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1.2. Service Animals And The Law

The ADA defines service animals as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include: Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds. Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments. Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance. A service animal is not a pet.

Service animals must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of a facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

A service animal is not a pet. While many businesses have policies and posted signs disallowing pets or dogs, these rules do not refer service animals. The ADA requires that "no pets" policies allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. Service animals are always the exception to these rules.

A service animal can be excluded from a facility or place of business when the animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. However, this exclusion cannot be based on businesses prior experience with a service animal. The decision to exclude a service animal must be aimed at a specific animal for a specific incident. 

There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal--that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded. 


Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA- Published by the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section.

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) is a non-profit, cross-disability organization representing people partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs. 

ADI- Public Laws: ADI strives to keep current on legislation and laws around the world regarding public access for assistance dog partner teams. Please note their disclaimer. 



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