Most of us have seen service dogs accompanying their owners with disabilities in public places. Recently I learned that there are many more animals in addition to dogs who can be considered service animals - including our feline friends.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sets standards for which animals can be considered service animals, and the criteria to qualify. Service animals can include dogs, cats, birds, monkeys and horses. Under the ADA, these animals do a variety of tasks from pulling wheelchairs to alerting people with seizure disorders. Service monkeys become hands for the owner. Cats can alert their deaf or hearing-impaired owner to someone knocking or the phone ringing. Emotional support animals provide comfort to people with anxiety disorder and PTSD. There are organizations that train service animals for you, although some owners prefer to train their own service animal.

Under the ADA, trained service animals are welcome in restaurants, grocery stores, and public places. Store owners cannot ask what disability the animal owner has, and cannot refuse them service. Under the law they can ask what three tasks the service animal does for the owner. For example, a mobility service animal's task can be turning on lights, picking up dropped objects, and getting help if the owner is in trouble. A business owner may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability. You can learn more about laws related to service animals at http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

Our featured pet today is Prince, a young male tabby cat who truly loves to be treated like royalty. Prince is affectionate, mellow, and enjoys ruling over the roost - whether from comfy couch or a windowsill. In between lounging and eating, he will be happy to entertain you with some playful antics - sometimes he is more of the court jester in personality. You can visit Prince along with our many other pets seeking forever homes at www.ncspca.org.

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