Service dogs cannot legally be denied access to any public place such as lodging, transportation or food service in restaurants. The only exceptions to this guarantee is if a service animal becomes destructive, aggressive, out of control or if they would fundamentally change the operations of the business, such as in a sterile environment in a hospital operating room, for instance. In relation to grocery stores, restaurants or cafeterias, or any place food is served, public health codes are superseded by service dog access laws.
Even though guide dogs for blind or visually impaired people have been in service for several decades, service dogs are only in use about the past twenty years. Their use is rapidly increasing for other disabilities. Service dogs perform many different tasks, including hearing alerts, seizure alerts, wheelchair and other mobility assistance and guide work.
The more common service dog breeds are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, but many other breeds are in service, from the large Mastiffs and Newfoundlands, down to toy breeds.
Approximately 180 organizations offer training for service dogs for people with disabilities. In addition, many independent private trainers offer the same service, as well as thousands of pet owners who have trained their own dogs in performing certain tasks. All of these operations have pros and cons. Many large organizations are non-profit and provide the service dogs free to individuals. However, they usually have waiting lists of up to five years. They thoroughly screen and train the dogs and generally help the recipient with follow-up assistance. Private trainers are usually more expensive, but they design a custom program to exactly meet the needs of the individual with disabilities. Not all dogs can become service dogs and some do not make it through the program. In addition, a disabled person may have to try out several dogs before the right one is found.
It is good to keep in mind that service dogs are not simply pets, although it will generally have a more enjoyable life than most pet dogs. One reason is, it will stay with the person it loves at all times and go anywhere its owner goes. Because service dogs are working dogs, they get better food and more exercise than many pet dogs. They also have the best medical care because the disabled person cannot afford to have their canine assistant become ill. Along with this, they are well adapted to working as most of the service dog breeds were bred originally as working dogs.