Service Dog Advocacy


Ever feel like the world’s far from perfect—but then you realize you can make a big difference with a little help? Joining us in a service dog advocacy campaign is an empowering and surprisingly effective way to make that difference!

This page contains a record of PSDP’s service dog advocacy work, including current campaigns to improve the world—or to stop it from being made worse. This is where *you* can have a real impact as an individual!

Details about PSDP’s coalition-based advocacy actions for organizations are in our USAUSA section. You can read about our community taking the initiative in our Community Member Spotlight. You can learn to use your particular talents and interests to be a better advocate—select from a menu of options in our Easy advocacy how-to.

For some service dog advocacy issues, you can click on the underlined title to see more about that issue (some titles may link to a video).

 

Third AODA review

September 11–November 2, 2018: In the 2014 second review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), we told the reviewer what was needed to get the service dog regulations up to snuff. Nothing changed. The third review is underway with a different reviewer, so we are pushing for the same needed improvements.

How to help…

Please express your support for our comment (or whatever you think of it) by November 2nd. You don’t have to be an Ontarian to support fair laws in North America. Here’s the link to make a quick comment:

http://www.aodareview2018.ca/how-to-participate/provide-feedback/

Help us encourage laws that make sense. Sample message:

I support PSDP’s suggestions about service dogs. Please clarify conditions under which a misbehaving service dog may and may not be excluded, define “service dog” without confusion about paperwork/gear in the definition, and specify that businesses can’t charge service dog users extra without damage to property.

 

Federal interagency “SESA” Workgroup feedback

August 1, 2018: In late July, a member of a federal interagency Disability Policy Group reached out to us about a July 31 meeting at the US Access Board. The meeting was a first go at gathering stakeholder feedback for the group’s new Service and Emotional Support Animal (SESA) Workgroup. The workgroup’s purpose is not necessarily to alter regulations or even regulatory guidance, but to consider other ways to provide beneficial products or services to federal agencies and the general public. Such products might include an informational website or posters, and services might include trainings.

In addition to rushing up to Washington, DC to take advantage of the meeting’s opportunities for collaboration, afterward we provided our stakeholder feedback to members of the workgroup. Our advice may help any policymaker thinking about tilling the disability rights landscape where service dogs are concerned; examining this advice would likewise be rewarding for our fellow advocates.

 

A small, brown and white short-haired dog with floppily perked ears looks directly at the camera with earnest, wide eyes. Only the eye area is in focus and the highlights seem to glow. The dog wears a green bandana and a red harness.

AKC takeover of “PAT”

July 28, 2018–present: The American Kennel Club (AKC) didn’t listen to us when we warned their program change would be bad for service dog handlers (and others). Click above to learn more and take a few seconds to sign the petition so AKC realizes what their responsibility is to the public.

 

Graphic with text. Picture: With a cloud-like border, a tan Italian Greyhound sits on gray shag carpet and alertly looks at the camera with flopped-over, but perked ears. A mostly green Psychiatric Service Dog Partners logo is on the chair to the dog's right. Text: Ready to FETCH NEW service dog FLIGHT LAWS?

Flight law ANPRM comment 

June 26, 2018–July 9, 2018: The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to update the service animal flight regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The current step is an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). DOT asks a lot of questions in the ANPRM, so we gave a lot of answers in PSDP’s ANPRM submission.

How to help…

Please express your support for our comment (or whatever you think of it) by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 9th. This is one of the most important series of advocacy actions this decade, so get involved if you can! Here’s the link:

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOT-OST-2018-0068-1157

Sample starter message you could copy & paste:

I support regulations that come from good reasoning, value data over anecdotes, and respect human rights. PSDP’s comment is a great example.

It’s always best if you can personalize a message, but copying and pasting our starter message is way better than doing nothing.

 

Delta pit bull service animal ban

June 26, 2018: Delta announced a ban on pit bull-type dogs as service animals on its flights. The United States Department of Transportation says that’s not okay.

 

ACAA interim enforcement priorities comment

May 23, 2018–June 7, 2018: The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to update the service animal flight regulations. Before then, DOT is figuring out how to enforce the current regulations by putting out a Statement of Interim Enforcement Priorities for comment. It looks like DOT wants to allow more burdens on psychiatric service dog users without any evidence that this is needed or would be helpful.

How to help…

After we submitted our USAUSA Flight Access Survey Report to DOT to provide evidence of how the travel barriers hurt people with disabilities, we submitted our Enforcement Priorities Comment in the docket. Please express your support of our submission (or whatever you think of it) by Thursday, June 7th here:

https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=DOT-OST-2018-0067-0019

Sample message you could copy & paste:

PSDP has the experience, data, and fair-minded approach to find practical solutions. Please listen to PSDP and don’t allow airlines to add more burdens to people with disabilities when they can’t justify the discrimination.

It’s always great if you can personalize a message, but copying and pasting is way better than doing nothing.

 

Graphic with text. Black and white picture of service dog teams looking at the text in the middle, USAUSA paw-button logo in bottom right. Text: Do you use a SERVICE ANIMAL or ESA? Don't just stand there—take the flight access survey! DOT needs to know how updates would impact you.

USAUSA Flight Access Survey

April 23rd, 2018–May 22, 2018: PSDP and our allies through the USAUSA coalition have been in contact with US Department of Transportation (DOT) officials about the human rights violations inherent in the current Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) service animal regulations and even worse, the additions to these violations in 2018 through policy updates by airlines such as Delta, United, and Alaska. DOT expressed the need for data in order to update the regulations or guidance in a way we believe justice demands.

To meet this need, USAUSA is running a survey for everyone with a disability who uses a service animal of any kind or an emotional support animal (ESA). The survey covers a breadth of issues of interest to DOT and the service animal community, with an emphasis on understanding how the community may be impacted by recent developments DOT is letting play out.

How to help…

We need you to help the community by taking this flight access survey and/or by sharing the link. Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 is the closing date for the survey.

https://www.psychdogpartners.org/usausa/flight-access-survey

This survey is for you if you use an animal to assist with your disability and you may fly into, out of, or within the United States. This includes service animal users (including guide dog users, psychiatric service dog users, etc.) and emotional support animal (ESA) users.

Update, May 22, 2018: USAUSA has now published its 2018 Flight Access Survey Report in PDF and submitted it to DOT under two relevant open dockets. Our comment in the first docket and our comment in the second docket each contain both a PDF version and a docx version of our report to increase accessibility for screenreaders.

These dockets are accepting comments for approximately the next 15 and 45 days, respectively. They contain DOT’s Interim Statement of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals and Traveling by Air with Service Animals Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).

https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=DOT-OST-2018-0067

https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=DOT-OST-2018-0068

Our advocacy will continue with comments targeted to DOT’s documents, taking into consideration the survey results.

 


Video: Airline disability discrimination: Is this legal?

Delta Air Lines’ Planned Service Animal Policies

January 19, 2018–present: PSDP issued a press release on Delta Air Lines’ planned service animal policies, which need to better include human rights concerns in the balance with safety concerns.

How to help…

We welcome and encourage individuals to read our press release and write in to Delta. Our USAUSA coalition is soliciting organizational support for the sentiments expressed by PSDP in its press release. Visit the press release page for more information on this.

https://www.psychdogpartners.org/press-releases/delta-planned-service-animal-policy-leaves-room-improvement

Update, February 1, 2018: United Airlines announced a plan to change United’s current policy to increase the restrictions on emotional support animal  (ESA) users. Unfortunately, it turns out they meant to include psychiatric service animal users, too. Please take a minute to write a brief note to United to let them know what you think.

Update, February 22, 2018: Delta updated its planned policies to remain legal. This update does not display progress, but instead further entrenches stigma. Read our new press release on this, which also includes the article by Brad Morris titled, “Flying with a disability: More barriers for the marginalized?” Tell Delta if you’re as upset about this ordeal as we are.

Update, February 28, 2018: In “Potential PR nightmare: how airlines choose to discriminate“, our Director of Government Relations explains how in 2018 airlines are still choosing to violate civil rights by systematically discriminating against people with mental health disabilities. Airlines risk a PR nightmare with this choice.

 

What a guide dog user has learned about other service dogs

February 1, 2018: With the help of Jenine Stanley, a longtime guide dog user and service dog advocate, PSDP aims to dissolve prejudice and build bridges within the service dog community. PSDP’s Brad Morris interviews Jenine in the video embedded just below.

How to help…

Share this video and learn its lessons. We’re convinced most people in the community just need to leave their echo chambers to have a better understanding and appreciation of their service dog community peers. Old, divisive narratives may serve someone’s interests, but it’s usually not the people with disabilities’. Of course, the same narratives exist outside the community, so share this interview far and wide and be willing to politely educate if you can!

 

Canada National Service Dog Standard

June, 2017–July 14, 2017: North American rules affect all of us. PSDP & USAUSA strive to protect Canadians and prospective visitors from invasive government overreach in the form of a detailed national standard. This standard would violate individuals’ disability rights and harm programs and trainers.

How to help…

Follow the linked title above to see details about the situation and to read our response. We are soliciting organization sign-ons through June 21st, and then we will need the supportive comments of individuals to make our voices heard. Let’s stand up for each other!

Update, June 22nd, 2017: Some groups needed more time to approve a sign-on, so we’ve extended the group sign-on deadline to Friday, June 23rd.

Update, June 26th–July 14th, 2017: With the sign-on support of 14 other organizations, we submitted our comment. Now is the time for individuals to help! To do your part, you can use the comment form linked just below to simply refer to USAUSA’s comment and let them know you support it. It can take less than a minute, even if you personalize your message (recommended). Whether you’re a Canadian, a prospective tourist, or simply a world citizen concerned with disability rights, they need to hear your voice!

http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/ongc-cgsb/programme-program/normes-standards/notification/comment-secret-eng.html

Update, March 27th, 2018: Success! At least for now, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) has dropped its standard development process.

 

Canadian Accessibility Legislation

July 2016–February 28th, 2017: Currently, Canadian access laws are quite a patchwork on a lot of issues—legal rights vary from province to province. Canada is gathering input to inform prospective nationwide accessibility laws of limited scope.

How to help…

There were two ways to help before the February 28th, 2017 deadline. (1) Email the Office for Disability Issues. Let them know your concerns, and feel free to let them know you support PSDP’s letter. (2) Take the survey. It is not specific to service dogs and it’s lengthy, but you might learn something and help shape the accessibility landscape in Canada. Our Director of Government Relations’ personal survey responses are available through Google, which may help (these answers are not made on PSDP’s behalf).

 

U.S. Supreme Court Amicus Brief

August 29th, 2016: PSDP is doing its part to educate the highest court in the land about service dogs in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools. Other service dog groups have joined us in a “friend of the court” brief, submitted on our behalf by one of our advisors, attorney John Ensminger.

The school system in this case is doubly in the wrong. First, they think a service dog should be treated like a lesson plan they can expertly modify, rather than like a wheelchair they can’t. Second, they think it’s okay to give a free pass to guide dog users, but to put up barriers for any other type of service dog user. These things are not okay, and they are worth fighting against.

Our hope is that at least one Justice will positively reference our brief in a ruling for the Frys. This could make it so future case law developments would clarify that the term “guide dog” in legacy laws and policies should be interpreted simply as “service dog”. Success for our arguments would also mean that school systems will have a harder time putting up years-wasting administrative obstacles when a child reasonably needs the assistance of a service dog today.

How to help…

We sincerely appreciate your moral and financial support. This kind of effort takes a lot of both!

Update, November 4th, 2016: The case was argued on October 31st and we’re waiting for a ruling. The transcript is now available.

Update, February 23rd, 2017: The court vacated and remanded the case. What’s really important for us is that the justices provided clear criteria for future cases in the syllabus of their decision:

One clue to the gravamen of a complaint can come from asking a pair of hypothetical questions. First, could the plaintiff have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school? Second, could an adult at the school have pressed essentially the same grievance? When the answer to those questions is yes, a complaint that does not expressly allege the denial of a FAPE [free appropriate public education] is also unlikely to be truly about that subject. But when the answer is no, then the complaint probably does concern a FAPE. 

If attorneys in future cases involving service dogs in schools are careful to avoid seeking relief under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), gaining access with a service dog should be a more straightforward matter of access under the ADA and §504. This means those attempting to gain access should not have to wade through an administrivial swamp of IDEA remedies, which can be (and have been) used to stymie access for years for some individuals.

PSDP is proud to be a part of this historic Supreme Court decision. We are sincerely grateful to John Ensminger for putting together our amicus brief.

 

ACAA Rulemaking Comment

December 23rd, 2015–February 23, 2017: The Department of Transportation is deciding how best to update the airline access laws for people with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act/ACAA regulations currently discriminate against people with psychiatric disabilities in a blatant way. We’re looking to represent a fair-minded, well-reasoned approach in the coming rulemaking.

How to help…

Update, January 22nd, 2016: Thanks to community members who participated in saying we can represent your interest in equal rights among the service dog community. We’re in touch with the convenor, and we’ll have more opportunities in the future for your involvement! Details will be available through the page linked to from the underlined title above.

Update, January 30th, 2016: Our ACAA committee created a proposal to meet everyone’s needs. Now we need your input (by Feb. 4th), so check it out then share your thoughts!

Update, February 5th, 2016: We’re using our community’s excellent feedback and overwhelming support and working to get other stakeholder groups on board with our cooperative proposal. We’ll let you know when you can make another difference in the process!

Update, February 22nd, 2016: The convener issued his report, and he said the service animal issues are among the most promising for a Reg Neg.

Update, March 7th, 2016: We now have an article that explains the thinking and justifications that led to our proposal:

Design Challenges and Solutions for Service Animal Access under the ACAA: A Justificatory Guide for Regulators and Stakeholders

Update, March 21st, 2016: After meeting with several national disability advocacy groups in Washington, DC, we added an addendum to the article linked above (the latest version is available through that link). This addendum lays to rest concerns prospective supporters may have about our proposal. Thanks to all the groups that gave us valuable feedback!

Update, April 7th, 2016: The Reg Neg is happening, and we submitted a letter nominating our Director of Government Relations to represent service animal user advocates!

Update, April 28th, 2016: Our Director of Government Relations will be on the ACAA ACCESS Advisory Committee. Success!

Update, November 29th, 2016: The Reg Neg meetings are over, with no consensus report on service animals. However, there was a lot that many parties could agree on, so under the heading of “United Service Animal Users, Supporters, and Advocates” (USAUSA), Brad Morris and Jenine Stanley informed DOT of that support for detailed compromise positions. This public comment is expected to guide the rulemaking process, and community members are welcome to write in with support or wait for our NPRM comment.

Update, December 13th, 2016: Between December 7th and 10th, we held a survey at DOT’s request. DOT’s consultant, Econometrica, sought information regarding the burdens associated with the current regulations’ medical documentation requirement. The results are presented in our report to DOT, which is posted as a public comment in the Reg Neg docket.

Update, February 23rd, 2017: At the invitation of the Canadian Transportation Agency, we publicly submitted our documents for consideration in Canada’s prospective regulation update.

 

Service Dog Registry (ActiveDogs)

May 2nd, 2016–present: Service dog IDs and service dog registries harm our community. Our open letter to ActiveDogs.com explains why, asking them to at least take down the recently installed registry.

How to help

We’re giving ActiveDogs time to respond to our open letter. We are hopeful for a positive reply, but if they need to hear from their prospective customers to understand the impact of our community’s dissatisfaction, we will update you here and ask for your help!

Update, May 6th, 2016: ActiveDogs has not been active in replying to us. Please click on the underlined headline above to see what you can do!

 

For older/inactive advocacy actions, see our advocacy archive.