Service animals are dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. By law, under the Americans with Disabilities Act Titles II and III, service animals have the right to be in any public space. Therefore, public entities including State and local government agencies, businesses and non-profit organizations must make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices and procedures to accommodate and allow service dogs in their facilities. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015)
It’s important to note that under the ADA, support, therapy, comfort and companion animals are not considered service animals. However, some states and local governments have laws allowing emotional support animals into public places. It is important to check with your local agencies to determine the correct laws.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions that are beneficial for all staff to be aware of.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can I ask if a visitor’s animal is a legitimate service animal?
- No. Asking a service animal’s handler if their dog is legitimate is against the law. Legally, you can ask the following (2) questions: Does your dog provide a service? What is your dog trained to do? Staff is also not allowed to request documentation for the dog, require the dog to demonstrate its task or inquire about the handler’s disability.
Are they legally allowed here?
- Yes. By law service animals have the right to be in any public space.
What can I do if the service animal is misbehaving?
- Legally, the service animal must be under the handler’s control at all times. If the service animal is misbehaving or causing a disruption, it can legally be removed from an establishment.
Can I pet the service animal?
- No. Service animals are working animals and distracting them could put their handler or even yourself in danger.
What kind of service animals are allowed?
- Dogs of any size or breed. It’s illegal to ban specific breeds. Only if the animal has a history of behavior that poses a threat to the health and safety of others can staff exclude the animal from access to the facility. However, goods and services must still be offered to the handler without the animal present. Banning an animal based on fears and generalizations about the breed is not allowed.
Does the service animal need certifications or identification?
- No. They are not legally required to wear any type of vest or badge and there is no national registry or certification required.
Does the service animal need to be leashed?
- Yes, unless the leash interferes with the specific task the service animal was trained for. An example of a service animal off the leash includes a veteran with PTSD who may need a dog to enter an unfamiliar space first to check for threats.
Do service animals have licensing and vaccination requirements?
- Yes. Service animals are not exempt from local animal control or public health requirements.
What’s the difference between a service dog, emotional support dog and therapy dog?
- Great question! Check out this great infographic created by Orvis which explains the differences and differences in answers for some of the above FAQs.
For more information on service animals, visit:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act: Service Animals
- The ADA National Network: Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals