“Service Animals,” Disability Services: Leaders (2020)
“Service Animals,” Disability Services: Leaders
An emotional support animal or comfort pet is specifically chosen as a companion to an individual with a psychological or emotional disability. A variety of animals can be emotional support animals, including current pets. Such animals are not trained to perform tasks but are distinguished by the close emotional and supportive bond between the animal and the owner.
A service dog is a trained animal that performs tasks directly related to the disability of the owner. The dog’s preparation and training typically take 18 to 24 months. A service dog may be considered necessary medical equipment and may be allowed to accompany the owner with a disability to many places where emotional support animals or pets are not permitted. The owner does not need to display documentation stating that the dog is a certified service dog; however, in determining whether a dog is a service dog, Church leaders or event hosts may ask questions such as “Is the service dog required because of a disability?” or “What work or task has the service dog been trained to perform?” The owner should be able to communicate the essential tasks the service dog provides beyond companionship, protection, or comfort.
Bishops and stake presidents may determine whether to allow individuals with disabilities to use trained service dogs in meetinghouses. Other types of animals, including emotional support animals (comfort pets), are generally not permitted in meetinghouses or at Church-sponsored events, except as specifically required by law. (In general in the United States, the Church is under no legal obligation to admit service dogs or emotional support animals to houses of worship.) Bishops and stake presidents make local decisions, taking into account the needs of individuals with disabilities and the needs of others in the congregation.
Service dogs and emotional support animals are not allowed in temples. Patrons with special needs are encouraged to attend the temple with family members or friends who can assist them as needed. Temple workers are also available to assist members while at the temple. Priesthood leaders may contact the Temple Department with questions.
Owners of permitted service animals are responsible for any damage to persons or property caused by their animals. They are responsible for properly disposing of the service animal’s waste. In addition, while on Church property, service animals must be attended and restrained at all times. This means that the service animal must be in the immediate vicinity of its owner (within six feet), either on a leash, in a cage, or voice-controlled. To be considered attended, the animal may not be left fastened to a stationary object.