Service Dog Registration Of America

What Does a Service Dog Certificate Look Like?


Service dog registration is a bit of a minefield because there’s no legal requirement to register a canine in the USA or central registry. 

So finding a blueprint for what a service dog certificate looks like can be tricky. 

If you’re worried about doing the wrong thing when registering your canine companion, then this article’s here to help you understand the current law, plus where you can obtain a legitimate service dog certificate.

What Does a Legitimate Service Dog Certificate Look Like?

A service dog registration certificate confirms the name of the animal, the name of the owner, and the date that registration started. Owners can have a personalized digital certificate which is downloaded, or a physical copy.

Are There Laws Regarding Service Dogs and Their Certification?

Service dogs are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as canines trained to perform a specific task to benefit a person with a disability. 

The key part of this status is the reference to training which is quite distinct from an Emotional Support Animal or ESA. Training and work must be directly related to the individual’s disability.

Training does not have to be undertaken by a professional organization  - it can be carried out by the owner or handler.

Obvious candidates include guide dogs for visually impaired people, but service dogs can also support many types of disabilities, including sensory, intellectual, psychiatric, or other mental disabilities.

Some dogs are trained to lessen the effects of psychiatric episodes. The disability must meet the definitions contained within the ADA for the user to qualify for a legitimate service dog.

It's not a legal requirement to register a service dog, but many people choose to do so to legitimize their companion’s status and obtain proper certification. It can make life easier, especially if your disability is not physical or easily identifiable.

Under the provisions of the ADA, it is prohibited for someone to ask for dog papers or certification. Public and private businesses are not allowed to discriminate against people with disabilities.

It’s important to know that just because a dog has service status, this doesn’t debar them from the usual licensing requirements in your state. 

There are also other regulations which cover bringing an animal into the US from other countries. These must be complied with even if your canine is a service dog.

How To Know if a Service Dog Certificate is Legitimate?

Because there is no legal requirement to register service dogs, it’s easy for people to try and pass off their canine companion as the real deal. Plus, the ADA prohibits businesses and employers from quizzing an individual too closely about their animal.

Fake certificates abound as there are many advantages to be gained from passing off a regular pet as a service dog. Because there is no centralized registration, certificates can all look different.

Here are some key details to look out for to ensure a service dog certificate is legitimate.

Service Dog Identification

The certificate should identify the animal by name.


The breed is stated.

Owner Identification

The full name of the owner should appear on the certificate.

Registration Date

There must be a registration date on the certificate; think of it like a ‘valid from’ date.

Training Organization

Some certificates will list the training organization if that’s relevant. Remember, the law does not require a service dog to be professionally trained by a specific and relevant organization – the owner or handler can train the animal themselves.

Certificate Number

This is a unique number provided by the certificate issuer or, if the dog has been through a professional program, by the training organization. The registration number will link to the animal's information on their database records.

Where Can You Get a Service Dog Certificate?

There are lots of organizations offering certificates in the US. Some link to training courses which may be presented as a pre-requisite to obtaining a certificate with that group.

However, you don’t necessarily need to complete a training course to register your service dog. Your dog may already be trained to support your disability. How and where you train your dog is up to you.

A service dog must be trained to provide dedicated care linked to a specific disability, but you don’t have to follow a formal training program with certification at the end of it to be able to acquire a service dog certificate.

Try and find an organization that’s interested in verifying your disability and partnering of your dog to that requirement. You’re looking for a certificate that contains all the important details and not something that looks fake.

Many organizations offering certification provide ancillary services and sell useful products like vests and ID tags with the registration number.

This can be useful to identify your animal as the law prohibits people from asking to see registration papers or your certificate.

Many organizations will charge a fee and want to get you to renew your certificate regularly, but you don’t need to do this – it’s not a legal requirement unless your disability changes or is not permanent.

Register Your Service Dog with SDRA Today!

SDRA has a broad remit to educate people on the role and importance of service dogs, but we also offer support, guidance, and education to owners.

We offer free registration and an inclusive support service to help you with your service dog. This includes helpful FAQs on our website and information that keeps you up to date with any changes in the law.

Browse the service dog gear in our shop, where we stock a range of useful products for your canine. We also offer an ID lookup to help people in times of emergency.