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Is your service animal or emotional support animal allowed?

Can you bring your service dog on the plane or in the restaurant? Rules on service and emotional support animals.

Is your service animal or emotional support animal allowed? It depends on the type of establishment, as different laws cover public accommodations, air travel, and housing. Also, a friendly reminder to be honest - don't abuse or exploit these laws if you do not actually have a disability.Public Accommodations (covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA))The ADA covers state/local governments, businesses and non-profits that serve the public. This includes restaurants and cafés.

  • What is allowed: Service animals (dogs or miniature horses only); excludes emotional support animals
  • What is a "service animal"? Service animals are dogs (and in some circumstances, miniature horses) who are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability. Formal training (e.g., school for service animals) is not required.
  • Examples of service animal tasks: Guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with PTSD during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.
  • What does not qualify? Emotional support animals. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
  • Documentation: Entities cannot request documentation as evidence that an animal is a service animal. When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, an entity can ask two questions:
  • (1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • (2) What work or tasks has the dog been trained to perform?
  • Note: The establishment cannot ask about the person's disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

Airplanes (covered by the Air Carrier Access Act)

  • What is allowed: Service animals, including Emotional Support Animals (E.S.A)
  • What is a "service animal"? Any animal (not limited to dogs) that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a qualified person with a disability; or any animal shown by documentation to be necessary for the emotional well-being of a passenger. Formal training is not required.
  • Documentation:
  • Questions: Carriers are permitted to ask the following:
  • Is this your pet?
  • What tasks or functions does your animal perform for you?
  • What has it been trained to do for you?
  • Would you describe how the animal performs this task (or function) for you?
  • Note: Carriers cannot ask about the person's disability.
  • Physical Documents: For emotional support or psychiatric service animals, carriers are allowed to ask for current documentation (i.e., no older than 1 year old) on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker including a medical doctor specifically treating the passenger's mental or emotional disability) stating the following:
  • (1) The passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the DSM IV;
  • (2) The passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger's destination;
  • (3) The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and
  • (4) The date and type of the mental health professional's license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
  • Timing for Documentation:
  • On a flight 8 hours or longer, carriers may require individuals traveling with all service animals to provide 48 hours notice, and check in 1 hour before the normal check in time.
  • Regardless of the length of the flight, carriers may require individuals traveling with an emotional support/psychiatric service animal to provide 48 hours notice, and check in 1 hour before the normal check in time.

Housing (covered by the Fair Housing Act)

  • What is allowed: Assistance animals, including Emotional Support Animals
  • What is an "assistance animal"? An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. Training not required.
  • Documentation: Housing providers may ask two questions:
  • (1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and
  • (2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform.
  • Additional documentation: If the answer to either question above is no, then:
  • If the disability is not readily apparent or known to the provider, they can ask for reliable information verifying a disability and the disability-related need for an assistance animal.
  • If the disability is known, but the need for an assistance animal is not readily apparent, then the provider may request reliable information showing the disability-related need for the assistance animal. Information/documentation is sufficient if it establishes that the individual has a disability and that the animal will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support.
  • Providers cannot seek repeated verification of disability or disability-related need from year to year.
  • Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal, but the housing provider can deny a request for health or safety reasons based on an individualized assessment of the animal's actual conduct (not mere speculation or fear about the type of harm that could be caused).

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