Service Dog Policy


While We're Waiting is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals, including those with disabilities. This policy outlines our guidelines for welcoming service dogs to The Refuge in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  For all other retreat locations, While We’re Waiting will defer to the service dog policy of the venue.  

Definition of a Service Dog

A service dog is defined by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a dog that is 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. Tasks performed may include, among other things:

  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Retrieving dropped items
  • Alerting a person to a sound
  • Reminding a person to take medication
  • Pressing an elevator button

Examples of service dogs include, but are not limited to:

  • Guide Dog or Seeing Eye Dog - a carefully trained dog that serves as a travel tool for persons who have severe visual impairments or are blind.
  • Hearing or Signal Dog - a dog that has been trained to alert a person who has a significant hearing loss or is deaf
  • Seizure Response Dog - a dog trained to assist a person with a seizure disorder
  • Psychiatric Service Dog - a dog that has been trained to perform tasks that assist individuals with disabilities to detect the onset of psychiatric episodes and lessen their effects.
  • SSigDOG (Sensory Signal Dog or Social Signal Dog) - a dog that is trained to assist a person with autism

Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are NOT service animals under Title II and Title III the ADA, and are not permitted at The Refuge.  Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability.  A doctor’s note or letter does not suffice to make an animal a service animal.  While emotional support animals or comfort animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have specific training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals (Source: ADA National Network).    


In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), While We're Waiting welcomes service dogs to all areas of our premises where the public is normally allowed to go. Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are excluded.

Expectations for Service Dog Handlers

Service dog handlers are expected to:

  • Maintain control of their service dog at all times
  • Ensure that their service dog is properly behaved and does not pose a threat to others
  • Clean up after their service dog, including waste disposal


While We’re Waiting may exclude a service animal:

  • If the animal is not housebroken 
  • If the animal would pose a direct threat to the health, safety, or property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by a reasonable accommodation
  • That is out of control and the individual does not take effective action to control it
  • Would fundamentally alter the nature of a program or activity 
  • That is not being cared for by the individual

Responsibilities of Individuals with Service and Assistance Animals

While We’re Waiting is not responsible for the care or supervision of service animals. 

Individuals with disabilities are responsible for the control of their animals at all times and for ensuring the immediate clean-up and proper disposal of all animal waste. 

Individuals must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including vaccination, licensure, animal health, and leash laws.


While We’re Waiting may impose charges for damages caused by a service animal.

Contact Information

If you have any questions about our service dog policy, please contact:

Jill Sullivan, While We’re Waiting Executive Director