Texas Tech University

Disability Awareness Week: Service and Assistance Animals

Amanda Castro-Crist

October 25, 2016

Service Dog

The Student Disabilities Services provides information about on-campus interactions with working animals and their handlers.

Service Dog

While service and assistance animals are welcome at Texas Tech University, there are regulations and rules of etiquette that should be followed not only by handlers, but by anyone who may interact with them and their animal. Regulations differ depending on if the animal is categorized under service or assistance.

A service animal is a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for someone who has a physical, sensory, psychiatric, medical, intellectual or other mental disability. Service animals are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a public access accommodation and are allowed anywhere the general public is allowed. 

A person who qualifies for an assistance animal, also known as an emotional support animal (ESA), will have a disability for which the animal provides emotional support. Assistance animals are not protected under the ADA and therefore are not allowed in university buildings.

Service Dog

Assistance animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act as an accommodation necessary and appropriate in the person's dwelling for emotional support. This allows them to be inside Texas Tech student housing buildings. While assistance animals are most often dogs, they can be other animals, including cats, as long as they comply with individual city and county animal ordinances regarding permitted animals.

Students, faculty and staff are more likely to come into contact with service animals as they attend classes and events or use campus facilities. Below are some additional tips from Student Disabilities Services for interacting with the animals and their handlers.

Do not pet or touch a service dog without asking permission first, even if it seems to be at rest.
You may not always be aware that a service dog is working, and petting or touching a dog could distract them or prevent them from assisting their human partner. If the person declines your request to interact with the dog, respect their decision.

Speak to the person, not the service dog.
Talking to, making eye contact with or whistling to a service dog can cause distractions that put the dog and person at risk. Do not call out to the dog or try to give it commands. 

Never feed a service dog.
It may be on a special diet and is most likely on a feeding schedule. In addition to distracting the dog, giving treats to a service dog can change their behavior in places like restaurants and stores and can strain the relationship between the dog and its person.

Do not make assumptions about a person's intelligence, feelings or capabilities.
Ask before trying to help – do not just grab a harness or leash. Be aware that while a service dog must be tethered at all times, not all service dogs wear a special vest or harness and federal regulations do not require the person to provide documented proof of their disability or the dog's training. A person's medical history is private. The only questions that can be asked are:

  • Do you have the dog because of a disability?
  • What is it trained to do?        

The service animal is trained to do a specific task or function. This must be an active task, not a passive function like keeping someone company. 

Don't be afraid of the dog.
Service dogs are bred and trained for the work they do. Though they can be different sizes and breeds, all dogs go through several stages of training and are tested to ensure they meet behavioral and physical requirements before being matched with their person.

For more information about these animals, visit the Student Disabilities Services website

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