Service Animals Related Inquiries

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To determine if an animal is a service animal, a public entity or a private business may ask two questions:

  • Is this animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?

These questions may not be asked 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). A public entity or private business may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability or require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.

When and Where a Service Animal is Allowed Access

Individuals with disabilities can bring their service animals in all areas of public facilities and private businesses where members of the public, program partici­pants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees are allowed. A service animal can be excluded from a facility if its presence interferes with legitimate safety requirements of the facility (e.g., from a surgery or  burn unit in a hospital in which a sterile field is required).

A public entity or a private business may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal if the animal is not housebroken or is out of control and the individual is not able to control it. A service animal must have a harness, leash or other tether, unless the handler is unable to use a tether because of a disability or the use of a tether would interfere with the service animal’s ability to safely perform its  work or tasks. In these cases, the service animal must be under the handler’s control through voice commands, hand signals, or other effective means. If a service animal is excluded, the individual with a disability must still be offered the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises.

Other Provisions

  • A public entity or private business is not responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal.
  • A public entity or private business shall not ask nor require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge or deposit, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay such fees.
  • If a public entity or private business 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.

Relationship to Other Laws

These provisions related to service animals apply only to entities covered by the ADA. The Fair Housing Act covers service animal provisions for residential housing situations, and the Air Carrier Access Act covers service animal provisions for airline travel. The definition of a service animal under each of these laws is different than the definition under the ADA.

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