Generally, a service animal is an animal that is individually trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability. The specific definition, however, varies in different contexts:
- Title II and Title III, generally: Under the regulations from the US Department of Justice for Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability. No other types of animals, with the sole exception of a miniature horse, are considered service animals. Service animals are generally allowed wherever the public is permitted to go. This includes restaurants, theaters, hotels, colleges, county social service offices, and medical offices. A special license or certification is not required for a service animal. This definition does not include emotional support as a task.
- Title II and the US Department of Transportation (DOT): It is important to know that the DOT uses a different definition of service animal in relation to Title II. This applies to transportation controlled or operated by a state or local government, such as city buses, light rail, and commuter trains. In these circumstances, a service animal is defined by the DOT as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability…” In these regulations, a service animal does not necessarily have to be a dog.
- Employment: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not define a service animal, but a service animal is considered to be a reasonable accommodation, so an employee must request to have their service animal in the workplace.
- Fair Housing Act (FHA): Under the FHA, the term assistance animal is used instead of service animal. This law—which is enforced by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development—uses a very different definition. This definition includes what is considered a service animal under the ADA, but it has fewer limitations.
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