ADA Now An online quarterly providing information and resources on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Conferences/Online Training Archives About Home

Winter 2018 Issue:

ADA and Service Dogs: Common Questions

What is the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal?

Service animals, as defined by the ADA, is a dog that has been individually trained to perform a task or work to assist a person with a disability. Emotional support animals, as defined by the Fair Housing Act, provide support that alleviates the symptons of a person's disability. Emotional support animals do not have to have any specific training or perform any type of tasks. Under the Fair Housing Act, emotional support animals are not restricted only to dogs. ADA regulations do not cover emotional support animals. The Fair Housing Act covers both service animals and emotional support animals. Note: people with disabilities may use animals other than dogs as service animals in their homes, which are covered by the Fair Housing Act.

May a service dog ever be removed from a business?

Yes. Business owners have the right to remove a service dog that is aggressive, growling, snarling, and of course, biting. Business owners also have the right to remove a service dog if it is disruptive by barking repeatedly, wandering around and/or bothering other customers.
When a dog is disruptive, staff should ask the handler to bring the dog under control. If that doesn’t happen, staff may ask the handler to remove the service dog. Staff may ask that a service dog be removed immediately if the dog is aggressive. Note: The customer with a disability should be given the option to return without the dog.

May a service dog be banned permanently from a facility, such as a business or library?

In the majority of cases, a dog should be allowed to return to the facility. In many cases, a dog may just need some additional training or the dog may have been feeling unwell or distracted. However, more extreme situations such as attacking and or biting staff and customers may require a permanent ban from the facility. Repeated disruptions over time such as continual barking, wandering, or jumping on customers may also result in a permanent or temporary ban.

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.

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 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 may prohibit dogs in swimming pools. However, service dogs must be
allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where the public is allowed to go.

I want my business to be dog friendly. May I allow service animals other than dogs or emotional support animals into my business?

Yes. The ADA sets minimal requirements and business owners may go above and beyond these requirements as they wish to provide services to people with disabilities, providing there are no conflicting public health state or local ordinances.

If a city has an American Pit Bull Terrier exclusion, doesn't that mean that this breed is also restricted from being a service dog?

No. Cities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for service dogs. The ADA clearly states that services dogs cannot be excluded based upon size or breed. Any service dog that causes a direct threat to the health and safety of others may be removed from a facility, but that decision must be made on a case-by-case basis.

Are service dogs required to follow local licensing and vaccination laws?

Yes. Cities should not make "special" requirements for service dogs that do not apply to other dogs. However, people with disabilities are not exempt from requirements that apply to all animals such as vaccinations and licensing. They are also not exempt from paying associated fees. However, it is not uncommon for cities to waive fees or offer financial assistance to service dog users, if needed.

My city has passed its own laws regarding service animals, which do I follow, the ADA or state and local laws?

State and local laws should meet the minimum guidelines required by the ADA. These laws may expand the definition of a service animal to include other animals than dogs. Many state and local laws cover issues such as service dogs in training and/or fraudulently claiming a pet is a service dog. You should follow the ADA guidelines and any additional state and local laws.



ADA Now is a publication of the ADA Coordinator Training Certification Program (ACTCP)

Learn more about the Certification Program