Service Animals

Definition of a Service Animal

The 2010 revision to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a “service animal” as an animal that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Animals that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including animals that are used to provide comfort or emotional support (e.g. therapy animals), are considered pets and not service animals.

Service animals in training and pets are subject to the park’s pet regulations and are not allowed on trails or more than 100 feet (30.5m) from any road, picnic area or campground. Falsely portraying a pet as a service animal is considered fraud and is subject to federal prosecution under 36 CFR. 2.32(a)(3)(ii).

Things to Know

Where domestic animals and wildlife overlap there is a possibility of exchanging diseases between them. Domestic dogs have introduced disease into wildlife populations and the park’s native canids (coyotes, and foxes) are vulnerable to domestic diseases such as canine distemper, parvovirus, rabies, mange, etc. Likewise it’s possible for domestic dogs to acquire these diseases from wild animals.

To further prevent the spread of disease:

  • Service animals must always be leashed or harnessed, under control, and attended at all times. Additionally, all dogs must comply with state and county regulations regarding vaccinations and licensing.
  • Pet food is a wildlife attractant and should be stored accordingly. Food and food containers must never be left unattended and must be kept out of reach of wildlife.
  • Service animal fecal matter must be picked up and disposed of properly. Fecal matter should be disposed of in a trash receptacle or if not readily accessible (such as in the backcountry) it should be buried in a cat hole dug a minimum of 6 inches deep and a 200 feet from water sources, campsites, or trails.
Safety and wellness precautions for service animals:
  • Potable water is only available at the visitor centers and the West Entrance of the park. Use of any natural water found in the park is prohibited.
  • Park trails can be surfaced with compacted gravel, a mix of native soils and rocks, or desert surfaces. Seasonal heat can burn the pads of dog’s feet.
  • Most paved stops in the park and at visitor centers have trash cans for disposing of animal waste; however, there are no plastic bags provided, so please remember to bring your own.
  • Wildlife can be encountered anywhere in the park - even near developed and busy areas, like the visitor center. Mountain lions are of obvious concern, but smaller animals like foxes, coyotes, bobcats and even rodents, snakes, scorpions could cause issues for service animals unused to encountering wildlife. Large birds of prey may also be a concern for particularly small service animals.
three hikers and two service animals hike among rocks on the Hidden Valley Nature Trail
If properly prepared for the desert environment, service dogs can help visitors who are blind experience the Joshua Tree landscape.

courtesy of Karl Mundstock

Last updated: October 4, 2019

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