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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Service Animals

What Does ADA Say about Service Animals
that Assist People with Disabilities?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires privately-owned businesses that serve the public to allow people with disabilities to bring service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. Among the businesses included are restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls and sports facilities.

Service animals are not pets—they perform some of the functions that people with disabilities cannot do for themselves. The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal trained to assist people with disabilities. If they meet this definition—regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by state or local government—they are considered service animals under ADA.

Some service animals, but not all, wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. Businesses may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of the person’s disability. But such documentation cannot be required as a condition of providing service to a person accompanied by a service animal.

Likewise, proof of state certification cannot be required before a service animal is allowed to accompany a person with a disability. In addition, people using service animals may not be segregated from other customers.


DHS Civil Rights Compliance Office


Last Revised: April 22, 2014