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.
Service Animals Overview
Service animals are one of the most asked about topics on the Northeast ADA Center’s technical assistance hotline.
The ADA and Service Animals
What’s a service animal? The answer depends on the situation, and this FAQ article explains the basics.
The ADA and Service Animal Handlers
What should a service animal handler know about rights and responsibilities when they go into the community with the animal?
Miniature Horses as Service Animals
Why and how a miniature horse can be used as a service animal to assist a person with a disability.
The ADA and Health Care Providers
This article introduces basic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for health care providers.
- Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals Are Not the Same (PDF)
Learn why service animals and emotional support animals are different
- Service Animals Can Be Miniature Horses (PDF)
Learn why miniature horses can be ideal as service animals in this colorful fact sheet from the Northeast ADA Center
- Q&A - Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals in Single Family Homes Used as Vacation Rentals: ADA and FHA Implications (PDF)
- Service Animals (PDF)
- Employment of Veterans with Service-Connected Disabilities (PDF)
Ask About the ADA
- Service Animals on Airplanes
Q: Recently the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed the rules for service animals and emotional support animals on airplanes. Why was this done? A: The DOT made these changes to avoid problems...
- Service Animals on Public Transit
Q: Are the rules for service animals different on public transportation than they are for service animals in other areas like restaurants and stores? A: The biggest difference between the Dept. of Tr...
- Service Dogs at My B&B
Q: I live in and own a bed and breakfast that has four rooms. Do I have to allow service animals or emotional support animals to stay? A: No. The definition in the Americans with Disabilities Act (AD...
- The difference between service animals, emotional support animals, or therapy animals can be confusing. Are they all covered under the ADA?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog, and sometimes a miniature horse, that has been trained to complete a specific task relative to the needs of an in...
- Service Animals and Vests
Q: Does a service animals need to wear a vest that identifies it as service animal? A: No, a simple leash or harness is all that is required for a service animal. A service animal must always be unde...
- Service Animals: Not as Confusing as It May Seem—New Service Animals Toolkit Clears Up Confusion
July 06, 2022
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May 28, 2021
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July 08, 2020
During these times of uncertainty about what about what the “new normal” will look like as the country begins to re-open, we wanted to remind everyone about an oldie-but-a-goodie law that...
- Implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act in a Health Care Setting
March 19, 2020
Equal access to health care for individuals with disabilities is an ongoing challenge. The Northeast ADA will soon be offering a webinar based in part on this topic. People with disabilities lag be...
- A Place for Everyone at the Table: The Importance of Accessible Event Planning
January 19, 2023
The Northeast ADA Center has received several requests recently for training on hosting accessible events. These requests have ranged from businesses hosting meetings and conferences to groups hosting...
- Introduction to the Service Animal Toolkit
July 27, 2022
Do customers bring dogs into your business claiming they are service animals, emotional support animals, comfort dogs, or therapy dogs? Join Chris Sweet, technical assistant for the Northeast ADA Cent...
- Air Travel for Individuals with Disabilities: Intersection of the Air Carriers Access Act and the ADA
November 18, 2015
A recent study by the Open Doors Organization revealed that in the past two years, more than 26 million adults with disabilities traveled for business or pleasure. While legislation such as the Air Ca...
- Issues, Impacts and Implications of an Aging Workforce
October 14, 2015
The aging population is growing and the number of older adults in the workforce is rising, which presents multiple challenges to organizations. Age discrimination and the increased prevalence of disab...
- The expanding disability market: Scenario Clinic
September 30, 2015
During this webinar, we will explore and discuss scenarios related to serving people with disabilities in a variety of sectors and businesses. Building upon the September 9 webinar, we will pose...
- Section 503, the ADA Amendments Act, and Disability Service Providers: Scenario Clinic
October 22, 2014
Recent changes in disability laws and policies could lead to sweeping changes for individuals with disabilities in the workplace and other areas of life. New rules for Rehabilitation Act (...
- Free Webinar-ADA National Network Learning Session: Who Let the Dogs (and Miniature Horses) In? Service Animals in Health Care Facilities
May 20, 2020
Thursday, May 28th, 202011:30 AM PDT - 1:00 PM PDT According to the Bureau of Global Public Affairs within the U.S. Department of State, approximately 500,000 service dogs assist people with disabili...
- Animals on Planes a Challenge for Airlines, Passengers
February 22, 2018
When Marlin Jackson arrived at his row on a Delta flight from Atlanta to San Diego in June, a man with a sizable dog on his lap already occupied the middle seat. Jackson squeezed by them to his window...
- Service Animals and the ADA: Exploring Common Issues and Scenarios-Free Webinar!
November 15, 2017
Tuesday, November 21st, 20172:00 PM EST - 3:30 PM ESTWhile more than 27 years have passed since the implementation of the ADA, there are areas which continue to raise questions and cause confusion. On...
- New York Passes Law Against Service Animal Fraud, Joining Other States
January 17, 2018
New York recently joined an increasing number of states that have passed laws aimed at curbing abuse of laws and regulations designed to ensure that individuals with disabilities can be accompanied by...
- Free Webinar - Service Animal Scenarios
February 21, 2019
March 27th 2019 1:00pm EST to 2:00pm ESTPresenter: Chris Sweet, Northeast ADA Technical Assistance and Outreach Specialist Service animals have begun emerging in popular media as a topic of contentio...