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ADA laws prohibit the harassment of service dogs and their handlers.
Federal law protects your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Owners, managers, or any authoritative representative of a business is NOT ALLOWED to ask you what your disability is. That information is private and you do not have to disclose to anyone your qualifications for having a service dog.
The only questions anyone is allowed to ask you are:
1. Is that a Service Dog?
2. What task is the service dog trained to assist you with?
The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for someone living with a disability.
These tasks may include things like alerting people who are deaf, guiding people who are visually impaired, calming a person during an anxiety attack, reminding someone with depression to take prescription medications or protecting a person who is experiencing a seizure.
Service dogs are remarkable canines capable of a wide range of tasks that help make independent living possible for their handlers. These unique working animals undergo specialized training to learn tasks that mitigate the difficulties caused by specific disabilities.
Service dogs are working animals – not pets. They must be trained to perform a task that is directly related to the handler’s disability.
ADA Service Dog Laws prohibit discrimination against disabled people with service animals in employment, public accommodations, state and local government activities, public transportation, commercial facilities, and telecommunication.
In the context of the ADA, “disability” is used as a legal term as opposed to a medical one and has a specific definition: Under the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity.
This includes individuals who are regarded as having a disability even if their disability is not physically visible. A person is also protected by The ADA if they have a history of a a disability.
In the context of the ADA, “disability” is used as a legal term as opposed to a medical one and has a specific definition: under the ADA, a person with a disability is someone who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity.
A disabled person can also be a person who has a history or record of such an impairment or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically list out every type of impairment that qualifies as a disability.
The disability can be a physical disability such as blindness or impaired mobility, or it can be an invisible disability in the form of a mental condition such as PTSD or severe depression or anxiety.
Businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state and local governments that serve the public are generally required to allow service dogs to accompany people with disabilities in any areas that are open to the public.
This would include places such as restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, hotels, office buildings, school campuses, parks and other establishments open to the public.
The staff or employees at a public establishment such as a restaurant, bar, store, hotel, office building or school may only as two limited questions if it is not obvious what service the dog provides:
Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
The staff member cannot require a doctor’s note, inquire about the handler’s disability, ask for an identification card or training certificate, and/or demand medical documents.
In addition, staff members are not permitted to ask the handler to have their service dog demonstrate its ability to perform work for the owner.
It is important to note as well that the two questions above are only allowed if the disability is not apparent. So for example if the service dog is being used as guide dog for a blind person, it would not be appropriate to interrogate them about their service dog.
ADA service dog rules do not require that service dog owners use a professional trainer. In order to make your dog a service dog, you do not need to complete any specific training program. Service dog handlers are allowed to train their dog themselves without the help of a professional trainer or training program.
Service dog owners should note that under ADA rules, service dogs in training are not considered to be service animals. That means that before a service dog owner can enjoy all of the rights afforded to service dog owners under the ADA, their dog must be fully trained to perform the task that assists with the handler’s disability.
Some State and local laws may however give rights to dogs that are still in the training stages.
Under ADA rules for service dogs, a service dog can be any type of dog breed.
A public establishment or landlord is not allowed to prohibit entry for a service dog solely because it is a certain breed.
The service dog may be asked to leave the premises if it is not under the control of the handler or acts in a way that threatens the health and safety of others.
Staff members and landlords at an establishment or apartment complex cannot however ask a service dog to leave simply because they are afraid of the dog solely due to preconceived notions about the dog’s breed.
ADA rules also take precedent over local rules regarding breed restrictions. For example, if your city bans a certain breed of dog, that ban cannot be categorically applied to service animals.
8. Are emotional support animals the same thing as service animals? No, emotional support animals, or ESAs, are not the same thing as service animals.
The ADA does not recognize dogs who solely provide emotional support or comfort as service animals. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals do not require any special training. Emotional support animals are intended to provide support for mental and emotional disabilities through companionship.
ESAs have more limited access rights than service dogs. Emotional support animals are allowed in residences and on flights, but do not have a right to be in places such as stores, hotels or restaurants that prohibit pets the same way service dogs do.
That does not mean a service dog cannot assist with a psychiatric condition. For example, a service dog can be used to remind a depressed individual to take their medication. Or for someone with anxiety, a service dog can be trained to sense an impending anxiety attack and take actions to prevent the attack or minimize its impact.
However, if a person with anxiety is just using the dog’s companionship as a source of comfort for their condition, the animal would not qualify as a service dog.
A disabled person with a service dog can only be asked to remove their animal from the premises in limited circumstances.
It is appropriate for staff members to ask a handler to remove their service dog if the dog is out of control or the dog is not housebroken.
A service dog handler may also be asked to leave if their service dog’s actions are threatening the health and safety of other people. It is not appropriate to ask for a service dog to leave due to allergies or a fear of dogs.
Under ADA guidance, if someone is allergic to a dog and needs to share space with a disabled person and their service dog, both people should be accommodated by assigning them where possible to different locations within the room or facility.
Under ADA service dog rules, items such as vests, ID cards or special harnesses are not required for service dogs.
However, many service dog owners utilize these accessories as helpful tools that signal to the public that their dog is a service dog.
By using a service dog ID card, vest or harness, a service dog handler can clearly indicate to members of the public that their dog is on duty and should not be disturbed.
These accessories help to set proper boundaries so handlers can avoid invasive inquiries and interactions.
Service animals do not need to be certified or registered to qualify as service animals. Employees and staff are not permitted to require documentation from a handler that the animal is certified, trained or licensed as a service animal as a condition for entry.
Some service dog owners will certify or register their dogs through an organization to help notify others that their animal is a service dog.
However, these documents are optional and do not by themselves convey legal rights under the ADA.
No, service dogs are not exempt from local registration and licensing requirements that apply to all dogs. This is different from organizations that register and license dogs as service animals.
As discussed earlier, these organizations do not confer any official status on service dogs and their services are optional. If your city however requires all dogs to be licensed and registered, your service dog must also comply.
Service dogs are not exempt from local rules regarding animal control and health. If your city requires vaccinations for all dogs, then your service dog must also comply.
Under ADA rules, a service dog must always be under the control of its owner. Service dogs must be tethered, harnessed or leashed unless the owner’s disability prevents them from using these items or these items interfere with the dog’s ability to safety and effectively perform its tasks.
In situations where a tether, harness or leash is not suitable, the handler must maintain control of their animal through voice, signal or other means of control.
An establishment can ask a handler to remove their service dog from the premises if the handler does not have control of their animal.
No, under ADA Rules for service dogs, handlers with service dogs cannot be isolated from other customers or treated less favorably than other customers.
The establishment cannot have a special area for service dogs and limit the handler’s activities to that one area. For example, a hotel cannot limit guests with service dogs to designated “pet friendly” rooms.
No, a business can never charge a deposit or fee in connection with service dogs. If the hotel charges a fee for pets, it must waive that fee for a guest who is staying with a service dog.
Hotels are also not allowed to charge service dog owners cleaning fees to clean up hair or dander shed by the dog.
However, if the hotel or other business usually charges guests for damages, a handler can be held responsible for paying for any damage caused by their service dog.
Yes, service dogs must be allowed to accompany their owners through self-service food areas such as salad bars and buffets.
Service animals are also allowed in cafeterias such as those found in the workplace or on school campuses. 18. Are restaurants required to allow service dogs to be seated on chairs or be fed at the table?
No, seating at a restaurant and the food served at the establishment are for patrons only. A service dog owner is allowed to have their animal companion next to them, but they cannot expect the restaurant to allow the dog to be seated or fed at the table.