FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SERVICE DOGS
■ HOW DO I KNOW IT IS A REAL SERVICE DOG?
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two 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 cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. Although it is fairly easy to figure out a trained service dog from a faker. They are highly trained and many times you barely even know they are there.
■ WHAT IF CUSTOMERS COMPLAIN THEY HAVE ALLERGIES or FEAR DOGS?
Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom, restaurant or at a shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
■ CAN I ASK A SERVICE DOG AND HANDLER TO LEAVE?
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken. When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
■ LOCAL HEALTH CODES PROHIBIT ANIMALS IN MY RESTAURANT?
Establishments that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
■ CAN I PUT THEM IN ANOTHER AREA, SO NOT TO OFFEND MY OTHER CUSTOMERS?
People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be isolated from other patrons, treated less favorably than other patrons, or charged fees that are not charged to other patrons without animals. In addition, if a business requires a deposit or fee to be paid by patrons with pets, it must waive the charge for service animals.
■ WHAT DOCUMENTATION OR PROOF CAN I ASK FOR?
A public accommodation or facility is not allowed to ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Local laws that prohibit specific breeds of dogs do not apply to service animals.5
A place of public accommodation or public entity may not ask an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees. Entities cannot require anything of people with service animals that they do not require of individuals in general, with or without pets. If a public accommodation normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.
■ WHAT IF THE DOG DAMAGES MY BUSINESS IN SOME MANNER?
If a business such as a hotel, restaurant or shop normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by himself or his service animal.
■ ARE ALL SERVICE DOGS IN VESTS AND LEASHES?
Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls. Most reputable service dog organizations provide appropriate harness or vests so service dogs are easily identified, but they are not required.
■ ARE THERE ANY AREAS SERVICE DOGS ARE EXCLUDED?
Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. For example, in a hospital it would be inappropriate to exclude a service animal from areas such as patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, or examination rooms. However, it may be appropriate to exclude a service animal from operating rooms or burn units where the animal’s presence may compromise a sterile environment.
For more information about the ADA, please visit the ADA website or call the toll-free number.
ADA Information Line
800-514-0301 (Voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY)
M-W, F 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Th 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time)