Information Regarding Service Animals

What Is A Service Animal?

A service animal is any animal that is specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. The tasks that they perform can include:

  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Retrieving dropped items
  • Pressing an elevator button
  • Guiding someone across the street
  • Alerting someone to a potential seizure

Please note: Service dogs are not Service Animals under Title II and III of the ADA, as they lack the training given to Service Animals.

What Rules Must Be Followed In Public?

Public Facilities and Accommodations may not deny access to the Service Animal and their handler to any place in the building or facility where members of the public, program participants, customers, or clients are allowed to be.

Employers may not discriminate because of a disability and are required to provide reasonable accommodations. Allowing an individual with a disability to have a service animal accompany them to work may be considered an accommodation.

Housing cannot be refused for individuals with a disability with a Service Animal even when the property has a No Pets Policy. The individual must be, according to the Fair Housing Act, provided with reasonable accommodation for equal opportunity to enjoy and use the dwelling.

Educational settings must allow students who use Service Animals to have the animal with them in all areas of the facility that are open to the public or to students. In some cases, it may not be feasible for the student to have the animal with them at school, as in the case of elementary school students who may not be able to control or clean up after the animal on their own.

Ground Transportation services must be granted to those with a Service Animal even if there is a No Pets policy in place. In addition, the person with the service animal cannot be forced to sit in a particular spot; no additional fees can be charged; and the customer does not have to provide advanced notice that they will be traveling with a Service Animal.

Air travel may require additional documentation to establish the reason the animal must travel with them. For Service Animals, air carriers should accept identifiers such as identification cards. written documentation, the presence of harnesses or tags.

Reasons Why a Service Animal and/or Support Animal May Be Denied Access

An entity may deny access to a Service Animal whose behavior is unacceptable or in situations in which the person with a disability is not in control of the animal. Uncontrolled barking, jumping on other people or running away from the handler are examples of unacceptable behaviors for a Service Animal.

Service Animals may be excluded when the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. A decision cannot be based on the notion that an animal might threaten the safety of others. Each Service Animal must be considered individually.

Fear of the animal and/or complaints of allergies are not valid reasons for denying the Service Animal access to a facility or for refusing service to the individual using the Service Animal.

Avoid Interacting With Service Animals

If a Service Animal is distracted by onlookers attempting to pet or interact with them, it could cause their handler to become distressed or hurt. When interacting with an individual with a Service Animal, it is best to pretend that the animal is not there.

When encountering an individual with a disability, even in the presence of their Service Animal, it is acceptable to inquire if they need assistance. If they reply “Yes”, ask how you can best assist them; do not make assumptions about the kind of help they need.

Accommodating Service Animals In An Emergency

According to ADA regulations, emergency managers and shelter operators are generally required to make reasonable accommodations and modifications to policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to allow all individuals access to services.

Most emergency shelters do not allow pets, but shelters can modify the No Pets policy to allow people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals.

Many individuals arriving at shelters may not have had adequate time to transport enough food and water for the Service Animals. Plan to make food and water available so that individuals can feed and care for their Service Animals.

Modify security screening procedures so that people with service animals are not subjected to repeated long waits at security checkpoints to regain access to the shelter after they have taken their animals outside for relief.

For additional information please refer to the following documents:

Service Animal Booklet by theindependencecenter.org.
US Department of Health & Human Services document on Service Animals in healthcare facilities.
ADA information on Service Animals.