FAQ: Service Animals

Question:

I have a service dog. I made a hotel reservation and told them I have a service dog. They said that was fine but they would have to charge me extra to cover the cost of extra cleaning after we check out. Can they do this?

Answer:

No.  Places of lodging, as well as any other Title III place of public accommodation, cannot impose additional fees, surcharges, or request deposits because you are accompanied by a service animal.  This also holds true for places of lodging who normally allow pets at an extra charge. Service animals are not pets, therefore you cannot be charged a pet fee. If your animal does any damage to the property then the hotel/business would have the right afterwards to charge you appropriate fees to cover the cost of the damage, if it is normally their policy to charge anyone who causes damage. 

 

Question:

I work in a buffet-style restaurant. We had a customer come in with a service dog. The customer got really upset when I explained that we would have to seat her very far away from the buffet, and that the dog could not accompany her to the buffet, because it would violate local health codes to have the dog that close to the food. We are within our rights aren’t we, given our health and safety requirements?

Answer:

No. Even if local or state health laws suggest animals cannot be present around the food, the ADA supersedes local and state ordinance. Places of public accommodation, including places that prepare and serve food, must comply with the ADA. Title III of the ADA applies to any restaurant, bar, lounge, etc. that serves food to the public.  It is also important to note that the Food and Drug Administration specifically states that it is not a health risk or violation for service animals to be around food, including employees who have service animals with them at work.  

Question:

Is there any place that has the legal right to deny my service animal access?

Answer:

Yes.  Hospitals may be able to make the case for not allowing service animals into certain areas of their facility if a legitimate direct threat/health and safety risk exists, such as in patient rooms, the emergency room, or Intensive Care Unit. However the animal should still be allowed in more public parts of the hospital such as cafeterias and waiting rooms.   Also, churches and religious entities are exempt from ADA Title II and Title III obligations; therefore they do not have to allow a service animal access under the law.  Private home owners also have the right to ask that you not bring your service animal with you into their home. The only time Title II and Title III covered entities have the right to deny access is if the service animal has posed a legitimate health and safety risk or direct threat or if their presence has fundamentally altered the nature of the business. For example, if a service animal is out of the handler's control, causes a major disturbance (i.e. barking uncontrollably), or hurts another person, then the public or private entity would have the right to request that the owner remove the animal.

 

Question:

Can my service animal sit with me on the airplane or does he have to ride in the cargo of the plane, and can the airline charge me extra for having my animal with me?

Answer:

The Air Carrier Access Act applies in this situation, not the ADA. The Air Carrier Access Act indicates that service animals and emotional support animals, are allowed in the cabin or the aircraft as long as the owner has a doctor's note verifying the need for the ESA.   The airline cannot charge extra fees or require the owner to purchase an extra ticket. The animal is typically allowed to ride under the passenger's seat. In certain cases, such as if the animal is unusually large or the owner has 2 animals, the owner may have to purchase an additional seat. Another option is to put the animal in the cargo hold, in which case the airline would not be allowed to charge extra even under special circumstances.  For more information, see http://airconsumer.dot.gov/rules/382short.pdf.

Question:

I have a service dog and am looking for an apartment. The landlords I have met with are saying no pets are allowed in their housing units so they can’t rent to me. Is this legal?

Answer:

The Fair Housing Act (FHA), enforced by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), says tenants with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations "necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling" even if there is a "no pets allowed" rule. HUD's position has been that service animals and emotional support animals may qualify as an accommodation but the person with the disability may need to "demonstrate the need for the accommodation" if said need is not readily apparent.  This information is taken from the Department of Housing and Urban Development 24 CFR Part 5 Pet Ownership for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities, Final Rule which can be viewed at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/24/5/subpart-C. Please note, there may be some exemptions to coverage under the FHA. For example, the owner of a small rental building, who also lives in the same building, may not have to adhere to follow the FHA as long as their advertising of the dwelling is not discriminatory in nature.

Question:

I deal with depression and anxiety sometimes so my doctor said I should get an emotional support animal or a companion animal, are they the same as a service animal?

Answer:

No. Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are therapeutic pets that help individuals with emotional difficulties. They are not trained to perform tasks or do work for the owner like a service animal is. ESAs cannot enter "no-pets allowed" establishments, but they are allowed in no-pets allowed housing and in the cabins of airplanes as long as the owner has a note from their doctor verifying the need for the ESA.  Companion Animals, sometimes called Therapy Animals, are pets who are typically very gentle and trained to behave well in a variety of settings. They are sometimes used for bringing a higher level of social functioning to people in nursing homes, schools, hospitals, etc. But they are not service animals nor are they legally granted access within any no-pets allowed establishments.

 

Question:

The ADA says I can take my service animal with me into public places. Does this mean I can take it with me to my job too and my boss can’t say no?

Answer:

Title II and Title III of the ADA specifically state that service animals should be allowed to accompany their owner into public and private business establishments. The rules are different in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has indicated that Title I of the ADA, which covers employment, does not require automatic access for service animals. The employee must request this as an accommodation and the employer must consider this request and determine whether granting the accommodation is reasonable in the person's workplace.

Question:

I run a business- if someone comes in with a dog claiming it’s a service animal can I ask for proof?

Answer:

To determine if an animal is a service animal, a public entity or a private business may ask two questions: 1) Is this animal required because of a disability?  2) What work or task has this animal been trained to perform? These inquiries may not be made if the need for the service animal is obvious (e.g., the dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person's wheelchair.) You may not ask what disability the owner has nor can you require any documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal.  The ADA does not require that service animals wear any sort of identification, vest, or harness.

Question:

Can any animal be a service animal or can they only be dogs?

Answer:

According to the new Department of Justice ADA Title II and Title III regulations (which took effect March 15, 2011), a service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered to be service animals.  There is one exception to this limitation. If a miniature horse has been trained to assist an individual with a disability, then the same ADA protections that apply to service dogs shall apply to the service horse also.


For more information on Service Animals, see the Department of Justice guidance on Service Animals at: http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm  and the ADA National Network Service Animals Fact sheet at: http://www.northeastada.org/docs/National%20ADA%20Fact%20Sheets/National%20ADA%20Center%20Fact%20Sheet%205%20SERVICE%20ANIMALS.pdf.