ADA Service Dog Laws

Did you know that ADA service dog laws do not require certification?

This area of law is often misunderstood or completely unknown to others. Instead of asking reasonable questions, they may overreact and violate your rights. The initial shock of seeing a dog in a grocery store is no excuse for ignorance of the law. Preventing problems with public access starts with knowing the essentials of federal law. 

If you know you faced illegal discrimination, you will have what you need to possibly pursue civil redress. Furthermore, once you read this article, you will have what you need to protect your rights and secure access to legal counsel.

What Is a Service Animal?

The U.S. Department of Justice defines a service animal as one who has completed training to handle specific tasks or needs. The ability to perform this work is the critical factor that separates them from being an everyday pet. 

There are many ways that a dog can serve in this capacity. In fact, there are many different types of service dogs. Some examples of tasks that qualify under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) include:

  • Retrieving items
  • Opening and closing doors
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Guiding the blind
  • Protecting their handler during a seizure
  • Calming their handler who has an anxiety disorder during a panic attack

There are many other specific tasks a dog can perform to become considered a service animal. For example, they can alert someone when their blood sugar has gone too high or too low. As long as they perform specific functions and behave, they can accompany their handler wherever they go.

Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Animal

Pet owners have intimate familiarity with how much love, support, and company their pets offer. There are also numerous studies that demonstrate their health benefits.

Research from Washington State University suggests that ten minutes of petting an animal can reduce stress. This type of benefit can qualify your dog as an emotional support animal. Although they do not serve a specific function, in contrast to a service animal, they do help indirectly with a therapeutic need.

Unfortunately, an emotional support animal does not have the same rights under the ADA. Some states have enhanced options, but federal laws on service dogs limit them to home or clinical settings.

Are Dogs the Only Type of Service Animal?

According to the ADA National Network, more options are available for people with disabilities. You could have a miniature horse, monkey, or a pig. However, there may be restrictions based on their size, weight, and potential health risks to others.

Accommodations Under Title II and Title III

Title II and Title III regulations clearly state that service animals have the same access as their handlers. Since access can be a tricky topic in different environments, we will dive into details involving crucial aspects of daily life.

Public Facilities

ADA law for service dogs states that businesses like grocery stores or hotels cannot deny you entry or services. It does not matter whether they have declared a “no pets” policy or not.

Additionally, they only have the right to ask two questions. Any inquiries beyond these are inappropriate and do not require an answer:

  • Is your animal required to be with you because of a disability?
  • What task do they have training to perform for you?

Housing & Education

The Fair Housing Act states accommodations for service animals are an obligation for public and private housing. Landlords, universities, and others cannot discriminate against you for having a dog for medical purposes.


ADA law on service dogs makes it clear that employers cannot discriminate against you for having a service animal. Participation in this type of action carries the same liabilities as other forms of medical discrimination. If you have a well-trained dog who serves a medical need, they must make reasonable accommodations available to you.

Air Travel

Generally, airlines will allow you to bring your service animal on the plane.

The USDOT provides a complete list of the Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights. However, the section on service animals establishes the following as reasons they can deny access:

  • Your service dog misbehaves or causes disruptions
  • You did not provide the current DOT forms before the trip
  • There is a direct threat to the health of safety of other passengers
  • Your carrier for your dog violates U.S. or foreign laws

Due to the limited space, a service dog should fit in the floor below your seat. Otherwise, airlines may require you to purchase another ticket or two to have enough room.

Handler Responsibilities

There are responsibilities you have to meet to maintain access rights. Since there have been controversies over fake service dogs, and different types of service dogs. So this topic deserves close attention.

First, there is a high standard for your dog’s behavior to maintain public access rights. They must remain attentive toward you and have a desire to serve. Lunging toward other animals, being distracted by food, or causing any other type of distraction should not happen. If they cause a disruption, businesses and other places with public access can ask you to leave if needed.

Furthermore, your dog needs to be on point with its potty training. It needs to use the restroom on command and in appropriate spaces. For instance, they should make it through a flight until they can use the service animal relief area.

Additional concerns you will need to keep in mind to retain the right to have your service dog with you include:

  • Keeping the dog on a leash at all times, unless it interferes with their ability to work.
  • Caring for daily needs like food, water, and exercise
  • Ensuring that you keep up with annual vaccinations
  • Maintaining control over the service dog at all times – no jumping, excessive barking, etc.

Is Certification Required?

While working with a highly-qualified organization can be a wise decision, it is not mandatory. Additionally, any service dog certification you carry does not convey that you have an implicit right to have them with you.

Is a Vest or Harness Mandatory?

Having a vest or harness with clear indications that your dog is a service animal is not required. Regardless, it can be helpful to avoid answering questions about their right to accompany you. 

Need to Speak to an Attorney About ADA Service Dog Laws?

ADA service dog laws are often subject to misunderstandings or misinterpretation. As a result, you can expect to run into problems with those that do not know you have a right to have your service animal with you.

These concerns cut to the core of disability law. Denial of entry, employment, or lodging represents substantial violations of ADA legislation. You deserve highly-qualified representation when you have to deal with these unfortunate situations.

Contact us through our website today or call (866) 345-6784, so we can connect you with a local attorney prepared to help you seek justice.

Return to the Blog

How It All Works

Call us or answer the questions on this site. Your category, location, and additional information will help us connect you to a legal professional and we’ll send you the results instantly.

Which Areas of Law?

We have attorneys in over 20 legal categories to choose from.

How Much Does This Cost?

We don’t charge you to be connected. Some legal categories require upfront fees while others do not. The legal professional will determine this with you before you commit to anything.