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Winter 2018 Issue:

Federal, State and Local Laws: Which One to Follow?

Did You Know...

None of these statutes are covered in the ADA's Title II and III regulations covering service animals. However, these are just a few of the many state laws that cover service or assistance animals that are not included in Title II and III of the ADA. Can states have their own laws covering service animals and if they do can these laws be different from ADA regulations? The answer to both questions is "yes". As a Federal law, the ADA sets minimum regulations regarding the rights of people with disabilities to use service animals, which under the ADA definition is a dog that has been individually trained to perform work or tasks to assist a person with a disability. Following is further clarification between Federal, State and local service (or assistance) animal laws.

Title II and III of the ADA

Applies nationwide. States cannot pass laws that are in conflict with Title II and III regulations covering people with disabilities' rights to use service animals. In other words, since the ADA establishes service dogs should be allowed in places such restaurants and movie theatres, a state could not pass a law restricting service dogs from these types of establishments.

State Laws

As stated earlier, state laws may expand the definition of a service animal as well as the rights of people with disabilities in how and where they use service animals. States may also establish laws on areas not covered by the ADA such as fraudlulent use of a service animal, intentionally injuring a service animal, and service dogs in training.

These state laws apply to residents of that particular state or anyone visiting or working in the state. Since state laws are not supposed to be conflict with ADA regulations, entities should be able to follow state laws without fear of violating the ADA.

Where to find states laws? Michigan State University has developed a comparison of all 50 states' assistance animal laws for several categories. Included are assistance animal accommodation laws, criminal interference laws, licensing laws, disabled pedestrian laws, and service animal misrepresentation laws. Go to state animal laws.

Local Laws

Cities and counties may also pass their own laws regarding service animals. These laws should not conflict with both federal (ADA) and any state laws and would only apply to the jurisdiction of the city or county.


Service animal regulations are enforced at the level they represent. If a city expands their definition of a service animal to animals other than dogs, then any complaint involving an animal other a dog would be enforced at that local level. Laws only covered at the state or local level, such as fraudulent use a service animal, would also be enforced at that level.

Note: Many states incorporate the ADA regulations into their own regulations or statutes. In these cases, complaints of discrimination could be made at both the federal and state level.

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