If you are already part of the service dog “community”, you might already be familiar with the issue around the term “certified”. Indeed, this term can be source of confusion and problem. However, we at Atlas Assistance Dogs are proud to describe the dogs and clients who have passed their Public Access Test as certified and provide ID cards, vests, and informational/educational business cards for our clients to show people who might challenge the validity of their service dogs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does NOT require any type of official certification, documentation or even identifiable vest for a service dog to be “valid”. It does seem however like laws are slowly moving towards a national testing and certification standard for service dogs. This would definitely help with the influx of “fake” service dog teams out there as well as the everyday challenges service dog handlers face.
Unfortunately, many businesses do not know that the law does not require certifications and identification papers. This means that many people with legitimate service dogs get challenged when attempting to enter public spaces. Many organizations, us included, do provide ID cards for their trained dogs. However, because you do not necessarily have to go through a specific program or organization to train your service dog, this has been source of debate and even anger for many service dog handlers who have excellently self-trained.
So Why Do We Certify?
Atlas Assistance Dogs is in the process of applying to become a member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). ADI is a highly accredited world-wide coalition of non-profit assistance dog organizations that have met specific national and international standards. Being certified by an organization recognized by ADI can give you as a dog handler the confidence that you and your dog have passed the rigorous ADI and Atlas Assistance Dogs standards, and are fully prepared to take on the world.
Atlas Assistance Dogs trainers ensure that their clients are prepared to meet ADI criteria and successfully pass their Public Access Test (PAT) no matter the dog breed or person’s disability. This test allows handler and dog to demonstrate that they can function safely and appropriately in all public settings.
Our certification includes an identification card as well as an official Atlas Assistance Dog vest. Though there is no legal obligation to ever show ID cards to prove the validity of your service dog, these can be tools to help educate the public and ensure that your rights are met in whatever way is most comfortable. Atlas clients will also be receiving business cards with information about the ADA and general service dog information which they will be able to hand out if confronted.