How to Get a Dog Certified as a Service Dog in Washington State

In Washington state, the terms "dog guide" and "service animal" are applied to service dogs.
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The Americans With Disabilities Act allows the handler of a service dog to access public spaces with that dog. Washington state law has no requirement for a service dog to be certified, registered or otherwise identified as such. However, a service dog is required by Washington law to be appropriately trained for his work. Under the ADA, a handler simply needs to state that the dog is a service animal, and access should be granted. Many handlers prefer the convenience of having a dog registered -- an identification tag, vest or cape will be provided to show the dog is a registered service animal. This can save the handler having to disclose details of her disability that she may wish to keep private.

Step 1

Decide which registry to use. Several national service-animal registries operate in the United States -- at the time of publication, these included the Service Animal Registry of America, the National Service Animal Registry and the United States Service Dog Registry. Some registries are free; others charge a fee. All cover service animal registration in Washington state.

Step 2

Obtain a written diagnosis from a doctor, detailing the handler's disability. Additionally, the doctor should outline the handler's symptoms. Specific information regarding the handler's symptoms and the dog's therapeutic presence will help justify the use of a service animal.

Step 3

Write or print a list of everything the dog does to help the handler with the symptoms of his disability. For example, many dog guides or service animals help their handlers to avoid obstacles in the environment, or to navigate. Dogs may also be trained to alert the handler before the onset of a seizure, or may dial 911 if necessary. The list of specialized tasks performed by an individual dog is tailored to the symptoms and needs of the handler.

Step 4

Document the full name and address of the dog's trainer. To qualify as a service animal under Washington state law, the dog must be trained. It is illegal to identify an untrained dog as a service animal or dog guide.

Step 5

Photograph the dog from the shoulders up. This photograph will be used on any registration materials and identification tag. Note the dog's size, breed and any special or identifying physical features.

Step 6

Mail the documentation relating to diagnosis, symptoms, tasks and dog training to the registry, together with the description and photograph of the dog. Some registries may require additional paperwork to be filled and sent with the registry application.

Step 7

Use the collar, harness, vest, identification tag, cape or other materials provided by the registry to identify the dog as a service animal during his working hours.


  • In the state of Washington, the handler of a service dog is responsible for the animal's behavior and care while in any public place or private business.

  • A service animal can be refused entry to a Washington state business if the dog initiates unwanted contact with members of the public. For example, a dog who jumps up on other people while working can be excluded from that space.


About the Author

Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.

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