FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Many people with disabilities use a service animal to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make "reasonable modifications" in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a "no pets" policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities.

Service Animals

How “Service Animal” Is Defined?


Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.




Where Service Animals Are Allowed?


Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.




What does "do work or perform tasks" mean?


The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind her to take her medication. Or, a person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.




Does the ADA require professionally trained animals?


No. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.




Are service-animals-in-training considered service animals by ADA?


No. Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training. Ask your local businesses if your dog is still in training for permission or train the dog for public access in stores that allow dogs on the premise, such as a Home Improvement store.




Does my dog have to wear a vest, ID badge, patch to ID them as service animals?


No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness. However, if you do take one or more of these steps it will reduce the amount of challenges you might receive when entering a business which has a “No Pet Policy”.




Are service animals allow to go through a salad bar or self-service food lines?


Yes. Service animals must be allowed to accompany their handlers to and through self-service food lines. Similarly, service animals may not be prohibited from communal food preparation areas, such as are commonly found in shelters or dormitories




Can hotels assign designated rooms for guests with service animals?


No. A guest with a disability who uses a service animal must be provided the same opportunity to reserve any available room at the hotel as other guests without disabilities. They may not be restricted to "pet-friendly" rooms.




Can hotels charge a cleaning fee for guests who have service animals?


No. Hotels are not permitted to charge guests for cleaning the hair or dander shed by a service animal. However, if a guest's service animal causes damages to a guest room, a hotel is permitted to charge the same fee for damages as charged to other guests.




Can people bring more than one service animal into a public place?


Generally, yes. Some people with disabilities may use more than one service animal to perform different tasks. For example, a person who has a visual disability and a seizure disorder may use one service animal to assist with way-finding and another that is trained as a seizure alert dog. Other people may need two service animals for the same task, such as a person who needs two dogs to assist him or her with stability when walking. Staff may ask the two permissible questions about each of the dogs. If both dogs can be accommodated, both should be allowed in. In some circumstances, however, it may not be possible to accommodate more than one service animal. For example, in a crowded small restaurant, only one dog may be able to fit under the table. The only other place for the second dog would be in the aisle, which would block the space between tables. In this case, staff may request that one of the dogs be left outside.




Do hospitals have to allow an in-patient with a disability to keep a service animal in their room?


Generally, yes. Service animals must be allowed in patient rooms and anywhere else in the hospital the public and patients can go. They cannot be excluded because staff can provide the same services.




What if a patient who has a service dog is admitted to the hospital and is unable to care for their animal?


If the patient is not able to care for the service animal, the patient can make arrangements for a family member or friend to come to the hospital to provide these services, as it is always preferable that the service animal and its handler not be separated, or to keep the dog during the hospitalization. If the patient is unable to care for the dog and is unable to arrange for someone else to care for the dog, the hospital may place the dog in a boarding facility until the patient is released, or make other appropriate arrangements. However, the hospital must give the patient the opportunity to plan for the dog's care before taking such steps.




Must a service animal be allowed to ride in an ambulance with its handler?


Generally, yes. However, if the space in the ambulance is crowded and the dog's presence would interfere with the emergency medical staff's ability to treat the patient, staff should make other arrangements to have the dog transported to the hospital.




Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?


No. Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.




My city requires all dogs to be vaccinated. Does this apply to my service animal?


Yes. Individuals who have service animals are not exempt from local animal control or public health requirements.




My city offers voluntary registry those with disabilities who use service animals. Is this legal under the ADA?


Yes. Colleges and other entities, such as local governments, may offer voluntary registries. Many communities maintain a voluntary registry that serves a public purpose, for example, to ensure that emergency staff know to look for service animals during an emergency evacuation process. Some offer a benefit, such as a reduced dog license fee, for individuals who register their service animals. Registries for purposes like this are permitted under the ADA. An entity may not, however, require that a dog be registered as a service animal as a condition of being permitted in public places. This would be a violation of the ADA.




My city offers voluntary registry those with disabilities who use service animals. Is this legal under the ADA?


Yes. Colleges and other entities, such as local governments, may offer voluntary registries. Many communities maintain a voluntary registry that serves a public purpose, for example, to ensure that emergency staff know to look for service animals during an emergency evacuation process. Some offer a benefit, such as a reduced dog license fee, for individuals who register their service animals. Registries for purposes like this are permitted under the ADA. An entity may not, however, require that a dog be registered as a service animal as a condition of being permitted in public places. This would be a violation of the ADA.




Can service animals be any breed of dog?


Yes. The ADA does not restrict the type of dog breeds that can be service animals.




Can individuals with disabilities be refused access to a facility based solely on the breed of their service dog?


No. A service animal may not be excluded based on assumptions or stereotypes about the animal's breed or how the animal might behave. However, if a service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, has a history of such behavior, or is not under the control of the handler, that animal may be excluded. If an animal is excluded for such reasons, staff must still offer their goods or services to the person without the animal present.




If a municipality has an ordinance that bans certain dog breeds, does the ban apply to service animals?


No. Municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Under the “direct threat” provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history, but they may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave. It is important to note that breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In fact, some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions.




When might a service dog's presence fundamentally alter the nature of a service offered to the public?


In most settings, the presence of a service animal will not result in a fundamental alteration. However, there are some exceptions. For example, at a boarding school, service animals could be restricted from a specific area of a dormitory reserved specifically for students with allergies to dog dander. At a zoo, service animals can be restricted from areas where the animals on display are the natural prey or natural predators of dogs, where the presence of a dog would be disruptive, causing the displayed animals to behave aggressively or become agitated. They cannot be restricted from other areas of the zoo.




Are hotel guests allowed to leave their service animals in their hotel room when they leave the hotel?


No, the dog must be under the handler's control at all times.




What can my staff do when a service animal is being disruptive?


If a service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, staff may request that the animal be removed from the premises.




What happens if a person thinks a covered entity's staff has discriminated against him or her?


Individuals who believe that they have been illegally denied access or service because they use service animals may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. Individuals also have the right to file a private lawsuit in Federal court charging the entity with discrimination under the ADA.




Are stores required to allow service animals to be placed in a shopping cart?


Generally, the dog must stay on the floor, or the person must carry the dog. For example, if a person with diabetes has a glucose alert dog, he may carry the dog in a chest pack, so it can be close to his face to allow the dog to smell his breath to alert him of a change in glucose levels. Child seats in shopping cards are for children, not service animals.




Are restaurants that serve food required to allow service animals to sit on chairs or fed at the table?


No. Seating, food, and drink are provided for customer use only. The ADA gives a person with a disability the right to be accompanied by his or her service animal, but covered entities are not required to allow an animal to sit or be fed at the table.




Are gyms or hotels with swimming pools required to allow a service dog in the pool with its handler?


The ADA applies to housing programs administered by state and local governments, such as public housing authorities, and by places of public accommodation, such as public and private universities. In addition, the Fair Housing Act applies to virtually all types of housing, both public and privately-owned, including housing covered by the ADA. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are obligated to permit, as a reasonable accommodation, the use of animals that work, aid, or perform tasks that benefit persons with a disability, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability.




Do Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, comply with the ADA?


Yes. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities to participate in Federal programs and services. For information or to file a complaint, contact the agency's equal opportunity office.




Do commercial airlines have to comply with the ADA?


No. The Air Carrier Access Act is the Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in air travel. For information or to file a complaint, contact the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, at 202-366-2220.




Can I deduct my Service Dog’s expenses from my income tax?


Your properly trained and working service dog who services a medical related condition can be deducted as a medical expense, just as a wheelchair or hospital bed can. It is important to keep good notes and all receipts related to your service dog, so the tax deduction can be taken. A journal is the good way to document your activity with your Service animal, during and after his training. Proper documentation about your dog along with your receipts, will quickly resolve any challenge from a IRS agent.




What kind of questions should I expect from business I wish to take my dog into?


When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work, or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.




What if another patrons object to my dog?


Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.




Can I be asked to remove my dog from a business?


A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.




What about establishments that says “No Dogs” due to health regulations?


Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.




Can I be charged extra for having a service dog with me?


People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals. If a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.




Is there any aplication to fill out to register with theis Registry?


There are no applications to fill out and you do not need a doctor’s note. Just provide the basic information for your registration.




Is PTSD covered under the ADA?


Yes, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is covered under ADA Laws and if your service dog is able to calm you during an anxiety attack then he/she is considered a service dog.




Can I take my dog anywhere?


Once your dog is considered a service dog you can take them with you anywhere the public has access to as long as they are not properly trained and behaved.




What if someone has a fear or allergy of dogs, will my service dog be allowed?


Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service dogs. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service, dog must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.




Are businesses allowed to question me or refuse to give me service?


No. Under the ADA, you can take your service dog virtually anywhere you are allowed to go. Your dog is not considered a “pet”. You can have your service dog with you in your apartment, restaurants, beaches, airplanes, etc., all without having to pay any extra fees or deposits.




Does my dog have to be in a labeled service harness?


No, your dog has to be on a leash, but is not required to wear a service vest to be provided the benifets provided by the ADA's regulations.





Emotional Support Dogs

What is an emotional support dog?


An emotional support dog is a dog that provides comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions. An emotional support dog is not required to perform any specific tasks for disability like service dogs are. There are meant solely for emotional stability and unconditional love.




What are some of the disabilities that qualify me for an emotional support dog?


Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder/mood disorder, panic attacks, fear/phobias and other psychological and emotional conditions.




Can I have an emotional support dog?


If you have a disability (a person who suffers from emotional or psychological conditions) then you are entitled to an emotional support dog.




Will I need a doctor’s note for my emotional support animal?


Yes, you will need a doctor’s note to have an emotional support dog, for addressing requirements of the Fair Housing Act.




What kind of training does my dog need to be considered an emotional support dog?


There is no specific training that your dog needs to go through to be considered an emotional support dog other than behavioral training, to insure you have your dog under control always. Your dog needs to be trained to behave properly in public settings.




Do I need to notify my airline that I’m bringing an emotional support dog on board?


Yes, please notify your airline at least 72 hours prior to boarding but preferable when you make your initial booking, so they can accommodate and arrange seats for you and your emotional support dog.




My landlord says, “NO PETS ALLOWED”; can I have my emotional support dog with me?


Once your dog is considered an emotional support dog he or she can stay with you at your residence even if they do not allow pets. This is where a doctor’s note will assist you greatly.





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