An ADA service dog must receive training to perform a specific task that assists the handler with his physical or mental disability, according to the Americans with Disabilities website. Animals that only provide emotional support do not qualify.
A service dog does not require special certification or paperwork, but the handler must have a qualifying disability. This disability can be physical, such as blindness or paralysis, or mental, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the ADA website. The task the dog performs must also be a trained behavior, not a naturally occurring one.
A service dog must also meet some basic behavioral and grooming requirements, according to the ADA website. A service dog must be well-behaved and under the control of its handler. Its access rights are revocable if it causes a disruption by excessive barking, jumping on other people, or similar behavioral issues. Although shedding and pet allergies are not a reason to deny access to service dogs, the dogs must meet basic standards of cleanliness.
Assistance animals fit into a broader category and receive certain special rights, but they do not have full public access. Assistance animals that do not qualify as service dogs are often called emotional support animals, according to Nolo. Emotional support animals have special rights when it comes to housing and public transportation but not access to businesses and some other public spaces that do not normally allow dogs.