Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally requires places of public accommodation to modify their practices and policies to permit the use of service animals by individuals with disabilities. Here’s what businesses need to know about the ADA’s rules for service animals:
What is a Service Animal? The ADA defines “service animal” as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” 28 C.F.R. § 36.104. While there are slightly different rules for miniature horses under the ADA, the ADA’s rules for “service animals” are limited to trained dogs.
Where Can Service Animals Go? Unless an exception applies, an individual with a disability may be accompanied by a service animal wherever members of the public are allowed to go. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(7).
What Exceptions Apply? A public accommodation may ask an individual to remove a service animal from the premises if either: (i) the animal is out of control and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it; or (ii) the animal is not housebroken. If this occurs, the public accommodation must give the individual with a disability the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations without having the service animal on the premises. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(2–3).
What inquiries may a public accommodation make about a service animal? A public accommodation may not make any inquiries about a service animal if it is readily apparent that the animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., a dog guiding a blind person, pulling a wheelchair, etc…). If this is not readily apparent, the public accommodation may only ask two questions: (i) if the animal is required because of a disability; and (ii) what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation may not inquire about the extent or nature of an individual’s disability, nor may it require documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(6).
Who Must Control the Animal? The service animal must be under the control of its handler – either by a harness, or if a disability prevents the use of a harness, by the handler’s voice control, signals, or other effective means. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(4).
Does a public accommodation need to care for or supervise a service animal? No, a public accommodation is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal. 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(5).