Assistance Dog Laws
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to protect the civil rights of individuals regardless of physical or mental limitations. The ADA includes a provision specifically with respect to the use of service animals and the work they perform. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.
Examples of tasks or work that service dogs do 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.
While these dogs are often viewed as cute pets, they are not. Service dogs are working animals that provide independence to people with disabilities.
Title II and Title III of the ADA requires that entities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.
There are two questions that a business may ask a person who is accompanied by a service dog:
- Is this a service dog?
- What task or job does the dog perform?
A business cannot:
- Ask for special identification for the service dog.
- Ask the nature of the disability.
- Charge additional fees because of the service dog.
- Refuse admittance, isolate, segregate, or treat the person less favorably than other patrons.
A service dog can only be removed from a business or venue if:
- The dog is out of control and the dog's owner does not take effective action to control it.
- The service dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
Any business that sells or prepares food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises. If a business or venue violates the ADA they can be required to pay for damages and penalties.