work for the increased mobility, dignity and independence of blind and partially-sighted people the world over. The movement goes on.