FAQ's about the ADA and Service Dog Laws

May 24, 2018

Increase your awareness of service dog laws and know how to respond under specific circumstances that relate to your business.

What do people with disabilities use service dogs for?

Many people with disabilities use a service dog trained to perform important tasks that they can’t handle on their own. For example, a service dog may pick up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, provide stability for someone who has difficulty walking, alert a person with hearing loss, or prevent a child with autism from wandering away.

What does the ADA have to do with service dog laws?

The ADA (American with Disabilities Act) requires that state and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations providing goods or services to the public make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, and procedures to accommodate people with disabilities.

The important thing to know is that the service animals fall under this category of law. Entities that have a “no pets” policy are generally required to modify the policy to permit service animals into their facilities.

Can I ask questions about a service animal?

When it isn’t obvious what service an animal provides, limited inquiries are allowed.

What you can ask:

If you’re staff, you can ask if the dog is a required service animal due to disability, and what work or task the dog has been trained to perform.

What you can’t ask:

Under the ADA, you can’t ask about the person’s disability or ask for medical documentation. You can’t require that an identification card or documentation be produced to show that the dog is an official service animal, nor can you request that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task that it’s been trained to perform.

How should I address someone with a disability who is using a service animal in my facility?

What you should do:

Make sure that the person with a disability who is using a service animal isn’t isolated, treated less favorably, or charged extra fees than other patrons without animals. If your business requires that a deposit or fee be paid by patrons with pets, make sure that you waive the charge for the person who is using a service animal.

What you shouldn’t do:

You shouldn’t deny access or refuse service, due to allergies or fear of dogs, to people using service animals. You shouldn’t ask the person to remove their service animal from the premises, unless the dog isn’t housebroken or is out of control (and the handler doesn’t take action). If you must ask that a service animal be removed, you should offer the person the opportunity to obtain goods and services without the animal’s assistance.

Keep in mind that you’re not required to provide care or food for a service dog. You’re not required to absorb the costs of damage caused by a person with a disability or by his/her service dog if your business customarily charges for such damage (for example, if you are running a hotel business).

Bottom Line

Disability rights and service animals are an important part of the law that impacts you and your business. Stay up to date with current provisions on service animals and ADA regulations.