Navigating Questions and Comments About Your Emotional Service Dog

It isn’t uncommon for those with emotional service animals to be met with questions and comments. Being asked these questions can be anything from annoying to upsetting, and answering them in the moment can be hard.

Below, we’ll list common questions and comments and provide a few examples of answers. While you may not want to use them word-for-word, they can guide you in developing answers to keep in mind for future situations. Additionally, while some answers we provide are specific, it’s perfectly reasonable to keep your answers to:

  • Yes
  • No
  • I do not have to answer that.
  • That’s personal, and I’d prefer not to discuss it.

How to Respond to Questions and Comments About Your Service Dog

Comments about emotional service dogs can range from genuine curiosity to questions about their legitimacy. Some common questions and comments people may encounter are:

  • I didn’t think your dog’s breed could be a service dog – is your dog really a service dog?
  • I need to be cheered up. Can I borrow your service dog?
  • Why doesn’t your dog have a vest, doesn’t it have to?

Many of these are rooted in common misconceptions, and how you respond is based on your comfort. Some responses to keep in mind are:

  • Yes, my dog is a trained service animal. Breed doesn’t determine a dog’s ability to be a service animal.
  • My service dog is not available to provide emotional support to others. Do you want help finding information about emotional service dog training?
  • While some service dogs wear vests for identification, it’s not legally required. My dog is trained to assist me, regardless of what it’s wearing.

Addressing Questions and Comments About Your Need for a Service Dog

Sometimes, the handler will be asked questions or be met with comments about their need for an emotional service dog. While every situation is different, here are some typical questions and comments that people may run into:

  • Why do you have a service dog?
  • I thought only veterans needed service dogs.
  • Why do you need a service dog if you look fine?

These questions can feel invalidating, which can often lead to feeling pressured. For questions about your need for an emotional service animal, consider answers such as:

  • It’s not appropriate to question someone’s need for a service animal.
  • Anyone can have conditions that are helped by a service dog.
  • My service dog helps me manage tasks that might not be apparent to others.

What to Do If You’re Asked to Verify Your Service Dog

If you are seeking housing, employment, or going to a restaurant or venue, you should be prepared for questions or comments such as “I need to see verification to let your dog in here,” or “We don’t allow any dogs in the building.” In situations like these, it is important to be direct:

  • Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses cannot ask for documentation of need, medical information, or paperwork for service dogs.
  • According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords must make a reasonable accommodation to allow service animals even if the lease prohibits pets.

If you are denied entry or housing due to your service dog, even after expressing it is your legal right, it’s important to connect with an expert to work through your situation.

Emotional Service Dog Training and Advocacy

At Fetch and More, we understand that having a psychiatric service dog is a personal and sometimes misunderstood aspect of daily life. If you encounter situations that feel discriminatory, know that you have rights. At Fetch and More, our head trainer, John Bellocchio, is an expert in protecting and advocating for your rights. In addition to our ADA advocacy, we offer virtual training services to provide accessible emotional service dog and house training services. Contact us today to discuss your needs and learn more!

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