Tyger_Gal asked in PetsOther - Pets · 1 decade ago

Do service animals have to be dogs?

I have depression and high anxiety (Doctor approved), and I was thinking about getting a service animal for it. But do they have to be dogs? How are service animals trained and approved? Are they approved by the state or can I just have a doctor's note?

My fiancé and I were thinking about getting sugar gliders, because he feels they'd be perfect for my mental illnesses (and a loving pet for him too). They're small, usually sweet and calm, are trained to stay on your shoulder/in pocket, and they give affection by the bucket-full. They'd be easy to take into stores, so I wouldn't be having little panic attacks in the store. Apparently people take them everywhere anyway, but I'd feel less anxious about bringing them in a store if I could just whip out a piece of paper that says they're allowed in the store. Do you think sugar gliders could be approved even though they're an exotic animal? Or am I thinking ridiculously?

11 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    On March 15, 2011 the ADA definition of service animal changes. As of March 15 (so, 2 weeks from now) service animals are DOGS ONLY with an exception for allowing miniature horses in most circumstances.

    To have a service dog, there things must be true:

    1) You must be disabled per the ADA. This means that you must have a medical, physical, or psychiatric condition that significantly negative impacts one or more major life activity. Only 25% of people with a psychiatric condition are disabled by it.

    2) The dog must be trained to actively mitigate the disability. This means the dog must do something. Providing comfort does not count. A dog that makes you feel better just by being there does not count.

    3) Th dog must be trained to behave properly in public. This is the hardest and longest part of service dog training.

    It takes 18 mo - 2 years to train a service dog. Anyone can legally train a service dog, but whether or not you have public access rights with a dog in training depends on your state as service dogs in training are not covered under the ADA.

    So, in short...no, you can not have a sugar glider service animal.

    I included the ada fact sheet on the law change...



    Joan, the three task requirement is an ADI requirement, not an ADA requirement. ADI is a program, not a law. Under the law, they must only do one task OR work.

    ETA 2: RC: What state are you in? Most states already define a service animal as a dog. Those that don't are starting to rewrite their definitions to bring them in line with the ADA. It would be foolish to recommend someone get a service animal that they do not have federal protection with, can't cross state lines with, and likely won't have rights within their home state in for much longer.

    ETA 3: RC: The ADA is pretty clear. Is says that a service animal must be individually trained to do tasks or work. Seizure alert falls under the work category. I know...I have a seizure alert dog. The ability to alert is not trainable, that is true. However the manner in which the dog alerts (what they do) is trained, therefore it is trained work. There are, however, a segment of the service animal community who believes that alert dogs aren't valid.

    Source(s): I am disabled and have a service dog http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/factsheets/title3_fact...
  • Sara
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    I know of people who have sugar gliders as service animals.

    That said, I am not sure that they're really what you're looking for... Let me go through the points you mentioned..

    1. They're small. Yes, this is true. They're very tiny.

    2. They're usually sweet and calm -- this is not as true. In the beginning, sugar gliders can be extremely difficult. This will crab, and many will bite, until they trust you. Now the bonding/trusting thing can take months, and is never guaranteed. I know someone who has three sugar gliders -- two are extremely bonded with her, but the third doesn't care for her despite the fact that she has had him for over 2 years and spends much of her time with him.

    3. They're trained to sit on your shoulder/in pocket. Not quite -- sugar gliders are not trainable. Some will sleep in your pocket happily, but others do not care for it. Also, some will sit on your shoulder, others will not -- it all depends on the individual glider. There is no guarantee.

    4. They give affection by the bucket-full. -- erm, I guess that would depend on the individual glider, as well.

    I have two sugar gliders, and they're fantastic -- but make sure you consider everything before getting them.


  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Starting 3/15/11 only dogs can be service animals except mini horses under certain conditions.

    Emotional Support or therapy animals are not protected nor have the same rights as a "trained service dog" does. To be a service dog, the dog must perform at least 3 tasks in assisting their owner. Just holding an animal to be feel better is not covered.

    Link to the law:


  • 5 years ago

    I'm doing basic obedience right now. My trainer hasn't once handled my dog. He has shown me how to handle my dog by using his own dog but that's about it. The reasoning is that I need to learn how to do these basic corrections and what not myself. Learn more https://tr.im/chP70

    I have never considered sending my dog away for training. I guess I haven't found that much of a problem with him to even think about it.

    Again, it may also have to do with the level of training you are looking for etc. No idea lol. I'm not a trainer. I think a first time dog owner needs to learn simple commands and how to handle their dog themselves as well.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I have SUGAR GLIDER Service Animal's Currently. They much like Seizure Alert DOGS have an innate learned ability to respond and alert to STRESS like Anxiety Levels Rising Up to THE PANIC ATTACK, due to PTSD. Mine will ALERT BARK Ahead of time while I have some control over myself and it allows me to excuse myself from THE SITUATION AT HAND and then I can decide if I want to RIDE IT OUT or TAKE SOME MEDICATION. Normally I ride it out, because I do not like th medication side effects of PSYCHOTROPIC DRUGS. If they are trained properly then for the most part they are the UNSEEN SERVICE ANIMAL in PUBLIC.


    When it comes to actually enforcing the laws of the land, Sugar Gliders according to the USDA Inspection Sheet are enforced as Pocket Pets. Now another thing to think of is what is your STATE LAW. For example Federal ADA has changed but States Have Not.

    Then there is ACAA Service Animal Definition which recognizes EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS. Then there is the FHA now when we talk FHA I also want to mention FEMA IN A DISASTER WHEN THE AREA BECOMES A FEMA DISASTER ALL SHELTERS AND ALL PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS MUST OBEY THE FHA SERVICE ANIMAL DEFINITION WHILE FEMA IS IN CHARGE. This is going to be messy after March 15th 2011 because of all the ignorant people in this world who do not know ALL THE LAWS of the LAND like WE ARE EXPECTED TO KNOW. IGNORANCE IS NO DEFENSE REMEMBER!

    For all of those who appear to be against using Sugar Gliders as Service Animals. It will be interesting to see what the Federal Court Judge will decide about my Sugar Glider Service Animal Case See first source link.

    For all you DRILLING TRAIN TASK PEOPLE OUT HERE, Tell me how to Train a Pre-Seizure Alert Dog to alert ahead of time to a Seizure? A trainer would have to be able to detect pre-seizure in order to teach the dog to alert sometimes minutes up to an hour ahead of time? Doctors with modern equipment attached to you can not even do that. It is an INNATE LEARNED TASK. NOT TRAINABLE.

  • 1 decade ago

    DONT GET SUGAR GLIDERS they smell no matter what they need at lest 3 hours of attention they bark if there bored around 3-6 in the morning you have to make there food i have had them all my life i have had over ten i only have 2 at the moment trust me they will make you worse and moody also they will pee if you wake them up in the store i took mine to school and they did it and just because they can be tough to stay on your shoulder docent mean there going to mine sure dont and there "bonded with me"

  • 1 decade ago

    a service animal has to actually be TRAINED to do something that assists with your disability.

    And yes, there were recent changes to the laws as well.. in many states only DOGS are accepted as service animals.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    No they can be just about any animal dog,cat, rabbit etc.

    I do not have any experience with sugar gliders and have never even seem one in person but i've heard they could probably make good service animals. But this may be stressful for the animal so you have to be careful. Dogs or cats are great for the job because they want to please people. Well, more dogs thatn cats but cats are relaxed and calm and love the affection.

    Whatever your choice, good luck!

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Nope, they don't have to be dogs.

    In fact, they have been pigs, cats, and even rabbits!

    A sugar glider, I don't really know... If you don't want a dog, I would just suggest the 3 I put on there.

    I have never seen a pig, or a cat, not even a rabbit being a service pet, but I've heard of it.

    Hope this helps :)

    Source(s): Service Animal Research.
  • 1 decade ago

    i would say its possible but not very likely try asking your doctor

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