Service dogs provide life changing assistance for their handlers

Not all dogs can make it

Service Dogs in Training (SDiT) do not have public access rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Service Dogs in Training may have public access rights under local state law.  However, often the state laws place restrictions that can include disability-type(s) and licensed professional/school trainers.    While ADA allows for a task-trained service dog to have been trained by it’s disabled owner, many states may not allow for that owner to conduct the public access training.

Unless you have read a copy of the current state code on the subject and have it with you when training, the best practice is for disabled-owner-trainers to conduct public access training with service dog in training only at pet-friendly businesses or locations.  It is common for handlers training dogs in public to have their presence questioned and authority validated.

Service dog disability task-training

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

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.

What is a Task?

A task is a certain desired behavior or set of behaviors the dog is trained to habitually perform in response to a command or a particular situation such as the onset of a seizure, which cues the dog to perform a task. The task must be related to your disabling condition, helping you in some way.

What is meant by “individually trained”?

A dog has been “individually trained” to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a disabled individual when the dog is deliberately taught to exhibit the desired behavior or sequence of behaviors by rewarding the dog for the right response(s) and communicating, if only through silence, when the dog has made the wrong response in a particular situation. A task is learned when the dog reliably exhibits the desired behavior whenever needed to assist his/her partner on command or cue. An example of work that is individually trained would be that performed by a guide dog, who takes directional commands, goes around obstacles in the team’s path, halts to indicate a curb or some other change in elevation and refuses the “Forward” command in specific situations that would result in injury, such as an automobile entering the team’s path. Examples of individually trained tasks include retrieving a phone, providing deep pressure therapy during a panic attack or providing balance support on a staircase to prevent a fall.

What is NOT an individually trained task?

Spontaneous behavior a dog occasionally exhibits such as licking someone’s face or barking does not qualify as a “trained task” under ADA even if it accidentally or coincidentally has a beneficial result. While everyone enjoys the emotional, social and safety benefits that a dog’s presence can provide, those benefits do not constitute trained tasks that would transform a disabled person’s pet into a legitimate Service Dog under ADA.

Why are individually trained Tasks so important?

Trained tasks that mitigate the effects of a disabling condition are the legal basis for granting access rights to disabled handlers under the Americans With Disabilities Act. An assistance dog with this special training is viewed as assistive technology / medical equipment, not as a pet. Businesses have the right to ask a disabled person, “What Tasks does your service animal perform?” This question can be asked if there is any doubt about the dog’s legal status and whether to impose their restrictive pet policies. An acceptable answer might be, “my service dog is trained to get help for me in a medical crisis by ____________.” (Fill in the blank as to the specific task) You do not have to reveal your disability in formulating your reply.

Businesses also have the right to exclude any animal, including a service animal, who threatens the health or safety of other people through aggressive or unruly behavior. An assistance dog can also be evicted for disruptive behavior that interferes with a business providing goods or services. The DOJ used the example of a dog barking in a movie theater.

Converting your existing pet to a service animal

Merriam-Webster defines pet as a domestic or tamed animal kept for the companionship or pleasure.  Any one can own a pet.  Sadly, only disabled Americans can own a service animal because they need the tasks it provides to daily mitigate their life impacting disability.

CCI Stop Fraud

People trying to convert their pet into a service animal to gain public access to no-pet areas or reasonable accommodations for their pet in workplace or residence settings are committing disability fraud.  Ignorance of the law has never been recognized as an acceptable defense in the United States.

Purchasing online documentation, paperwork, registrations, certifications or vest/equipment to imply that a pet is a service animal is disability fraud by deception.

Disability fraud carries civil liabilities for your actions and your pet’s actions.   Many states are adopting addition criminal penalties for misrepresenting a pet as a service animal including fines, community service, jail-time and a permanent criminal record.

Be responsible, be ethical, stay legal.   Only take your pets to pet-friendly locations, pay the corresponding fees/deposits and follow applicable species/breed/size restrictions like every other pet owner.

Nonprofit Service Dog Placement Programs

Numerous nonprofits have been founded to assist with the selection, training and placement of service dogs with disabled Americans.   Typically, these groups have a targeted population segment (military veterans, blind,

The larger and older organizations utilize in-house breeding programs to reduce costs and improve success by monitoring the most important characteristics of a successful service dog: health/medical history, temperament and a solid work-ethic.

Through a combination of ongoing charitable donations and continuous fund raising efforts,  most of these nonprofits are able to offer service animals at no cost to the approved/matched disabled American applicant.   To maintain both costs and quality, most programs have a waiting list for applicants that can range from six months to six years depending upon the needs of disability-task(s) needed.  The screening process can include applications, telephone interviews, personal interviews, medical references, final selection and team training.

Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), Southeastern Guide Dogs (SGD), K9s For Warriors,

Anyone interested in volunteering for a nonprofit or applying for the placement of their service dogs, can review their history at Guidestar.org or their current exempt status directly with the IRS.

Be wary of any nonprofit that does not have a waiting list as likely these are organizations that are simply trying to place poorly trained rescue animals.  Be cautious of any nonprofit that will not disclose their average ” washout” rates or make claims of 100% training rates.  American Disability Rights, Inc. does not support nonprofits that require service dog recipient candidates to conduct fundraising efforts in exchange for placement.

For-Profit Service Dog Placement Programs

American Disability Rights understands that there are individuals and companies offering the sale of task-trained service dogs with little to no wait list period.

Sadly, there are too many parties interested in making an easy profit while claiming to benefit disabled Americans.  The Department of Justice has repeatedly said that individuals and organizations that sell documents, certifications and registrations online should not be recognized as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Unless it can be shown different, ADR applies the same expectation to any party offering no-wait service dogs.  Our experience is that these are rarely licensed businesses and their “service dogs” are frequently in poor health and lack significant training.  ADR recommends only acquiring trained service dogs through standard application and wait-list process for nonprofit organizations with established histories of helping disabled Americans.  ADR suggests disabled Americans avoid for-profit businesses selling readily available service animals.

Professional Training

One option for disabled Americans who can not afford the waitlist time of a nonprofit program or the total expense of a for-profit service dog placement program is direct professional training.  This would overcome the major obstacles found with placement program dogs, but would the success would be clearly dependent upon two variables.

  1. Finding the right service dog candidate.  Not every dog has the right work ethic and temperament to complete training and be a working service dog.  If you closely look at the most successful nonprofit placement programs, you will discover they use in-house breeding programs with only a few types of dogs.  Even with the best case scenario, these programs have to “washout” candidates because they can not complete the training.   Those dogs find happy forever homes either helping as therapy animals or just lucky family pets.Education on a dog’s breed history and health history are essential in finding the right candidate for professional training.   If you could not wait for a program dog placement, you don’t want to push the envelope with ADA protections on breed bans or size restrictions.  A keep it simple approach is best practices.   Look for a common breed of nonprofit program service dog with a known parental medical history.  To put yourself in the best situation for success, now is not the time to go shopping at the retail puppy mill, the local animal shelter or the exotic breed rescue.
  2. Finding the right service dog professional trainer.  Even before you’ve made the financial investment in candidate dog, you might consider selecting your professional service dog trainer.   They need to be experience with training service animals, not just dogs.  Anyone accepting payment should be show you their appropriate business licensee(s) and commercial insurance (bonding).   Ideally, the would also hold an accreditation or be a candidate for membership in one of the major service animal associations such as Assistance Dogs International (ADI), International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) or International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) as examples.  Boarding programs, where the trainer is with the dog full-time, are the most expensive, but also the fastest to complete.  If using a private or semi-private training program, expect to invest a minimum of 120 hours over 6 months.  Group classes are cheaper, but take longer (18-24 months) to complete.   Because each dog responds differently to service dog training, no one can guarantee a timeline or success.  It’s reasonable to ask about a potential professional trainers failure rate and business policies related to “washing-out” a dog from training.

Disabled, Owner Training

The Department of Justice has stated that the Americans with Disability Act does not require service dogs to undergo professional training.  This should never be seen as a defense to under-train a service dog.  Not all dogs can pass the training for a service dog.  These dogs are considered “washed” and should be considered for therapy work or simply as household pets depending upon the training failure reason.

A disabled-owner service dog training should include a written plan with goals and log.  In addition to mastering basic house-training, some level of obedience training should be accomplished prior to moving on to public access socialization and disability-task training.

  • Command house-training is must for all service animals.  The handler should give the animal an opportunity to go to the bathroom prior to entering any building.   Accidents are always a reason for a service animal to be asked to leave a building and are always an immediate fail on any independent testing.
  • Basic obedience should include: accepting a friendly stranger; sitting politely for petting; walking on a loose lead; navigation in a crowd; sit/down/stay on command; come when called; positive reaction to the presence of another dog; quick recovery from an unexpected distraction and supervised separation.  When mastered, these actions should be completed without treats/rewards, but could include verbal directions or hand signals to direct the dog.   This training does not have to be conducted in the home, but should only be undertaken in pet-friendly areas.
  • Disability task-training should be specific to the needs of the handler.  Not all handlers, even those with the same disability, have the same tasks needed to be accomplished with their service dog to mitigate their specific issues.  In general, a service dog should accomplish more than 3 tasks for his disabled handler.
  • As the ADA does not grant Service Dogs in Training public access, disabled-owners should only utilize pet-friendly locations if their state does not extend public access rights to SDiT in their location and for their disability.
  • The IAADP minimum training for public access calls for 120 hours over six months or more.   At least 30 hours dedicated to the dog working in public places obediently and unobtrusively.   Public access training goals include that a fully-trained service dog should be able master:
    1. Obedience Training: a dog must master the basic obedience skills: “Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Heel” and a dropped leash recall in a store in response to verbal commands and/or hand signals.
    2.  Manners: a dog must acquire proper social behavior skills. It includes at a minimum:
      • No aggressive behavior toward people or other animals – no biting, snapping, snarling, growling or lunging and barking at them when working off your property.
      • No soliciting food or petting from other people while on duty.
      • No sniffing merchandise or people or intruding into another dog’s space while on duty.
      • Socialize to tolerate strange sights, sounds, odors etc. in a wide variety of public settings.
      • Ignores food on the floor or dropped in the dog’s vicinity while working outside the home.
      • Works calmly on leash. No unruly behavior or unnecessary vocalizations in public settings.
      • No urinating or defecating in public unless given a specific command or signal to toilet in an appropriate place.
    3. Disability Related Tasks: the dog must be individually trained to perform identifiable tasks on command or cue for the benefit of the disabled human partner. This includes alerting to sounds, medical problems, certain scents like peanuts or situations if training is involved.
    4. Prohibited Training: Any training that arouses a dog’s prey drive or fear to elicit a display of aggression for guard or defense purposes is strictly prohibited. Non aggressive barking as a trained behavior is permitted in appropriate situations
    5. An Owner-Trainer’s Responsibilities: All trainers function as ambassadors for the assistance dog movement. This includes a disabled owner trainer, a provider’s staff or a volunteer with a puppy or adult dog “in training.” It also includes an assistance dog partner or able bodied facilitator helping a disabled loved one to keep up an assistance dog’s training. At a minimum, you should:
      • Know pertinent canine laws (i.e. leash laws and public access laws)
      • Ensure the dog is healthy, flea free and the rabies vaccination is up to date
      • Take time to make sure your dog is well groomed and free of any foul odor
      • Show respect and consideration to other people and property.
      • Use humane training methods; monitor the dog’s stress level; provide rest breaks.
      • Carry clean up materials. Arrange for prompt clean up if a dog eliminates or gets sick.
      • Be polite and willing to educate the public about assistance dogs and access rights.

Disability task-training and public access training can be conducted concurrently, but should only be started after the completion of house-training and basic obedience.

Independent Testing

Regardless of the type of training used, professional or disabled owner, to be deemed complete a Service Dog in Training should undergo independent testing.  This means the trainer does not handle the dog during the test.  An unfamiliar party is used to eliminate bias.

While ADA does not require testing certifications,  American Disability Rights, Inc. believes that all responsible Service Dog owners should submit to final independent service animal testing standards of Assistance Dogs International or International Association of Assistance Dog Partners or the International Guide Dog Federation.  Each organization accredited members professionally train service dogs, but may be allowed to test disabled-owner trained service dogs.  Non-accredited, candidate members such as those with ADI may also be able to conduct an independent test.

Intermediate training, including basic obedience can be tested by any trainer with the appropriate business license in their area.  The American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program is an excellent foundation and widely available.

These heroes have four legs

For disabled Americans

In the United States, disabled Americans are granted civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (ADA), the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Rehab Act.  Many states have also enacted legislation applicable for their residents.

To qualify as a protected class, the individual must meet the definition of disabled as declared in the specific law or as stated in the federal regulations published by department deemed responsible for its administration.  Because of multiple qualification possibilities, potentially an individual could meets the legal definition of disabled status under one law, while not being protected under a different law.  Any individual not meeting that law’s definition of disabled is not afforded the civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment is not a protected class.

While there are many things that can mitigate or lessen the effects of an impairment, American Disability Rights, Inc.  mission is on the education and advocacy of the civil rights for disabled individuals who utilize a medical assistance animal as part of their prescribed treatment plan.

These civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment are not legal loopholes or shortcuts for members of the public to avoid pet fees, bring a fur-baby to non-pet-friendly locations or circumvent local breed/species restrictions.  Numerous courts have determined those actions warrant disability fraud and as such can carry heavy civil liability and criminal penalties.  Service animal fraud is disability fraud and negatively impacts the public’s perception of the disabled.

Sadly, there is an online network of individuals  and organizations selling service animal certification or registrations implying their customers will have the same protections as a qualified disabled American with a prescribed medical assistance animal.

The United States Department of Justice has repeatedly said that these documents do not convey any rights and they are not to be recognized as proof that a person’s pet is a medical assistance animal.

They can come in all breeds, shapes and sizes

Task-trained service dog types

service dog is a specifically task-trained to help an individual with a disability that substantially limits one or more life activities. Disabilities may include visual difficulties, hearing impairments, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), seizures, ambulatory issues, mental illness, diabetes, autism, and more depending upon the applicable law.   However, to qualify, the task(s) must be related directly to assisting with the individual’s disability, not basic obedience, owner protection or pet-tricks.  Emotional support and comfort are not trained tasks. “Natural”alerts or spontaneous abilities offers do not qualify as trained tasks.

Types of Service Dogs include:

Guide Dog – assists an individual that has vision impairment.

Mobility Dog – may retrieve items, open doors or even push buttons for its handler.  Also, this service animal may assist people with disabilities with walking, balance and transferring from place to place.

Hearing Dog – alert its handler with a hearing loss to sounds.  This can be telephone, door bell, smoke alarm, crying baby, traffic and more.

Medical Alert Dog – trained to alert to some types of oncoming medical conditions or attend its handler in the event of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, epilepsy, seizure, etc.

Autism Service Dog –  trained to interrupt certain negative behaviors of its handler so that the handler may keep these behaviors to a minimum.

Psychiatric Service Dog – works with a handler that has a mental disability.  Some types of tasks could be to attend a handler who may need a dog to be able to go out in public (agoraphobic), or a handler who suffers from  panic attacks, anxiety attack, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or other mental disorders.  These dogs are trained NEVER to leave their handler’s side.

Service Dogs are not pets

Service dog teams have civil rights against discrimination and harassment

At the national level, qualifying disabled Americans utilizing prescribed task-trained service animals have civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment under the following laws:

  • Fair Housing Act (FHAct) of 1968, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
    42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., 24 CFR Parts 100 et seq.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (also known as the Rehab Act)
    42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., 24 CFR Parts 100 et seq.
  • Air Carrier Access Act  (ACAA) of 1986
    49 U.S.C. § 41705, 14 CFR Part 382
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008*
    42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., 29 CFR Parts 1630, 1602 (Title I, EEOC), 28 CFR Part 35 (Title II, Department of Justice), 49 CFR Parts 27, 37, 38 (Title II, III, Department of Transportation), 28 CFR Part 36 (Title III, Department of Justice) and 47 CFR §§ 64.601 et seq. (Title IV, FCC)

U.S.C. refers to the United States Code. CFR refers to the Code of Federal RegulationsFR refers to the Federal Register.
*The United States Department of Justice has stated the “Service Dogs in Training” are not granted civil rights protections to public access.

Additional protections at the state level

In addition, some states have granted their population disability civil rights which may echo those found at the national level or extend additional protections within their borders.   Some examples are the following laws:

  • Alabama
    Right of a person with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal (21-7-4); Right to housing accommodations (21-7-9); Service Dogs (13A-11-230 through 13A-11-235).
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
    Harassment of assistance dog by humans or other dogs (O.C.G.A. § 16-11-107.1), Right to equal public accommodations; right to be accompanied by guide dog or service dog (O.C.G.A. § 30-4-2), Right to housing accommodations (O.C.G.A. § 30-4-3), Denial of or interference with admittance to or enjoy of facilities or exercise of rights (O.C.G.A. § 30-4-4), Certain acts in public transit buses, rapid rail cars or stations; penalty  (O.C.G.A. § 30-4-3)
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Viriginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

We're not breaking the law, but you might be

Why these legal definitions matter to everyone

Because there a multiple active applicable laws to protect disabled Americans from discrimination and harassment, we are left with multiple legal definitions of who qualifies as a disabled person and what civil rights are being protected.  It’s important that both the disabled individual and the general public understand each of these legal definitions because they could unintended breaking a law if they don’t.

Today, the law most commonly discussed for disability civil rights in the United States is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that was updated with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008.  However it was preceded by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Rehab Act of 1973 and the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which are concurrent active laws.

Fair Housing Act

"Handicap" under the Fair Housing Act

42 U.S.C. 3602

The text of the Fair Housing Act continues to use the imprecise term “Handicap” instead of the modern “disability”.  With respect to a person–

  1. a physical or mental impairment that substaintially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities,
  2. a record of having such an impairment, or
  3. being regarded as having such an impairment, but such term does not include current, illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)).

"Assistance Animal" under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

24 C.F.R. 5.303, 73 FR 63833, FHEO-2013-01

The text of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) does not define service animals, service dogs or medical assistance animals.  The FHA is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  HUD has established and published regulations for “animals that assist, support or provide service to persons with disabilities” that apply to locations under its administration.  HUD has taken a passive approach to further definitions.

According to HUD, “An assistance animal is not a pet.  It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or  performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.   Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are dead or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting a person to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support.   For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHAct nor (Rehab Act) Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified.  While dogs are the most common types of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.”

The Rehabilitation Act

"Disability" under the Rehab Act

29 U.S.C 701, 29 U.S.C. 794

Congress stated in the Rehab Act that “individuals with disabilities constitute one of the most disadvantaged groups in society.”  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency.  As such, each federal agency is responsible for enforcing its own Section 504 regulations and there is no shared definition of “service dog”, “service animal” or “medical assistance animal”.

The Rehab Act defines a “disability” as a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to live independently, enjoy self-determination, make choices, contribute to society, pursue meaningful careers and enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of American society.  Individuals with Disabilities are any person who (a) has physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities, (b) has a record of such an impairment, or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment.

For purposes of employment, qualified individuals with disabilities must also meet the normal and essential eligibility requirements such that with a reasonable accommodation they can perform the essential functions of the job for which they have applied or have been hired to perform.

Section 504 may be enforced through private lawsuits in a court with federal jurisdiction.  It is not necessary to file a complaint with a specific agency or deliver a “right-to-sue” letter before filing a case.

Air Carrier Access Act

Discrimination against handicapped individuals under the Air Carrier Access Act

49 U.S.C. § 41705

In providing air transportation, an air carrier, including any foreign carrier may not discriminate against an otherwise qualified individual on the following grounds:  (1)  the individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) the individual has a record of such an impairment, or (3) the individual is regarded as having such an impairment.

The Secretary for the Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the administration of the Air Carrier Access Act.  Unlike other disability laws, only the DOT can take action against a carrier for a violation of the ACAA.   Individuals can file reports (preferably in writing) of discrimination with the carrier or the DOT, but may not open a legal action in any court under ACAA protections.

"Service Animal" according to the Department of Transportation

14 C.F.R. Part 382 Subpart H

According to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), air carriers must permit a service animal to accompany a passenger with a disability for all domestic flights.

International travel, originating or terminating in the United States, can also covered subject to applicable local laws.  For example, the United Kingdom places specific restrictions on all in-bound animals including micro-chipping, passport and quarantine for up to 4 months.  Disabled passengers using service animals should contact the United States embassy at their destination prior to scheduling any travel to avoid problems.

Service animals must be allowed in-cabin at the seat with the disabled passenger unless the animal obstructs the aisle or emergency evacuation.

As evidence that an animal is a service animal, carriers must accept identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses, tags or the credible assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal.

Psychiatric service animals are not required to travel in-cabin unless the passenger provides current documentation (no older than one year from the date of the flight) on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional stating the passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders and the passenger needs the psychiatric service as an accommodation for air travel and/or activity at the destination.

The DOT does not limit a service animal to a specific species (d0g), but a carrier is never required to accommodate certain unusual service animals (snakes, reptiles, rodents, spiders).  Foreign carriers are only required to carry dogs as service animals.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Equal opportunities for individuals with disabilties

42 U.S.C. Chapter 126

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for employment (Title I), public services (Title II), public access (Title III) and miscellaneous provisions (Title IV).   The ADA defines the term “disability ” with respect to an individual who (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (b) has a record of such impairment; or (c) being regarded as having such an impairment.

The ADA requires that the definition of a disability be construed in favor of broad cover of individuals to the maximum extent of the law.

Reasonable accommodations for service animals in the workplace

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including State and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.

How do I know if I am protected by the ADA? To be protected, you must be a qualified individual with a disability. This means that you must have a disability as defined by the ADA. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, thinking, walking, breathing, or performing manual tasks. You also must be able to do the job you want or were hired to do, with or without reasonable accommodation.

What are my rights under the ADA? The ADA protects you from discrimination in all employment practices, including: job application procedures, hiring, firing, training, pay, promotion, benefits, and leave. You also have a right to be free from harassment because of your disability, and an employer may not fire or discipline you for asserting your rights under the ADA. Most importantly, you have a right to request a reasonable accommodation for the hiring process and on the job this includes the use of a service animal.

What should I do if I think my ADA rights have been violated?  You should contact the nearest office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Someone will help you determine whether you should file a charge of discrimination. Charges may be filed with the EEOC in person, by mail, or by telephone.

There are strict time frames for filing charges of employment discrimination. In most states, you have 300 days from the time the alleged discrimination occurred to file a charge, but in some states you may have only 180 days. The EEOC field office nearest you can tell you which time period applies to you. However, you should file a charge as soon as possible after you believe the discrimination occurred.

To contact the EEOC, look in your telephone directory under U.S. Government or call 1-800-669-4000 (voice) or 1-800-669-6820 (TTY).

Service Animals according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section

Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order 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 Department of Justice continues to receive many questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service animals. 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. This publication provides guidance on the ADA’s service animal provisions and should be read in conjunction with the publication ADA Revised Requirements: Service Animals.

"Service Animal" as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

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.

Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

If someone's dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?

It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

Does the ADA require service animals to be professionally trained?

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 under the 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.

What questions can a covered entity's employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?

In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific 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 are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identifying them as service animals?

No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

Who is responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal?

The handler is responsible for caring for and supervising the service animal, which includes toileting, feeding, and grooming and veterinary care. Covered entities are not obligated to supervise or otherwise care for a service animal.

Can a person bring a service animal with them as they go through a salad bar or other 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, out of consideration for other guests?

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 (See Question 7) 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.

Does a hospital have to allow an in-patient with a disability to keep a service animal in his or her room?

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

What happens if a patient who uses a service animal is admitted to the hospital and is unable to care for or supervise 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 make arrangements 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.

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

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 requires all dogs to be registered and licensed. Does this apply to my service animal?

Yes.  Service animals are subject to local dog licensing and registration requirements

My city requires me to register my dog as a service animal. Is this legal under the ADA?

No.  Mandatory registration of service animals is not permissible under the ADA.  However, as stated above, service animals are subject to the same licensing and vaccination rules that are applied to all dogs.

Does a hospital have to allow an in-patient with a disability to keep a service animal in his or her room?

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

My city / college offers a voluntary registry program for people with disabilities who use service animals and provides a special tag identifying the dogs as 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 animal?

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 particular 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 particular 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 can service animals be excluded?

The ADA does not require covered entities to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does it overrule legitimate safety requirements.  If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be prohibited.  In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

When might a service dog's presence fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program provided 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.

What does under control mean? Do service animals have to be on a leash? Do they have to be quiet and not bark?

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. In the school (K-12) context and in similar settings, the school or similar entity may need to provide some assistance to enable a particular student to handle his or her service animal. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

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.

Are restaurants, bars, and other places that serve food or drink required to allow service animals to be seated on chairs or allow the animal to be 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 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.

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 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.

Are gyms, fitness centers, hotels, or municipalities that have swimming pools required to allow a service animal in the pool with its handler?

No.  The ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swimming pools.  However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where the public is allowed to go.

Are churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship required to allow individuals to bring their service animals into the facility?

No.  Religious institutions and organizations are specifically exempt from the ADA.  However, there may be State laws that apply to religious organizations.

Do apartments, mobile home parks, and other residential properties have to comply with the ADA?

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, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with a disabilities, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability.  For information about these Fair Housing Act requirements see HUD’s Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-funded Programs.

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

No.  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.

Civil monetary penalties

28 C.F.R. Parts 36 and 85

On March 28, 2014, the Department of Justice issued a Final Rule that adjusts for inflation the civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced by the Civil Rights Division, including civil penalties available under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).   For the ADA, this adjustment increases the maximum civil penalty for a first violation under title III from $55,000 to $75,000; for a subsequent violation the new maximum is $150,000.  The new maximums apply only to violations occurring on or after April 28, 2014.

This Final Rule is a non-discretionary agency action made pursuant to Section 4 of the Federal Civil Penalties Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended (Adjustment Act), which mandates the Attorney General to adjust for inflation the civil penalties assessed or enforced by the Department of Justice.  The amounts of the adjustment were determined according to a specific mathematical formula set forth in Section 5 of the Adjustment Act.  The previous adjustment under the ADA occurred in 1999.

Going where pets are not allowed

Service dog teams are granted public access

Commonly refereed to as “public access,” qualified disabled Americans, including those using a prescribed service dog to mitigate a disability, have civil rights protections against discrimination in the activities of public accommodations on the basis of their disability under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Many states have enacted similar legal protections at their local level.

For ADA protections, the Department of Justice has defined Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.

The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.  “Service Dogs in Training” (SDiT) do not have public access rights under the Department of Justice’s definition.

Civil monetary penalties

28 C.F.R. Parts 36 and 85

On March 28, 2014, the Department of Justice issued a Final Rule that adjusts for inflation the civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced by the Civil Rights Division, including civil penalties available under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).   For the ADA, this adjustment increases the maximum civil penalty for a first violation under title III from $55,000 to $75,000; for a subsequent violation the new maximum is $150,000.  The new maximums apply only to violations occurring on or after April 28, 2014.


The text of the ADA defines the term “commerce” as means of travel, trade, traffic, commerce, transportation or communications (A) among several states; (B) between any foreign country or territory or possession and any state; or (C) between point in the same state but through another state or foreign county.  The text of the ADA defines “commercial facilities” as facilities (A) that are intended for nonresidental use; and (B) whose operation will affect commerce.  Commerce does not include rail operations or locations exempted from coverage under the Fair Housing Act. (§ 12181 (1-2)).

The text of the ADA defines a “private entity” means any entity other than a public entity (§ 12181 (6)).  Requirements on state and local governments and departments, public entities, are found in Title II of the ADA.

The text of the ADA defines 12 areas of private entities that are considered public accommodations for the purposes of Title III, if the operations of such entities affect commerce:

(A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;

(B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;

(C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition entertainment;

(D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;

(E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;

(F) a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;

(G) a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;

(H) a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;

(I) a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;

(J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;

(K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and

(L) a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.

Finding a way

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a documented request by an individual disabled American for exceptions or changes to a company’s pet or animal policies that would enable the qualified individual to use their service dog to mitigate their disability while on the property. Reasonable accommodation requests are needed in workplace or housing situations. Reasonable accommodation requests are not needed for public access or travel environments as these are directly covered under ADA Title II, ADA Title III or the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).


In a workplace environment, reasonable accommodation requests come under the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title IEmployers with fewer than 15 employees, the federal government, private membership clubs and religious organizations are legally exempted from Title I, but could still approve a reasonable accommodation request on a voluntary basis.  The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for the regular administration of ADA Title I.

The EEOC has stated an employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business.  Accommodations vary depending upon the needs of the individual applicant or employee. Not all people with disabilities (or even all people with the same disability) will require the same accommodation. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer’s size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation. An employer generally does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation unless an individual with a disability has asked for one. if an employer believes that a medical condition is causing a performance or conduct problem, it may ask the employee how to solve the problem and if the employee needs a reasonable accommodation. Once a reasonable accommodation is requested, the employer and the individual should discuss the individual’s needs and identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation. Where more than one accommodation would work, the employer may choose the one that is less costly or that is easier to provide.  An employer may ask for documentation that describes the disability and ask your health care provider whether particular accommodations would meet the employee’s needs.


In a residential situation, reasonable accommodation requests can be made for properties covered by either the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and/or the Rehab Act Section 504.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for the regular administration of these laws.  The FHA covers all residential properties when the transaction is brokered by licensed agent unless it is owned by a private club or religious organization.   The FHA does not cover some single-family housing, owner occupied housing or occupancy laws.  The Rehab Act only covers properties that receive any type of federal funding.

Reasonable accommodations should be requested in writing and approved, before bringing the service dog onto the property to ensure civil rights protections.  HUD has stated FHA protection against disability discrimination covers not only tenants and home seekers with disabilities but also buyers and renters without disabilities who live or are associated with individuals with disabilities. The Act also prohibits housing providers from refusing residency to persons with disabilities, or placing conditions on their residency, because they require reasonable accommodations.  Since rules, policies, practices, and services may have a different effect on persons with disabilities than on others, treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others will sometimes deny them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

According to HUD, the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations applies to, but is not limited to individuals, corporations, associations and others involved in the provision of housing or  residential lending, including property owners, housing managers, homeowners and condominium associations, lenders, real estate agents, and brokerage services. This also applies to state and local governments, most often in the context of exclusionary zoning or other land-use decisions.

According to HUD, an assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the Fair Housing Act nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.


Getting the job done

Service dogs in the workplace

Qualified disabled Americans can make a documented reasonable accommodation request of their employer at anytime for use of a service dog to mitigate their disability at the workplace.  The Americans with Disabilities Act, Title I covers most situations.  Employers with fewer than 15 employees, the federal government, private membership clubs and religious organizations are legally exempted from Title I, but could still approve a reasonable accommodation request on a voluntary basis.  The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for the regular administration of ADA Title I.

The EEOC has stated an employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the employer’s business.  Accommodations vary depending upon the needs of the individual applicant or employee. Not all people with disabilities (or even all people with the same disability) will require the same accommodation. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer’s size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation. If the employer can show that one particular reasonable accommodation will cause an undue hardship, it is not required to provide that reasonable accommodation.

An employer generally does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation unless an individual with a disability has asked for one. if an employer believes that a medical condition is causing a performance or conduct problem, it may ask the employee how to solve the problem and if the employee needs a reasonable accommodation. Once a reasonable accommodation is requested, the employer and the individual should discuss the individual’s needs and identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation. Where more than one accommodation would work, the employer may choose the one that is less costly or that is easier to provide.  An employer may ask for documentation that describes the disability and ask your health care provider whether particular accommodations would meet the employee’s needs.

 

Restaurants and other food service employers

The EEOC has stated that these companies may not automatically reject a request from a person with a disability when making a reasonable accommodation request to use service animal on the job.

Special rule for service animals:  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code  § 2-403.11 prohibits handling of animals, but allows employees to use service animals. Section 6- 501.115 states that service animals may be permitted in areas not used for food preparation. Employees may handle their service animals if, after handling a service animal, the employee washes his hands for at least 20 seconds using soap, water, and vigorous friction on surfaces of the hands, followed by rinsing and drying as per Food Code § 2-301.12.  The business can deny the request if the service animal would be an “undue hardship” on the business, or whether the service animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other employees or the public.  For example, a cashier’s reasonable accommodation request for a service animal would be easier to allow than a chef in the same business.

 

FDA Food Code,
§ 2-4 Hygenic Practices
§ 2-403 Animals.11 Handing Prohibition

(A) Except as specified in paragraph B of this section, food employees may not care for or handle animals that may be present such as patrol dogs, service animals or pets that are allowed as specied in subparagraphs § 605.1.115 (B)(2)-(5).

(B) Food employees with service animals may handle or care for their service animal and food employees may handle or care for fish in aquariums or molluscan shellfish or crustacea in display tanks if they wash their hands as specified under § 2-203.12 and § 2-301.14 (C).

§6-501.115 Prohibiting Animals

(A) Except at specified in paragraphs (B) and (C) of this section, live animals may not be allowed on the premises of a food establishment.

(B) Live animals may be allowed in the following situations if the contamination of food, clean equipment, utensils, and linens; and unwrapped single-service and single-use articles can not result:

(3) In areas that are not used for food preparation and that are usually open for customers, such as dining and sales areas, service animals that are controlled by a disabled employee or person, if a health or safety hazard will not result from the presence or activities of the service animal;

 

The definition for “service animal” is adapted from 28 CFR 36.104 adopted pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.). A service animal performs some of the functions that persons with a disability cannot perform for themselves, such as those provided by “seeing eye dogs”; alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds; pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments; and assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance. A service animal is not considered to be a pet.

Under Title III of the ADA, privately owned businesses that serve the public are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars or harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers.

Decisions regarding a food employee or applicant with a disability who needs to use a service animal should be made on a case-by-case basis. An employer must comply with health and safety requirements, but is obligated to consider whether there is a reasonable accommodation that can be made.

An assistance animal is not a pet

The Fair Housing Act or Section 504 protections start with approval of a reasonable accommodation for service dogs

A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. A housing provider should do everything s/he can to assist, but s/he is not required to make changes that would fundamentally alter the program or create an undue financial and administrative burden. Reasonable accommodations may be necessary at all stages of the housing process, including application, tenancy, or to prevent eviction.

For a disabled American to have legal protections for their use of a service animal in residential housing under the Fair Housing Act or Section 504 of the Rehab Act, it must be a covered property.   Both of these laws are administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

FHA covered properties include condo associations; homeowner associations; single-family homes owned by a private person and represented by a licensed real estate agent, single-family homes owned by a company, owner occupied multi-family buildings when represented by a licensed real estate agent; multiple-family building with five or more united. FHA exceptions include property owned by private clubs, religious organizations or single-family homes owned by a private person.

All residential properties that receive any type of federal funding are covered by Section 504.

A disabled American should make a documented request for a reasonable accommodation for a covered property anytime their use of a service dog would be impacted by existing property rules.  This includes no-pets policies; breed restrictions; pet deposits/fees; size restrictions and .  Under HUD an assistance animal is not considered a pet.  The disabled American must wait for the approval of the accommodation request prior to bringing the service dog onto the covered property to ensure FHA/Section 504 protections.  Failure to gain approval for the reasonable accommodation, the existing policies or terms would apply and could result in fines or eviction.  If not obvious, the property management can ask for documentation validating the disability and the need for a service dog as a reasonable accommodation.

In most cases, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to residential housing.

Title III of the ADA covers public and common use areas at housing developments when these public areas are, by their nature, open to the general public. For example, it covers the rental office since the rental office is open to the general public. Title II of the ADA applies to all programs, services, and activities provided or made available by public entities. This includes housing when the housing is provided or made available by a public entity. For example, housing covered by Title II of the ADA includes public housing authorities that meet the ADA definition of “public entity,” and housing operated by States or units of local government, such as housing on a State university campus.

FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01

Issued: April 25, 2013

Expires:  Effective until Amended, Superseded or Rescinded

 


Subject:  Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs

  1. Purpose: This notice explains certain obligations of housing providers under the Fair Housing Act (FHAct), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with respect to animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities. The Department of Justice’s (DOT) amendments to its regulations (1) for Titles II and III of the ADA limit the definition of “service animal” under the ADA to include only dogs, and further define “service animal” to exclude emotional support animals. This definition, however, does not limit housing providers’ obligations to make reasonable accommodations for assistance animals under the FHAct or Section 504. Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal, under both the FHAct and Section 504. In situations where the ADA and the FHAct/Section 504 apply simultaneously (e.g., a public housing agency, sales or leasing offices, or housing associated with a university or other place of education), housing providers must meet their obligations under both the reasonable accommodation standard of the FHAct/Section 504 and the service animal provisions of the ADA.
  2. Applicability:  This notice applies to all housing providers covered by the FHAct, Section 504, and/or the ADA (2).
  3. Organization: Section 1 of this notice explains housing providers’ obligations under the FHAct and Section 504 to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities (3) with assistance animals. Section II explains DM’s revised definition of “service animal” under the ADA. Section III explains housing providers’ obligations when multiple nondiscrimination laws apply.

 

Section I: Reasonable Accommodations for Assistance Animals under the FHAct and Section 504

The FHAct and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) implementing regulations prohibit discrimination because of disability and apply regardless of the presence of Federal Financial assistance. Section 504 and HUD’s Section 504 regulations apply a similar prohibition on disability discrimination to all recipients of financial assistance from HUD. The reasonable accommodation provisions of both laws must be considered in situations where persons with disabilities use (or seek to use) assistance animals (4) in housing where the provider forbids residents from having pets or otherwise imposes restrictions or conditions relating to pets and other animals.

An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHAct nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. (5) While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Housing providers are to evaluate a request for a reasonable accommodation to possess an assistance animal in a dwelling using the general principles applicable to all reasonable accommodation requests. After receiving such a request, the housing provider must consider the following:

(1) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

If the answer to question (1) or (2) is “no,” then the FHAct and Section 504 do not require a modification to a provider’s “no pets” policy, and the reasonable accommodation request may be denied.

Where the answers to questions (1) and (2) are “yes,” the FHAct and Section 504 require the housing provider to modify or provide an exception to a “no pets” rule or policy to permit a person with a disability to live with and use an assistance animal(s) in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services. The request may also be denied if: (1) the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or (2) the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal_ A determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct — not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused. Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals. For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, they may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal. (6)

A housing provider may not deny a reasonable accommodation request because he or she is uncertain whether or not the person seeking the accommodation has a disability or a disability related need for an assistance animal. Housing providers may ask individuals who have disabilities that are not readily apparent or known to the provider to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal. If the disability is readily apparent or known but the disability-related need for the assistance animal is not, the housing provider may ask the individual to provide documentation of the disability related need for an assistance animal. For example, the housing provider may ask persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal that provides emotional support to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability. Such documentation is sufficient if it establishes that an individual has a disability and that the animal in question will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support.

However, a housing provider may not ask a tenant or applicant to provide documentation showing the disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal if the disability or disability-related need is readily apparent or already known to the provider. For example, persons who are blind or have low vision may not be asked to provide documentation of their disability or their disability-related need for a guide dog. A housing provider also may not ask an applicant or tenant to provide access to medical records or medical providers or provide detailed or extensive information or documentation of a person’s physical or mental impairments. Like all reasonable accommodation requests, the determination of whether a person has a disability-related need for an assistance animal involves an individualized assessment. A request for a reasonable accommodation may not be unreasonably denied, or conditioned on payment of a fee or deposit or other terms and conditions applied to applicants or residents with pets, and a response may not be unreasonably delayed. Persons with disabilities who believe a request for a reasonable accommodation has been improperly denied may file a complaint with HUD. (7)

Section II: The ADA Definition of “Service Animal”

In addition to their reasonable accommodation obligations under the FHAct and Section 504, housing providers may also have separate obligations under the ADA. DOJ’s revised ADA regulations define “service animal” narrowly as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The revised regulations specify that “the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” (8) Thus, trained dogs are the only species of animal that may qualify as service animals under the ADA (there is a separate provision regarding trained miniature horses (9)), and emotional support animals are expressly precluded from qualifying as service animals under the ADA.

The ADA definition of “service animal” applies to state and local government programs, services activities, and facilities and to public accommodations, such as leasing offices, social service center establishments, universities, and other places of education. Because the ADA requirements relating to service animals are different from the requirements relating to assistance animals under the FHAct and Section 504, an individual’s use of a service animal in an ADA covered facility must not he handled as a request for a reasonable accommodation under the FHAct or Section 504. Rather, in ADA-covered facilities, an animal need only meet the definition of “service animal” to he allowed into a covered facility.

To determine if an animal is a service animal, a covered entity shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A covered entity may ask: (1) Is this a service animal that is required because of a disability? and (2) What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform? A covered entity shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. These are the only two inquiries that an ADA-covered facility may make even when an individual’s disability and the work or tasks performed by the service animal are not readily apparent (e.g., individual with a seizure disability using a seizure alert service animal, individual with a psychiatric disability using psychiatric service animal, individual with an autism-related disability using an autism service
animal).

A covered entity may not make the two permissible inquiries set out above when it is readily apparent that the animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability). The animal may not be denied access to the ADA-covered facility unless:  (1) the animal is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it; (2) the animal is not housebroken (i.e., trained so that, absent illness or accident, the animal controls its waste elimination); or (3) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by a reasonable modification to other policies, practices and procedures. (10) A determination that a service animal poses a direct threat must be based on an individualized assessment of the specific service animal’s actual conduct — not on fears, stereotypes, or generalizations. The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where members of the public are normally allowed to go.” (11)

Section III. Applying Multiple Laws

Certain entities will be subject to both the service animal requirements of the ADA and the reasonable accommodation provisions of the FHAct and/or Section 504. These entities include, but are not limited to, public housing agencies and some places of public accommodation, such as rental offices, shelters, residential homes, some types of multifamily housing, assisted living facilities, and housing at places of education. Covered entities must ensure compliance with all relevant civil rights laws. As noted above, compliance with the FHAct and Section 504 does not ensure compliance with the ADA. Similarly, compliance with the ADA’s regulations does not ensure compliance with the FHAct or Section 504. The preambles to DOD’s 2010 Title II and Title III ADA regulations state that public entities or public accommodations that operate housing facilities “may not use the ADA definition [of “service animal” as a justification for reducing their FHAct obligations.” (12)

The revised ADA regulations also do not change the reasonable accommodation analysis under the FHAct or Section 504. The preambles to the 2010 ADA regulations specifically note that under the FHAct, “an individual with a disability may have the right to have an animal other than a dog in his or her home if the animal qualifies as a ‘reasonable accommodation’ that is necessary to afford the individual equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, assuming that the use of the animal does not pose a direct threat.” (13) In addition, the preambles state that emotional support animals that do not qualify as service animals under the ADA may “nevertheless qualify as permitted reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities under the FHAct.”(14) While the preambles expressly mention only the FHAct, the same analysis applies to Section 504.

In cases where all three statutes apply, to avoid possible ADA violations the housing provider should apply the ADA service animal test first. This is because the covered entity may ask only whether the animal is a service animal that is required because of a disability, and if so, what work or tasks the animal has been been trained to perform. If the animal meets the test for “service animal,” the animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where persons are normally allowed to go, unless (1) the animal is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it; (2) the animal is not housebroken (i.e., trained so that, absent illness or accident, the animal controls its waste elimination); or (3) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by a reasonable modification to other policies, practices and procedures. (15)

If the animal does not meet the ADA service animal test, then the housing provider must evaluate the request in accordance with the guidance provided in Section I of this notice. It is the housing provider’s responsibility to know the applicable laws and comply with each of them.

Section IV.  Conclusion

The definition of “service animal” contained in ADA regulations does not limit housing providers’ obligations to grant reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals in housing under either the FHAct or Section 504. Under these laws, rules, policies, or practices must be modified to permit the use of an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing when its use may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity
to use and enjoy a dwelling and/or the common areas of a dwelling, or may be necessary to allow a qualified individual with a disability to participate in, or benefit from, any housing program or activity receiving financial assistance from HUD.

Questions regarding this notice may be directed to the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Programs, telephone 202-619-8046.

John Trassvina/s, Assistant Secretary for
Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

 

1. Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services, Final Rule, 75 Fed. Reg.
56164 (Sept. 15, 2010) (codified at 28 C.F.R. part 35); Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public
Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities., Final Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 56236 (Sept. 15, 2010) (codified at 28
C.F.R. part 36).

2. Title II of the ADA applies to public entities, including public entities that provide housing, e.g.. public housing
agencies and state and local government provided housing, including housing at state universities and other places of
education. In the housing context. Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations, such as rental offices,
shelters, some types of multifamily housing, assisted living facilities and housing at places of public education.
Section 504 covers housing providers that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD). The Fair Housing Act covers virtually all types of housing, including privately owned
housing and federally assisted housing, with a few limited exceptions.

3. Reasonable accommodations under the FHAct and Section 504 apply to tenants and applicants with disabilities,
family members with disabilities, and other persons with disabilities associated with tenants and applicants. 24 CFR
§§ 100.202; 100.204; 24 C.F.R. §§ 8.11, 8.20, 8.21, 8.24, 8.33, and case law interpreting Section 504.

4. Assistance animals are sometimes referred to as “service animals,” “assistive animals,” “support animals,” or
“therapy animals.” To avoid confusion with the revised ADA “service animal” definition discussed in Section II of
this notice, or any other standard, we use the term “assistance animal” to ensure that housing providers have a clear
understanding of their obligations under the FHAct and Section 504.

5. For a more detailed discussion on assistance animals and the issue of training, see the preamble to HUD’s final
rule, Pet Ownership for the elderly and Persons With Disabilities, 73 Fed. Reg. 63834,63835 (October 27, 2008).

6. A housing provider may require a tenant to cover the costs of repairs for damage the animal causes to the tenant’s
dwelling unit or the common areas, reasonable wear and tear excepted, if it is the provider’s practice to assess
tenants for any damage they cause to the premises. For more information on reasonable accommodations, see the
Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice, Reasonable
Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act, http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/huddojstatement.pdf.

7. Ibid.

8. 28 C.F.R. § 35.104; 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.

9. 28 C.F.R. § 35.136(i); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(9).

10. 213C.F.R § 35.136: 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c).

11. For more information on ADA requirements relating to service animals, visit D03’s website at www.ada.gov.

12. 75 Fed. Reg. at 56166, 56240 (Sept. 15, 2010).

Know the laws, know your protections

Flying with Service Animals under the Air Carrier Access Act

In the United States, under the Department of Transportation‘s (DOT) administration for the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support.  Documentation may be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.

Which service animals are allowed in the cabin?

  • A wide variety of service animals are permitted in the cabin portion of the aircraft flying to and within the United States; however, most service animals tend to be dogs and cats.  Airlines may exclude animals that:
    • Are too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin;
    • Pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
    • Cause a significant disruption of cabin service; or
    • Are prohibited from entering a foreign country.

How do airlines determine whether an animal is a service animal?

  • Airlines can determine whether an animal is a service animal or pet by:
    • The credible verbal assurances of an individual with a disability using the animal;
    • Looking for physical indicators such as the presence of a harness or tags;
    • Requiring documentation for psychiatric support animals and emotional support animals; and
    • Observing the behavior of animals.
  • Emotional Support and Psychiatric Service Animals –  Airlines can request specific documentation and/or 48-hours advanced notice for service animals that are emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals.

What kind of documentation can be required of persons travelling with emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals?

  • Airlines may require documentation that is not older than one year from the date of your scheduled initial flight that states:
    • You have a mental or emotional disability that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM);
    • You need your emotional support or psychiatric support animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at your destination;
    • The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his/her professional care; and
    • The licensed health care professional’s;
      • Date and type of professional license; and
      • Jurisdiction or state in which their license was issued.

Tips for Flying with a Service Animal

At the airport

  • If your animal needs to relieve itself, please ask an airport or airline professional for the location of the nearest service animal relief areas.

Onboard the aircraft

  • Your animal must be permitted to accompany you in the space under the seat in front of you.
  • Certain small animals may be permitted to sit on your lap, if it can be done so safely.
  • Your animal cannot block a space that must remain unobstructed for safety reasons (ex. an aisle or access to an emergency exit).
  • An airline is not required to upgrade you to a different class of service to accommodate your animal.
  • Airlines cannot refuse to allow your animal onboard because it makes other passengers or flight crew uncomfortable.
  • Your animal must behave properly. An animal that engages in disruptive behavior (ex. barking or snarling, running around, and/or jumping onto other passengers, etc. without being provoked) will not be accepted as a service animal.
  • For a flight that is scheduled for eight hours or longer, airlines may require documentation stating that your animal will not need to relieve itself, or can do so in a sanitary way.

Traveling outside of the United States?

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to fly outside of the United States with your service animal.

  • Foreign airlines operating to and from the United States are only required to accept dogs.
  • U.S. airlines traveling to foreign countries are subject to the requirements of that foreign country regarding acceptance of service animals; not all countries permit service animals from other foreign countries.
  • Check to ensure whether your destination country permits your animal and any other requirements to enter and exit legally.

Encounter A Problem?

  • If you believe your rights under the Air Carrier Access Act are being or have been violated, ask to speak with a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). A CRO is the airline’s expert on disability accommodation issues. Airlines are required to make one available to you, at no cost, in person at the airport or by telephone during the times they are operating.

Other transportation services for individuals with disabilities

Outside of aircraft, the DOT applied the definition of service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.  The DOT’s definition of “service animal” expands the Department of Justice’s definition which limits service animals to only dogs or mini-horses.

Service animals shall always be permitted to accompany their users in any private or public transportation vehicle or facility. One of the most common misunderstandings about service animals is that they are limited to being guide dogs for persons with visual impairments. Dogs are trained to assist people with a wide variety of disabilities, including individuals with hearing and mobility impairments. The Department of Transportation includes other animals (e.g., monkeys) that are sometimes used as service animals as well. In any of these situations, the entity must permit the service animal to accompany its user.

It is important that local policies and practices recognize that some persons with hidden disabilities do use animals that meet the regulatory definition of a service animal. This would include, for example, animals that are trained to alert individuals with seizure disorders to an oncoming seizure or respond to a seizure and animals that are trained to remind persons with depression to take their medication.

Transit agencies cannot have a policy requiring riders to provide documentation for their service animal before boarding a bus or train or entering a facility, but personnel may ask riders two questions: (1) is the animal a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

 

The Department of Transportation has issued the following guidance regarding service animals:

  • Transit agencies may refuse to transport service animals that are deemed to pose a direct threat to the health or safety of drivers or other riders, create a seriously disruptive atmosphere, or are otherwise not under the rider’s control. For example, a rider with a service dog is responsible for ensuring the dog does not bite the driver or other riders. Conversely, a dog that barks occasionally would likely not be considered out of the owner’s control.
  • A passenger’s request that the driver take charge of a service animal may be denied. Caring for a service animal is the responsibility of the passenger or a PCA. (See Appendix E to Part 37, Example 15.)
  • Section 37.167(d) does not prescribe limits on the number of service animals that accompany riders on a single trip. Different service animals may provide different services to a rider during trips or at the rider’s destination.
  • On complementary paratransit or other demand responsive services, transit agencies may ask riders for notification of their intent to ride with a service animal in order to help ensure adequate space is available for the animal. (An optional good practice is to keep such information in riders’ files.)
  • Other riders’ or agency personnel’s allergies to dogs or other animals would not be grounds for denying service to a person accompanied by a service animal. The regulations explicitly state that service animals must be allowed to accompany individuals on vehicles and in facilities. Encountering a service animal in the transit or other environment is an expected part of being in public.

 

49 CFR 37 Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities

§37.21   Applicability: General.

(a) This part applies to the following entities, whether or not they receive Federal financial assistance from the Department of Transportation:

(1) Any public entity that provides designated public transportation or intercity or commuter rail transportation;

(2) Any private entity that provides specified public transportation; and

(3) Any private entity that is not primarily engaged in the business of transporting people but operates a demand responsive or fixed route system.

(b) For entities receiving Federal financial assistance from the Department of Transportation, compliance with applicable requirements of this part is a condition of compliance with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and of receiving financial assistance.

(c) Entities to which this part applies also may be subject to ADA regulations of the Department of Justice (28 CFR parts 35 or 36, as applicable). The provisions of this part shall be interpreted in a manner that will make them consistent with applicable Department of Justice regulations. In any case of apparent inconsistency, the provisions of this part shall prevail.