What You Need to Know About ADA Service Animal Laws 2020 Updates

Persons with disabilities may use service animals and emotional support animals for a variety of reasons. However, they are laws that offer protection for ADA service animals. In this article, information about the ADA service animal laws for each state is provided.

Service Animal Laws

This article provides an overview of Federal civil rights laws governing the rights of a person requiring a service animal. Many states also have laws that provide a different definition of service animal.

You should check your state’s law and follow the law that offers the most protection for service animals.  The article discusses service animals in a number of different settings as the rules related to access service animals will vary according to the law applied.

This article focuses on:

What is a Service Animal?

The ADA also has a strict definition for service animals. They are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people living with disabilities”.

These tasks may include things like alerting people who are deaf and guiding people who are visually impaired.

They also include calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during an anxiety attack, reminding someone to take prescription medications.

Service dogs are working animals – not pets. They must be trained to perform a task that is directly related to the handler’s disability. The ADA does not recognize dogs who solely provide emotional support or comfort as service animals.

Where Service Dogs are Allowed

Businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state and local governments are typically required to allow service dogs under ADA service dog laws to accompany people with disabilities in any areas that are open to the public.

They must be allowed in establishments that prepare or serve food regardless of local or state health codes prohibiting animals on the premises. ADA service dog laws will always overrule local laws.

Business owners and staff are only allowed to ask two questions regarding service dogs. They may ask if the dog is a service animal that is required due to a disability and what type of work or task the dog has been trained to do.

The ADA prohibits them from asking about a person’s disability. They are also not allowed to require any type of identification or certification documents for the dog or medical documentation from the handler.

They also may not ask that the dog demonstrate what it has been trained to do.

Businesses that charge additional fees or deposits for pets – such as hotels – must waive these fees for service animals.

Requirements for Service Dog and Handler Teams

Requirements for Service Dog and Handler Teams

Discriminating against service dogs and their handlers is illegal. However, there are a few rules by which dogs and their handlers must abide. Under the ADA, all service dogs must be leashed, harnessed, or tethered.

If, however, these devices interfere with the dog’s work or the handler’s disability makes it impossible to use them, the dog may be kept under control through voice, signal, or other controls.

If a service dog is not under control and the handler fails to act to gain to control, a business owner or staff member is permitted to ask that the animal be removed from the premises.

A handler may also be asked to remove a service dog that is not housebroken, is behaving aggressively, or is otherwise posing a threat to human health and safety.

If the dog must be removed for a legitimate reason, the establishment must permit the handler to obtain the services or goods they need without the animal’s presence.

Service dogs provide vital assistance for people with disabilities. They are afforded numerous rights under the ADA, but it is the handler’s responsibility to ensure that the dog is properly trained and behaves appropriately in public.

Service Animal Laws

Some states have special verbiage and accommodations for emotional support, comfort animals and general support animals. We have included information about these laws in states that have them.

Alabama

Alabama follows the ADA requirements for service animal laws. Your service animal must perform a specific function or task directly related to your disability.

An additional law that in Alabama requires a disabled person to be liable for damage to people or property by a service animal.

Alaska

If you’re in Alaska and have a service animal, your animal will have to go through specific training to perform a task. The law does not specify who has to train your animal. You might also have to have certification for your service animal.

Alaska does not require you to have medical documentation for your service animal.

Arizona

Arizona has some service animal laws that require your animal to be trained. You do not need to have the animal certified in Arizona, but you will need to have medical documentation for your service animal.

Arizona law doesn’t protect emotional support animals, training service dogs, or comfort animals. Despite not having protection, your animal may still be able to go to different establishments.

Arkansas

In addition to the ADA requirements and exceptions, people in Arkansas who have a service animal have a responsibility under the law to make sure their service animal is within compliance of emergency respondents and law enforcement professionals. There is no specific information on what “compliance” means.

California

If you’re in California, the service animal laws might protect you with reasonable accommodation for employment and housing. You might also get protection for travel and even for visiting stores.

California follows the ADA but also makes an exception for animals that are used for psychiatric purchases.

Colorado

Cities in Colorado follow the ADA service animal laws. They also have specific verbiage on companion animals and ESAs. Businesses don’t have to allow ESAs.

Connecticut

If you’re in Connecticut, there are service animal laws that might protect you. The public must make accommodations to protect people who are blind, deaf or mobility impaired.

At Connecticut, you must license your dog and have the appropriate tags and vaccines.

Delaware

Delaware follows the same guidelines as the ADA put into place. There are additional service animal laws that protect people from having their animals interfered within various situations.

Service animals in Delaware must be able to perform specific tasks. Emotional support animals don’t receive the same protection as service animals but may be protected under fair housing acts.

Florida

If you have a service dog in Florida, you have a right to have the dog in public and in places where pets are typically banned.

The law follows closely with the federal ADA laws but does have some additional verbiage to protect people if a service dog is out of control.

Service dog trainers receive the same protection as people with disabilities.

Georgia

Georgia’s state service animal laws follow the same laws like the ADA, but they also include information on how the dog should be trained.

Service dogs in Georgia must be trained by a certified professional even though the dog does not have to be certified.

The law does not protect people who have emotional support animals, but federal housing laws allow them in homes that don’t allow pets.

Hawaii

The laws in Hawaii are in line with ADA guidelines and they also include some further accommodation for companion and comfort animals.

As long as the companion or comfort animal is trained to do work or perform tasks, they will receive protection under the ADA laws and Hawaii service animal laws.

Idaho

In addition to the ADA laws, Idaho state law also makes accommodation for people using public transportation facilities, housing and other public spaces in Idaho that might not be covered under ADA.

The Idaho law also protects service animals by making it illegal for people and businesses to interfere with the service animal.

Illinois

Illinois laws for service animals protect people in the same way as the ADA laws do. The state of Illinois takes it one step further by specifically mentioning schools.

And that all students with a service animal will be allowed to have their animal with them at all times whether they are inside or outside of the classroom.

Illinois also allows service animals in public swimming pools. As long as the animals do not pose a direct threat to the sanitary conditions.

This means your service dog can swim in the pool as long as it doesn’t relieve itself in the pool.

Indiana

In addition to the ADA service animal laws, Indiana also has their own laws that include service dogs for people with specific conditions including psychiatric ones, autism, and seizure disorders in addition to blindness and hearing impairment.

Indiana protects these animals in housing situations, in the public, and in instances where businesses might charge a fee for the animals. The laws in Indiana also allow people to bring their service animals into the polls.

Iowa

Iowa’s state laws closely mirror the ADA laws. They also include “assistive animal” in their laws which allows people to receive protection if their animal supports, provides a service.

Kansas

If you’re in Kansas and you have a service animal, you’ll receive state protection in addition to the ADA service animal laws. Dogs who are trained as service dogs, hearing or seeing dogs will all receive the same protection.

Professional therapy dogs will also receive that protection.

Kentucky

Kentucky laws are the same as the ADA laws. They also provide accommodation for service dogs used in public services like search and rescue and bomb dogs.

If a business or person denies entry, housing or accommodation to a person with a service animal, they can face a fine between $250 and $1,000.

Louisiana

Louisiana’s service animal guidelines and laws follow the ADA rules. They also make accommodations for people who have service animals and are in need of housing.

People cannot be denied housing and must be able to have a home that has reasonable accommodations if they have a service animal.

Maine

If you’re in Maine, you have the same protections under state law as you do under the ADA law. Maine also makes accommodations to ensure people with service animals have access to fair housing situations.

You and your animal are also protected from attacks or infringements on the services the animal is able to perform.

Maryland

The Maryland laws on service animals mirror the ADA laws. Additionally, Maryland makes accommodations for people who are training service dogs.

Parents of minor children who use service animals also receive the same protection and adults who use service animals.

Massachusetts

If you have a service animal in Massachusetts, you’re entitled to have your dog at public places, in restaurants and in any home regardless of pets being allowed.

The state follows the same laws as ADA but also includes laws that allow people and their service animals to receive protection from infringements on the service animal’s job.

Michigan

If you’re in Michigan and have a service animal, you have protection for you and your service animal. Michigan state law follows the same rules as the ADA laws. You could also get housing protection for your service animal.

Michigan has laws that could protect you for housing with an emotional support animal despite it not being covered under the ADA laws.

Minnesota

In addition to the same service animal laws as the ADA has, Minnesota offers protection in the event someone or something hurts your service animal. You could get compensation.

The person or the owner of the thing that hurt your animal will receive a fine. Minnesota also has laws preventing people from interfering with your service animal’s duties.

Mississippi

Even though Mississippi follows the ADA guidelines for service animals, emotional support animals are not included in this.

Therapy and support animals that are trained to do a specific task receive protection. In addition, trainers receive the same rights and accommodations as those who need the animals.

Missouri

Missouri makes special accommodations for people with professional therapy dogs and other service animals. These do not include certified or uncertified dogs that are used in visitation therapy.

You may also receive protection from anyone interfering with your service animal under Mississippi law.

Montana

Montana service animal laws mirror the laws the ADA has in place. Service animals and their handlers receive protection and accommodations.

Service animals that are in training will receive the same type of protection, but they must have clear notifications that they are in training to be a service animal.

Nebraska

Even though Nebraska follows the same laws as the ADA has in place, they do not make special accommodations for animals other than dogs.

Only dogs who are trained for physical disabilities, psychiatric and intellectual disabilities receive protection under the Nebraska state service animal laws.

Nevada

Nevada follows the same service animal laws that are in place with the ADA. In addition to the laws for service animals, there are laws in place that protect service animals in training.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, a service animal is only a dog that is trained to perform a specific task. The state follows the same laws and guidelines as the ADA has put into place. If you have a service animal that is not a dog, though, these laws won’t protect you

New Jersey

Service animals and guide dogs receive protection both under the ADA and New Jersey service animal laws in New Jersey. If you have a service animal, you get protection for housing, in restaurants and in stores.

You may also be able to take your animal on public transportation and accommodations will be made for people using a service animal.

New Mexico

New Mexico follows the same service animal laws as the ADA laws. In addition to the laws, they also make special exceptions and have specific verbiage protecting people who use a qualified service miniature horse.

This law ensures service miniature horses have the same protection as service dogs.

New York

If you’re in New York and have a service animal, you will receive protection under the ADA and New York service animal laws. Not only can you take your service animal into establishments that traditionally ban pets but you also receive discrimination protection.

You will get help if something happens to your service animal through no fault of your own.

North Carolina

North Carolina makes it clear that assistance and service animals are not limited just to dogs but that other animals may also be included. You may be able to get a permanent registration you can show to get your service animal in different places.

Service animals in training receive the same rights as service animals.

North Dakota

If you’re in North Dakota, you have the same rights as you do under ADA protective laws for your service animal. You might also be able to receive protection if someone harasses, taunts or provokes your service animal. Additionally, North Dakota service animal laws include service animals who are training.

Ohio

Ohio has service animal laws that protect service and assistance dogs. People who have these animals receive protection for housing, for buildings and for restaurants. Ohio laws closely mirror ADA laws.

Oklahoma

If you’re in Oklahoma, the state has service animal laws that make it clear a landlord cannot deny or terminate your rental agreement just because you have a service dog. You also have the same protections under state laws as you do under the ADA laws.

Oregon

The Oregon service animal laws are similar to the ADA laws in that they protect you from discrimination for using a service animal. They also include additional accommodations for housing and other situations.

Another benefit of Oregon service animal laws is that your city or county cannot charge you a fee to license your service dog. You can get a free license for your service animal in Oregon.

Pennsylvania

Service animals in Pennsylvania are protected under PA laws which are similar to the ADA laws. Pennsylvania also has laws in place that help service animal owner replace their animal. This protection is available if something happens to it because of another person or entity.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, you might be able to get protection for your service animal if it’s a guide dog, service dog or personal assistance animal. A landlord cannot refuse housing to you if you have a service animal.

South Carolina

South Carolina protects handlers and service animals the same way as the ADA does. They also have verbiage in their service animal laws that have specific punishments for people who interfere with or harm a service animal while working.

South Dakota

People who have service animals are protected under the ADA and under South Dakota law. South Dakota laws also make it clear that landlords may not prohibit people from renting because of a service animal.

Tennessee

In similar to the ADA laws, Tennessee offers protection for service animal trainers. They are able to have the same rights as handlers.

Texas

Texas includes transportation laws in their service animal laws! In addition to the protection you receive that is similar to ADA laws, you also get protection on public transportation.

The protection includes airplanes, trains, streetcars, boats, and any other transportation! You will not be denied entry into public transportation.

Also, you will not be required to pay an extra fee to bring your service animal onto public transportation!

Vermont

Service animals and their handlers in Vermont receive the same protection as they do under federal ADA laws. The service animal laws in Vermont apply to animals trained to do a specific job.

Washington

Laws for service animals in Washington follow all the ADA laws and guidelines. They are protected at food establishments, in housing situations, and in all public places. There may also be some protection for service dogs on public transportation.

Washington DC

The laws for service animals in Washington DC follow the same structure as the ADA service animal laws. Landlords cannot discriminate against you if you have a service animal. You will also receive employment protection if you have a service animal.

West Virginia

West Virginia law protects service animals in the same way as the ADA service animal laws. Additionally, West Virginia law prohibits entities from collecting a head tax on a service dog.

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin service animal laws follow the same guidelines as the ADA laws. Wisconsin also makes provisions for trainers. As long as a trainer has the service animal with them, they receive protection.

The service animal in training must have a cape and a leash that identifies it as a service animal in training.

Wyoming

People with service animals in Wyoming get protection on public transportation including motor vehicles, airplanes and trains. You don’t have to certify your animal, but it must perform a specific task.

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FAQs

Service Animal Laws

1. What is a service animal?

The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

2. Must a service dog be on a leash?

Under the ADA, service dogs must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless the devices interfere with the service dog’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

3. How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability.

4. What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

5. What other animals are considered service animals?

In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the revised ADA regulations have a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this law is to reduce and prevent both the intentional and mistaken misrepresentation of pets and other animals as service animals when they are not.

The goal is to provide support and protection for persons with disabilities using trained service animals.

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