Service Dogs are individually task-trained medical assistance animals that help people who have disabilities. They are doctor prescribed to alleviate their handler’s disability, whether physical, sensory, mental, or mobility disabilities.
A Service Animal team has protected civil rights, including public access and reasonable accommodations. These protections are found in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act, Rehabilitation Act, and many state codes.
The ADA (American Disabilities Act) says that any state or local government, business, or non-profit that serves the public must generally allow your service dog to accompany you into any area of the facility the public is allowed to go.
Your service animal should be permitted almost anywhere you go, including the following locations:
hotels and accommodations: apartment buildings, condos, hotels, college dorms, short term rentals(vacation rentals)
public transportation: airplanes, buses, taxis, and trains
restaurants and bars
hospitals and doctor’s offices
offices and service establishments
any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
places of entertainment: theaters, gymnasiums, sports stadiums, etc.
places of exercise or recreation: gyms, bowling alleys, etc.
beaches, zoos, and parks
libraries, museums, educational institutions
government buildings or social service centers
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, Psychiatric Service Dogs are eligible.
Individuals with disabilities who use a service animal do so to fully participate in everyday life. Rightfully so, there are only a few rare exceptions where Service Animals may be restricted (per the ADA):
A Service Animal may be restricted from entering an area of a dormitory that is sectioned off for an individual who is allergic to pet dander.
A Service Animal may be prohibited from staying at the hospital with you if you are in a position where you are unable to care for your animal and unable to arrange for someone to stay with you to care for it during your stay.
Service Animals may be prohibited if admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program.
If admitting Service Animals would overrule legitimate safety requirements, they may be excluded.
If a particular Service Animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.
Public Access privileges for service dogs in training vary significantly by state. Some states allow Service Animals in Training to be in public areas if accompanied by their trainer. Others do not extend the same rights. Even in states where a Service Dog in Training may be allowed restricted public access rights they are not required by the ADA to be admitted to non-pet-friendly locations. Be sure to check the laws in your state.
According to the ADA, people with disabilities have the right to train their Service Animals themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program. When it comes to giving your Service Animal exposure and training opportunities, the best practice is to conduct training in pet-friendly places.
More and more businesses are adopting pet-friendly policies to cater to customers who don’t want to have to separate from their pets. Each company has its own policy about whether pets are allowed.
1. Half Price Books
2. Gander Outdoors/Gander RV & Camping World 3. Michaels
4. Ann Taylor & Loft
5. Bed, Bath & Beyond
7. Bass Pro Shops & Cabellas
8. Tractor Supply Co.
9. Strand Bookstore
11. Warby Parker
13. JoAnn Stores
The pet policy of these stores varies by location. You don’t want to be turned away awkwardly at the door, so call ahead to verify that the site nearest you allows pets.
1. Home Depot
3. LUSH Cosmetics
4. Barnes & Noble
6. Old Navy
7. Banana Republic
8. Academy Sports & Outdoors
9. Abercrombie & Fitch
10. Hobby Lobby
11. Ross Dress For Less
12. Tiffany and Co.
13. Bath and Body Works
14. Pottery Barn
17. Urban Outfitters
19. Free People
20. Saks Fifth Avenue
22. HomeGoods, Marshalls & TJ Maxx
It’s important to respect any business’ pet policy. Don’t bring your dog into a store that’s not dog-friendly unless your dog is a Service Dog. And please never fake a Service Animal to get them into a store. It’s a massive disservice to the Service Animal community and could have legal ramifications. Businesses with animal-friendly policies still leave it up to on-site managers to decide whether to let pets into their locations, so plan to call ahead before bringing your dog along for a training exercise.
Shared outdoor spaces (walking paths, hiking trails, public parks)
Restaurants with outdoor seating are often pet-friendly
Many local small businesses are dog-friendly. The internet is your friend in your search for pet-welcoming training places. If you can’t find a business’ pet policy online, always call ahead and ask the owner if your dog is all right to come with you.
You can find other local places to visit with your pet by checking sites such as Bring Fido. They offer recommendations on dog-friendly shopping, hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and more!
The short answer is no. The ADA does not require testing or certification for Service Animals.
No matter where you take your service animal, you (as the handler) are responsible for their actions. Your service animal has to be under your control while out in public. Service animals can be denied entry or asked to leave if they act aggressively, bark or growl repeatedly, or cause unsanitary conditions such as public elimination.
There are some basic tests your service animal should be able to easily pass before going out in public. A service animal that cannot pass these tests will not be able to perform the necessary duties needed to assist its owner and can create issues for others around them.
Can the service animal remain calm and dismiss distractions, including loud sounds, traffic, and crowds?
Can the service animal sit, stay, shake, and heel efficiently?
Does the service animal remain focused on their handler rather than other people and animals?
Is the service animal able to maintain composure in the presence of food and treats?
Does the service animal bark or growl inappropriately?
For more information about Service Animal expectations in training, read this.
While there are no laws that require your service animal to be visibly identifiable, many owners find that visual aids such as harnesses, vests, and ID tags are helpful. All too frequently, Service Animal handlers come face to face with Service Animal discrimination. Many find that these identifiers are useful for others to quickly determine that their dog is a working animal. Having their service animal outfitted with appropriate identification helps limit inappropriate questions from curious onlookers. Similarly, having a Service Animal in Training vest for the training phase can signal others that while your pup is on the job, they may not always get it right. Hopefully, they will extend more grace if your animal misbehaves.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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