U.S. Department of Justice Rules on Assistance Dogs to Become Stricter March 15, 2011

March 11, 2011 · Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Assistance Dogs 
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James J. McDonald, Jr., managing partner, Fisher & Phillips, LLP wrote a good summary about the March 15 changes impacting U.S. assistance dogs. His summary is listed below. It’s long but I found it to be very informative.

Regulations issued in 1991 following the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act required that public accommodations (which include restaurants, hotels, retail establishments, theaters, and concert halls) modify their policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a service animal by an individual with a disability.

Essentially this means that service animals accompanying persons with disabilities have to be admitted to establishments with policies that otherwise exclude pets or other animals.

When the ADA was enacted, most service animals were “seeing-eye” dogs that assisted blind or sight-impaired persons. In most cases, these dogs were highly trained and, because of their extensive training, were not likely to create a nuisance or a sanitary problem.

Over time, however, a variety of species came to be characterized by their owners as service animals, including pigs, horses, monkeys, snakes, lizards, birds, and rodents. Also, dogs and other animals that merely provide emotional comfort to their owners also have been characterized as service animals.

This proliferation of creatures claimed to be service animals has posed obvious problems for many restaurants and hotels in terms of safety, sanitation, and disturbance of other guests. Until now, however, proprietors were largely powerless to bar these types of animals from their establishments.

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued new regulations effective March 15, 2011, however, which will substantially limit the types of animals that will qualify as service animals under the ADA.

First, only dogs (and miniature horses in some cases) will qualify as service animals under the new regulations. “Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained,” will not qualify. The new regulations, however, do not place limits on breed or size of dog.

Second, the dog must be “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” The regulations go on to state that the work or tasks performed by the service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability. Examples of work or tasks set forth in the regulations include:

a. Assisting sight-impaired persons with navigation or other tasks
b. Alerting hearing-impaired persons to the presence of people or sounds
c. Providing nonviolent protection or rescue work
d. Pulling a wheelchair
e. Assisting an individual during a seizure
f. Alerting an individual to the presence of allergens
g. Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone
h. Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility impairments
i. Helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors

Under the new regulations, the mere “provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship does not constitute work or tasks” for purposes of the definition of service animal. Thus, animals that provide only comfort or emotional support for their owners will no longer qualify as service animals.

For a dog to qualify as a service animal to an owner with a psychiatric disability under the new regulations, the dog must be trained to perform specific work or tasks. Examples given in the guidance accompanying the new regulations of tasks performed by psychiatric service animals include reminding the handler to take medicine, providing safety checks or room searches for persons with posttraumatic stress disorder, interrupting self-mutilation, and removing disoriented individuals from dangerous situations.

The guidance also states that a dog that is used to “ground” a person with a psychiatric disorder will qualify as a service animal if the dog has been trained: (1) to recognize that a person is about to have a psychiatric episode and (2) to respond by nudging, barking or removing the person to a safe location until the episode subsides.

The new regulations additionally clarify that “attack dogs” trained to provide aggressive protection of their owners will not qualify as service animals. The crime-deterrent effect of a dog’s presence, by itself, does not qualify as “work” or “tasks” for purposes of the service animal definition.

The new regulations also formalize prior Justice Department technical assistance addressing the use and handling of service animals. The regulations provide that a public accommodation may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if the animal is not housebroken, or if the animal is out of control, and the animal’s handler does not take effective action to control it. (Ordinarily, the regulations state, a service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless the person with a disability is unable to use a harness, leash, or tether or the use of such a device would interfere with the animal’s ability to perform its work or tasks.) If a service animal is removed for any of these reasons, the person with a disability must still be permitted to access the establishment’s goods, services, or accommodations without the animal being present.

The regulations also confirm that a public accommodation is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.

The regulations provide that a public accommodation may not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but that it generally may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal; it may ask: (1) if the animal is required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. These inquiries may not be made, however, when it is readily apparent that the animal is a service animal, such as where a guide dog is guiding a blind person or a dog is pulling a wheelchair.

Furthermore, a public accommodation may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. Nor may a public accommodation require a person with a disability to pay a surcharge for a service animal, even if it applies such a surcharge for pets.

These regulations will not apply to landlords or airlines, which are governed by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, respectively. It is also not yet clear that these regulations, and particularly the definition of a service animal, will be applied by courts to cases brought under Title I of the ADA which covers employment.

A good argument may be made, based on existing case law, that a stricter standard would apply under Title I. Unlike under Title III, where a dog must be allowed onto the premises if it qualifies as a service animal and does not leave a mess or cause a serious disturbance, an employee under Title I of the ADA is entitled only to such accommodations as are necessary to enable him or her to perform the essential functions of the job.

An employee, therefore, will likely need to show that the presence of a service animal is needed for the employee to be able to perform his or her essential job duties. An animal that provides only comfort or emotional support to an employee, but that is not needed in order for the employee to be able to work, will not likely qualify as a reasonable accommodation under Title I of the ADA.

These new regulations give long-needed clarity to hotels, restaurants, retailers, and other public accommodations regarding which animals must be allowed as service animals, and under what circumstances. No longer will these establishments need to allow patrons to bring exotic, dangerous, disruptive, or unsanitary animals with them as purported “service animals.”

James J. McDonald, Jr. is managing partner of the Irvine, Calif. office of the national labor and employment law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP (www.laborlawyers.com).


47 Responses to “U.S. Department of Justice Rules on Assistance Dogs to Become Stricter March 15, 2011”

  1. Maida Genser on April 11th, 2011 8:11 pm

    There is a whole OTHER category of support or assistive animals, not defined under ADA, but rather under fair housing law. HUD revised fair housing regulations in October of 2008, making it easier to obtain an accomodation for an emotional support animal for use in the home. These animals do not require certification or specialized training to do specific tasks to assist. Read more at http://www.petsincondos.org/ESA.htm.

  2. Steve Ross on October 28th, 2011 7:39 am

    I operate a facility open to the public. We currently have a person using our facility who brings in a dog he claims is a service animal. He did not have a dog with him when he began using our services and doesn’t always have it with him. When asked the 2 basic questions mentioned above, he refuses to answer. We more than welcome all people into our facility regardless of their needs. If they truly need a service animal, then they are more the welcome in our facility.

    This law however leaves a public facility little room to make sure it is not being taken advantage of. If there is no burden of proof what so ever on the part of a person that they need a service animal, then I could bring my 125lb. German Shepherd into my facility and claim that its a service animal and not have to prove anything.

    I’m not sure I understand why a person shouldn’t have to provide some document, card, etc. to show that they need a service animal, especially when its unclear why they have the animal with them. To collect disability, you have to prove you’re disabled. Senior citizens have to show their Medicare card for various services. You have to prove you’re a citizen to vote. You have to provide proof that you qualify for food stamps. All of these examples follow the same basic principles that should be applied to a person needing a service animal. This would provide protection and ease of mind for all involved.

  3. Marcie on October 28th, 2011 8:50 am

    Thank you for your comments. I could not agree more. This is a growing issue that I believe must be addressed.

  4. Ben on October 29th, 2011 8:19 am

    My husband is hearing impaired and misses a lot of what is going on around him, which can be dangerous. Our Cairn Terrier (15lbs) has, over time, developed a sense of what he needs help with, and she has done this without “formal and expensive training”. When I need to get his attention, she alerts him so he can look at me. When his phone (text message) goes off, she alerts him. She does not alert me when my phone sounds even though we have the same message tone. When we are in public and someone (panhandler or other person) approaches, she alerts him. I don’t know what he will do without her when she passes.
    I know some people take advantage of the service dog situation, but there are other cases too, where dogs have developed a keen sense of what their master needs, without expensive training (that we would not be able to afford).

  5. Marcie on October 29th, 2011 8:28 am

    Thank you for your comments. You make a very valid point. It is my opinion that there needs to be some way we can ensure that people with disabilities who are truly in need of an assistance dog, whether individually trained or by an agency, can have the public access that they need.

  6. Rox Ann Kight on October 30th, 2011 4:04 pm

    Both of these comments are very interesting. The law of the ADA (if I am understanding it correctly) is that you can ask what tasks the dog preforms for that person. In the case of the guy not explaining what the dog does, I think the business owner should not allow the dog in the facility and in the case of the Carin Terrier, it is obvious that is does do some tasks, so it should be allowed if it is properly trained to behave in public.

    I am frustrated at the doctors who write prescriptions for their clients when they have never seen their dogs and most of the time it’s because the people want to take “fido” in the store with them. They think this prescription is a “get any were with pet fido”. It hurts the person who truly does need a service animal.

    I am all for service animals, but there is nothing more up-setting when you come across someone who says their “dog” is a mental support for them. What does that mean? If you need a dog to get out in public, then make sure you treat it like a service animal, not one that rides in your arms, growls, snaps and barks at people. The people that train and place these animals spend endless hours making sure that service animals act appropriately in public, to be the best and make sure that their person is safe and independent. If you are a self trainer or your pet dog starts to work for in the areas of difficulty, that’s great, but you still have to have the animal properly trained to behave in public.

  7. Laurie Clark on November 3rd, 2011 11:46 am

    I received my service dog in May of 2011 for two reasons. First of all, I have seizures and my service dog alerts me prior to having a seizure. Secondly, I have PTSD due to a violent attack by two individuals that took place in my home. Because I have extreme anxiety when going out in public, having a service dog makes me feel more confident and I am able to go out in public by myself. Also, my service dog is somehow able to detect beforehand if I’m going to have a full-blown panic attack.

    I am confused by the following “provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship does not constitute work or tasks for purposes of the definition of service animal. Thus, animals that provide only comfort or emotional support for their owners will no longer qualify as service animals.” In the event that one day my seizures become better controlled and I only need my service dog for the PTSD issues, it doesn’t sound like I would be able to consider my dog a service animal, or is she performing a “task” by anticipating a panic attack and warning me beforehand?

  8. Nancy A. Truax on December 4th, 2011 9:27 am

    I have a service dog, she worked hard to be a service dog.. I keep her ID close at all times plus her ID tags are displayed on her collar whenever we go out. I have seen people feed their “service dogs” right from table at resterants,people getting uptight when questioned about what their SD does, like making the remark that its against the Federal Law to ask such questions, Store Managers complimenting (mispelled) me on how well she behaves, From remarks that business owners and employees have made, I would like to see it required that at least the ID tags or some kind of tags discripting disablitities so if something happens they would know what to do or whom to call. Service Dogs work real hard to become one, why wouldn’t the handler want to show off the tags.? It would also separate the “true service dog” from “fake service dog”

  9. kathy on January 10th, 2012 9:51 am

    I have 2 service dogs one is a seizure alert and allergy signal dog who lets me know when I am going to have a seizure and detects allergens that cause me severe reactions before I come in contact with them such as cigarrete smoke, various chemicals such as air freshner when traveling and staying at hotel, new paint and new carpet chemicals and also various foods such as onions, wheat, and lima beans which cause me throat closure. My dog does not look like the typical service dog cause hes little and cuite and therefore many times I get hassle when I take him to resturaunts and stores with me even when he has his service jacket on and even when I have both service dogs papers. Yet this little angel my bichon service alert dog has saved my life more than once and actually one of the resturaunts who insisted I go outside with my serivce dogs and wheelchair and eat as they dont look like service dogs I was told , this restuant served my meal with onions when I was told there were no onions in the dish ordered and trusted them. Onions cause me severe allergy to the point of throat closure.and anaphlaxis shock and had it not been for my little bichon service dog who was forced out of the resturaunt with me to eat out side, I would have ended up in a severe life threatening reation at this resturaunt who denied my service dogs because it was Oodle my bichon who upon seeing me take the fork to put the first bite of food in my mouth not knowing there were onions in the dish when I was assured it was onion free, Oodle jumped on on my lap urgently in his mission to save me and with his little paw knocked the fork out of my hand before I could take a bite and he then started barking and kissing me both of which are his signals that an allergen is present and I need to remove my self from the situation. And I knew immediately from his heroic behavior of knocking that fork from my hand something he was not even trained to do but he knew just barking and kissing may be to late as I was just about to take a bite so he knocked e fork the fork out of my hand with his paw and sure enough when the waitress took the dish back to the cook to check it out the dish was loaded with little white onions. This dog who the owner of the resturuant said I must go out side and eat with because he was not welcome as a service dog cause he was to cuite and small and did not look like any service dog were the owners words yet he is the dog that saved my life from the gross error this very resturaunt made in preparing my meal and forgetting to leave out the onions giving me the wrong sauce.

    I tell this story because I see these posts that say things about service dogs and it should not matter how big or small or cuite or what a dog looks like and it should not even matter if the dog wears a service vest or has papers though my service dog do wear a vest and have papers not all service dogs do and some disabled people are not able to put the vest on or afford one as they are very costly and most training facilites dont provide the vest once the dogs passes all the training. And as for papers ADA says a serivce dog does not require papers and they offer this option because to get papers a service dog must be certified and its not required because not all disabled people can afford to get their service dogs certifed as it is also expensive and many people with disabilites are not as fortunate as I was and cant afford certification or the training to get it. My other dog a sheltie is also a serive dog and called a mobility dog. He helps me with my laundry by going into the dryer when its off of course and gets my clolthes out as I cant bend to do it and he jumps on the bed where I put my laundry basket at my reach level and he puts the clothes in the basket and does this back and forth until all the clothes are out of the dryer. He also picks up dropped items for me like if I drop a pen or paper or anything he can get in his little mouth including he can bring me my clothes to get dressed and helps me untie my sneakers, gets my mail and brings me my water bottle from the fridge. He also helps me balance so can now walk from my wheelchair to use the bathroom on my own with his support and he assits me to transfer. However unlike Oodle my bichon allergy seizure alert dog who is certifed and has papers , Snicker my sheltie mobility dog is not certified and does not have certification papers. But that does not mean hes not a serive dog and he is just as much a service dog as Oodle my bichon however because the sheltie looks more like a service dog and collie breed though he hs no papers he is still more accepted than oodle my bichon who has papers because he is considered to look more like a service dog and its just terrible because both he my sheltie and also my bichon should be equally accepted by all public accommodations as service dogs and it is very apparent by thier very good beahvior and obedience as well as their deameanor that they are both true service dogs.

  10. Alex on January 10th, 2012 8:35 pm

    Better yet, simplify and broaden the law to say that if you are disabled, on SSI, SSDI or Medicare, or the state equivalent, then you are entitled to have a dog with you wherever you go, in-training, trained or not, for any reason whatsoever, so long as the dog does no damage or disturbance. Simply show your Medicare card, your disabled bus ID card, or similar, and your in.

  11. larry falquez on March 27th, 2012 2:39 pm

    emotional dogs are not considered service animals. guest who check into a non pet friendly hotel should pay a cleaning fee.

  12. Joli on April 9th, 2012 9:17 am

    A person with a true service animal “HAS A PHYSICIAN PRESCRIPTION” FOR THE ANIMAL.

    I have a service dog. When a service dog is required a physician will provide the owner with a prescription for the animal. On my Presciption the physician wrote out what my dog was needed for before I acquired the dog. Since one was not available and I had to be put on a waiting list the agency suggested I buy the dog and pay for the animals training. But the time I bought the dog and paid for the doarded training I have over $8,000 tied up in m,y service animal. Upon graduation I was required to take my dog in to meet my physician so that he could iupdate my perscription to include a description of the dog. A person with a true service animal will have a prescription from a physician.

    I personally show this prescription to a business owner the first time I enter their establishment. I also show it when traveling. I do not mind showing this documentation along with his registered photo service ID. It makes life easier for me and I do not get hassled.

    I think showing a physician perscription and registered photo ID should be required. After all it is no big deal and you only need show it the first time you enter an establishment. They will remember you next time they see you because it is not every day they see them.

    The grocery store and convenience store I have been going to has informed me I am the only person that shops trheir with a service dog. On ocassion, they say someone trys to slip in a pet under their arm or in their purse.

    I think the law should require physician perscription proof. Businesses have the right to protect theself from all the people who are buying service dog vest off the internet. Personally, I do not make my dog wear one. He wears his photo ID and I wear his spare photo ID around my neck on a lanyard. Everyone’s problem is solved.

  13. Nashi on July 26th, 2012 5:38 am

    The primary reason that the ADA does not require identification is based on an individual’s right to privacy, particularly personal health information. This is what would differentiate someone requesting services based on age or legal status which would require proof. This is even why the question cannot be “are you disabled”, but rather, “is that a service dog” and “what task does the dog do”. Further, the dog is considered the same as medical equipment which one has a right to use without explanation.

    With that being said, as a disabled person with an invisibile disability, I always have a vest on my dog while we are in public stating “Medical Alert Dog”, his vaccination report, and a perscription for the dog (I would only show this to a police officer, if requested). None of these are required by law, but it does make life easier. The center patch states “Do Not Disturb Service Dog” with side patches stating the medical alert part. This would answer the 2 questions that a business owner could ask.

    Since everyone’s disabilities are different, I cannot comment on those that do not bring their service dogs with them everywhere. However, if someone only occaisionaly needed their dog, I would advise that for consistency, it would be better to always have the dog with you in public. (My dog even is with me when I take out the trash which my neighbors find amusing 🙂 )

    I live in a rather dog friendly place (LA), and I am mostly confronted by people who want to know how my breed of dog could possibly be a service dog due to his size. My dog is a great pyrenees that does seizure response and diabetic alert, and once they hear that they understand why his size is helpful. But one area of concern I find rather disturbing…when customers complain that they don’t agree it should be OK to have a dog, even a service dog, in an establishment, I have had managers say that they could lose business b/c the dog makes them feel uncomfortable. In none of this instances has my dog been unsanitary, or looked unkempt, or misbehaving. Those establishemnt, of course, have lost my business, and I usually will write an informative letter to the owner concerning the law (never any intimation about suing, etc.)

    Do others have the same reaction from the public? or is the public mostly accepting of your service dog?
    I’ve only had a service dog for less than one year, but he has made my life over and allowed me to safely and independently live. Again, although not required, I would suggest that a service dog, especially if not a “standard breed” service dog :), have some identification item (vest, collar, bandana), and, if possible, the function of dog if not apparent. I do understand the cost issues, but I would also suggest that anyone with a service dog speak with the IRS as our special dogs are considered “durable medical equipment”. Please contact a tax professtional if you have any questions concerning what would count toward medical costs. This can make a huge difference for federal, and maybe, state tax liability.

  14. Dr. Michael Wooten on September 12th, 2012 11:56 pm


    A physician prescription is not needed for a service dog. Great that you have one and that you carry it around, but most people, even with legitimate service dog, do not….nor do they need one.

  15. Tim Taylor on September 27th, 2012 12:44 pm

    I have a service dog. When he was in training, I would ask the manager of a store if I could train. I also made a statement that anything my service dog touched I would buy and welcomed him/her to walk with us. I never was challenged.

    I never go into a public place without his service jacket on, and he is always brushed and clean

  16. Melanie Farkash on November 4th, 2012 9:01 pm

    I have a service dog, Molly, a Tibetian Terrier. She is small and cute and therefore businesses do not believe that she is a service dog. I was just escorted out of Little Company of Mary Hospital’s waiting room today by the security guards. I showed them her license and showed them my handicap license plate on my car and they still did not believe me. They said it was company policey no dogs. I explained about Americans With Disability Act and they seem to be oblviouse to the fact that the Constitution of the United States superseeded any other laws. I am tired of my rights being ignored by buinesses and corporations who make up their own rules. This time I am going to make a complaint to the U. S. Justice Department.

  17. Marcie on November 5th, 2012 6:06 am

    Thanks for your post Melanie. So sorry to hear about your experience at a hospital. It is so frustrating to be denied access. Please keep us posted and let us know how the complaint process with the Department of Justice goes.

  18. Joyce on January 3rd, 2013 2:14 pm

    I recently went into a ministore to make a purchase. It is cold here and while I had here leash stating service dog, I had just left the dogpark for her to run as my backyard is postage stamped size and my standard poodle had on her winter coat. While I have been shopping there for 6 years I was told by the new manager to leave after purchasing the item and NOT return. I attempted to explain to him and all I got was, ” I am getting complaints from customers.” My dog is exceptionally well behaved and believe the complaints were from customers not understanding the ADA. I have contacted the store and was told the district manager would be contacting me and reviewing the store cameras. I informed him that even the managers at McDonalds were aware of the ADA, my granddughter works there and is on the management track after having many pregnant pauses from him. Normally I have her in harness but it was the one time that I forgot. Will post followup. Has anyone had a similar experience?

    Melanie am sorry for your experience. Had the same problem myself when my daughter was hospitalized. Now after talking to the brass the situation has been changed but I understand the frustration you feel. My first service dog was a minature poodle, my second a standard poodle because of asthma and allergies to dog and cat hair. Too many people deny access when the breed is not one of the usual breeds. A harness with signs may help.


  19. Kim Gorman on March 8th, 2013 10:32 am

    I believe the reason that the Department of Justice won’t recommend a card or document is that then someone would be responsible for coming up with some type of standards of training for true service animals. There are so many websites now that sell cards for people wanting to “prove” that they have certified service animals. It’s a joke.

    I work in a large hotel in Las Vegas and constantly have people tell me that I’m not allowed to ask the (2) basic questions. Most aren’t even aware of the change in the ADA March, 2011 rules. Most guest get highly offended when approached.

    Everyone and their mother brings in fluffy and says it’s a service animal when they have then stuffed inside their purse or being pushed around in a baby carriage.

  20. Ann on March 8th, 2013 12:43 pm

    Getting a trained service dog is a financial burden. Trainers charge anywhere from$1500 to $2500. My daughter who was attacked in the lobby of her building by someone who followed her home unbeknown to her, attacked her in her lobby, grabed her pocket book and held a knife to her throat. She now has a dog that barks when someone approaches that she does not know and that dog makes her feel safe. We could not afford to pay a trainer!! It also gives me peace of mind as a parent to know that she had this companion to help her The dog is very smart!!! The breed of dog that knows when something is wrong. We could not afford a trainer and felt blessed when we found her. Dogs are saving lives. We need to be more reasonable as people. What kind of nation of people have we become?!! We are fast becoming haters of everything and everyone and every dog. Shame on us. We are fast becoming the laughing stock to the rest of the world with our stupidity in making life so difficult with our persistent hate and unkindness.

  21. Ashley on March 20th, 2013 10:54 pm


    While I cannot answer as to whether or not those dogs who are carried in purses are legitimate service animals, I CAN say that some small dogs in purses can very well be what their owners claim. There are people who have seizures and these dogs can detect them before they happen, allowing the owner to get himself or herself to a safe situation before they experience an episode. These kinds of dogs do not need to be gigantic German Shepherds, they can simply be a small dog.

  22. Ashley on March 20th, 2013 10:57 pm

    I unfortunately didn’t finish before my reply was posted…

    It would make sense that a seizure alert dog would be carried closely to the person because they need to be in close proximity to detect this medical issue.

    I do not discredit what you are saying, but I hope that you will keep an open mind and not immediately judge every person who walks into your hotel claiming to have a service animal. The reality is that unless the dog is licking strangers or doing its business in your lobby, you likely cannot tell for sure if the animal is a service animal. As you stated though, the guests do need to answer the ADA-approved questions.

  23. callie on April 13th, 2013 12:15 am

    I work in the hotel industry, and have so for almost three years. I have never had sometime with a service animal come into the hotel with out first telling me that they had a service animal and then produced their papers. I thought that was the norm. I had a woman tonight that didn’t inform me about her ” service animals” until we had almost completed check in. she didn’t refer to them as service animals at first, she just told me she had dogs. I told her of the pet fee, and she started yelling at me… telling me I was stupid and uneducated and wrong. I never told her she had to show the papers, but I did ask how in that case was I to know that they were service animals? She continued yelling at me, so I asked her to leave. I didn’t refuse her service because of her dogs, I refused service because of her horrible attitude. If she had explained the law to me, and hadn’t been so insulting there wouldn’t have been a problem. She never gave me a chance to ask questions that would have made me a better informed citizen, she just bulldozed and talked over me. She took my name and says she was going to report me. and then left.

    I felt verbally abused by this woman by the end of the whole exchange, and now she’s going to report me to I’m assuming the ADA. I have a disability too (I have a unilateral hearing loss) & I am the very last person that would discriminate against someone that was disabled. I’m not quite sure what to do. :/

  24. C on April 20th, 2013 2:59 am

    Callie. I would ask your manager to pull the tapes, if your hotel had the incident recorded. It should show that you never had a chance to ask the two allowed questions that would have avoided the whole situation. Honestly though, I wouldn’t worry. Sounds more like a poser that thought bluster would let her get her pet in for free. A true Service Dog owner would not behave the way she did, unless she needed the dog for Psychiatric reasons. Wouldn’t the dog be performing it’s trained task at that point to calm her down?

  25. Kathy on May 13th, 2013 7:16 pm

    I enjoyed reading these comments and today I learned more about the laws that go with service animals….no more cats, snakes, etc. as I never knew exactly what a snake could do as a service animal other then give a strong hug lol, or cats rats or anything else for that matter….more then ever ppl want to have their furry friends with them always so they now just say IT’S A SERVICE ANIMAL, and they get away with it because they can’t be asked questions….public transportation has seen more pets ride because the owner says it’s a service dog….can they ask for proof? Do stores that sell the vests need anything other then your word to sell you those items? I think it’s just too easy…..thank you

  26. Service Animal Association on May 16th, 2013 2:45 pm

    The comments displayed here are very wide spread but all have one central note. Service dogs are a necessary item for the truly disabled community.
    When the law changed in 2011 it did 2 things, it designated DOG as service animal and eliminated companion and ESA. The basic idea was to try to tighten the law but it did NO SUCH THING.
    as long as there is no common ID or registration requirement there will be FAUX dogs and bring FIDO.
    The internet sales of all things service dog to anyone with a credit card is a big industry and until this is stopped and unlawful we will have FAUX dogs in public.
    Business owners should use common sense in admitting dogs. You can ask the questions and if the person refuses to answer you do have the right to refuse access. Even if the person answers, ask yourself the question gee does this task require the dog to be here right now? i.e.; the dog gets me out of bed in the morning, well is this a bedroom and is this person in bed? NO? well guess what the dog is not necessary, under the ADA.
    Maybe if a lot more common sense is applied less problems would occur. If you think the dog is NOT service ask yourself why? if it is not well behaved, wearing a prong collar, barking, growling or anything else you do have the right to say no or ask them to leave and return without the dog.
    Is the dog to large to be accommodated? Gee like unable to occupy only the handlers area, no laying in isles, taking up two seats, or blocking exits, then ask it to leave.
    True service dog providers and trainers teach the dogs to go under or beside and use only animals that can comply with these requirements. Trainers do provide the dogs with jackets and ID cards at graduation or citification, even though this is not a requirement.
    AND last, I am sorry to the Dr above, we do require a doctors letter of need. This illuminates the person who wants FIDO or FLUFFY to go to the store with them. We do this out of necessity because the DOJ in its wisdom has yet to tighten the rules enough to keep FAUX dogs out of the public.
    Last here is something apparently overlooked, when FIDO and FLUFFY are pretending to be a service dog and a real one shows up the owners of the FAUX dogs are putting the disabled and service dog in jeopardy because a pets instincts are aggressive towards other dogs and they bark and growl. They are seldom under control and charge the working dogs. Service dogs are trained not to pull or react to this and are bitten by the other dog. Now the disabled person can sue the business or public transportation because they failed to protect them by allowing the FAUX dog in.
    Common sense folks, only disabled need service dogs, the law is working its was towards that but it is still not quite there. Our common sense will go a long way in the interim.

  27. Jayni on June 8th, 2013 1:14 am

    This is a good read. I have an invisible disability and I am a certified dog trainer. I don’t have the money to pay for any kind of professional certification, but that does not mean my dog is not a “true service dog”. I don’t like getting stopped at stores to answer questions, let alone, have to pull out paperwork and wait while an uninformed person reads it over. I want to walk into a facility and keep on walking (like everyone else) and maybe answers questions as I walk.

    I’ve seen many many untrained dogs who don’t give another dog the time of day, so I don’t know where you get that a FAUX dog would act unruly. I seldom see pet dogs as aggressive unless they are of the “toy size.” 🙂 Furthermore, if a FAUX dog attacked a real service dog, and the company asked the two questions allowed, they are not negligent in the situation. They are not responsible for service dogs or FAUX service dogs under the law. The owner is.

    An idea that I think might work, is something similar to disabled people getting parking placards and when dogs get rabies shots, the owner gets a tag (most times but not all times) a certificate. When a person is disabled and a service dog would do them a good service, maybe they could get a certificate from their doctor to be replaced/updated annually that states you have a service dog to mitigate a disability “alerting you to a medical condition” for example. That answers the two questions, yes it’s a service dog and what it does is alerts me to a potentially harmful medical situation. This is not too much information in writing, it’s given by a professional who knows you need/or can benefit from the dog and it will keep many FAUX service dog owners from making our lives more difficult. I don’t think paperwork should be required to be shown in public unless there is a problem with the dog behaving in a way that is other than a service dog.

    Furthermore, with an invisible disability, what common sense can a store owner use? I don’t have to give any information of my disability or how my dog does his job, yet I answer the two questions. If there are too many requirements to protect store owners from FAUX owners, some service dog owners or some disabled people who need service dogs are going to suffer.

    There needs to be a way for recognition of true service dogs to be shown, but a national certification card will cost tons of money that over 70% of service dog owners will not be able to afford and governments and the working class will not want to pay extra taxes for this issue they will probably never need. But parking placards are free. A doctor must fill out a short form certifying the disabled person in need, and the dmv is already set up so adding placards is no big deal. Setting up a new organization accessible by all the disabled in all states and cities will be very costly when budgets are already in the negative. But if doctors are given a prescription pad, such as the special prescription pad for narcotics, then the only cost would be training the doctors in what they need to do (possibly written information or cheap CD/DVD) and supplying the prescription pads. Service dog vests can’t be regulated because it’s too easy to counterfeit them. If money can’t be controlled, think about how clothing will be.

    I have a friend who won a case in court with her service dog, however, she does have a prong collar on and did have it in the courtroom.

    There are self-trained service dogs and they are trained to behave in public and mitigate a disability. The other requirements you listed such as staying in the owner’s area and out of the aisle, is something my friend does not know. I know about that, but she never heard of that, or “under”. She used a professional trainer too.

    Service Dogs is a big issue for many organizations and protecting everyone involved is difficult, to say “common sense” leaves so much unanswered because all these issues are fairly new to most involved. No matter what the situation, there are always going to be individuals who are going to abuse the system. We cannot allow them to lessen our rights, just so they can’t get away with it. We will lose our rights and convience and they will still be cheating the system.

  28. Katie on June 28th, 2013 2:41 am

    I have a service dog that I personally trained to redirect my anxiety before I have an attack, however, from the sound of it she would be considered an emotional support dog even though without her I don’t have the courage to go outside. My dr write me a prescription for her, what does she need to do besides redirect my focus, with her I don’t need to take major sedatives anymore?

  29. Carol on July 21st, 2013 9:23 am

    I had a dalmatian service dog see his webpage. He was at my side for 10 years. My neighbor shot and killed him. He was also at the same time diagnosed with a small lymphoma nodule and the vet school failed to x ray him for his anemia for internal bleeding he had. They did biopsies instead. So now I’m using his brother who was cross trained to assist me and also was at my side for 8 years. I got him for a back up as I’m at the hospital 3 times a week and volunteer one day a week. I felt he needed a day off so I got a second service dog. This is where my life became very violated this past week not only in loosing my beloved service dog may 7, 2013. But also the fact an allergist office denied me medical care and wanted me to leave my dog in the car in 90 degree day. I don’t think so. So I left and thinking of suing all involved in shooting my dog and denying me access. It has caused me to look for another doctor as my condition worsen with black blood being thick and insulin not working regardless if I follow my diet or not. My dogs are mobility dogs for me to brace and steady on and determine if my electrolytes are low they will bark at me if low or bump me depending on if it is sodium, potassium or magnesium. The three I have problems with. They are learning about my blood sugars too. Please advise how to handle if dogs are not allowed in allergy office. Thanks.

  30. Marcie on July 21st, 2013 1:25 pm

    Hello Carol. I am so sorry to hear about your tragic loss and the devastating experience you had at the doctor’s office. I recently had a similar experience at a doctor’s office. They insisted that I leave Whistle outside the examination room. Their argument was that they performed oral surgery in the exam rooms and Whistle was compromising the sterility of the room. I saw several staff members come in and out of those rooms that I believed were not as sterile as Whistle. However, I reluctantly complied with their request. And, I do not plan on going back to that office ever again. I have learned over the years that doctors provide a service and I am a consumer of those services. As a result, I can shop around and find the best doctor that meets my needs. I will definitely be shopping around in the future for another oral surgeon who has a better understanding of assistance dogs and their role in assisting their human partners. Take care of yourself Carol and your current assistance dog.

  31. Nikki on August 2nd, 2013 7:26 pm

    I have an 11 1/2 year old service dog for my diabetes. He no longer goes out in public with me, but he still alerts me and serves as my service dog at home. I have his 2 year old daughter who also alerts and I take her out in public with me. I called about getting them licensed in my new city and they told me that since my older SD does not go out with me, he is not considered an SD…I can’t find anything on this, but he still meets the legal requirements of a service dog…

  32. Elizabeth on August 5th, 2013 11:40 am

    I am “between” service dogs at the moment, but I’d like the address the “problem” of standards for certification of service dogs. The ADI (Assistance Dogs International) has a public access test that is difficult, requires the dogs to be tested in a busy, public environment, and demonstrates a few of the tasks the service dog performs for its partner. Things like picking up common items, assisting at checkout by giving the credit card or money to the cashier and returning the change and the purchased items to its partner, “targeting” the push plate for an automatic door, etc. Other behaviors are also included – not being distracted by people, following voice commands, “down,” “stay,” staying at a point while the partner moves 20 feet away, staying for 2-3 minutes at a time, going through a store without being distracted by the items for sale, being in a busy food court without being distracted by people offering food, not trying to eat food off the floor, allowing children to pet and step over it, etc. If certification were required, I see no reason the ADI certification test shouldn’t be the test required. It is in place, it has been tested for reliability and validity.

    Just a suggestion from one who has “been there and done that.”

  33. Terence G on August 20th, 2013 1:42 pm

    I work in a large hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas in the Security Department. I have seen so many abuses of “service dogs”. The people that claim they are service dogs don’t even know the rules since they’ve been changed and that the hotel is allowed to ask two basic questions. If their service dogs don’t meet the criteria, they get offended and say you are being rude when the whole problem is, they don’t like being told they are rude.

    I’ve had people pushing tiny dogs around in baby carriages, owners that don’t have their “service dogs” on leashes. There are so many people that just abuse the service dog laws.
    As for tags, collars, bandanas, they are a dime a dozen on the internet and have no real meaning.

    The federal govt has avoided any kind of real IDing or licenses, cards, permits, I believe, due to the enormous cost involved with try to set this up. They’d have to come up with standards, people would have to prove their dog was actually trained to perform a specific task for the person, all without breaking HIPA laws. Who is going to issue these permits? What happens if the person forgets to bring this permit with them….and on and on and on.

    And then there are the people that confuse Fair Housing Regulations with ADA regulations.

  34. Mary Lou on September 8th, 2013 2:40 pm

    I am concerned about a recent neighbor that moved into our neighborhood. This is a slumlord rental and we have had nothing but problems the last 5 years since he bought. We now have tenants in there claiming to have 2 service dogs for their mother ‘s disability. Why would someone need 2 dogs? They also put no trespassing signs in the front and back yard and beware of the dog. These are 2 pit bulls. I have had on two occasions taken out my 13 yr cocker to do his business and these 2 dogs got wind he was out and was barking and jumping against the window when they saw him. If these are truly service dogs I am sure they would not be acting like this nor would you have to put Beware of the Dog sign would you?

  35. nico on September 24th, 2013 4:47 pm

    As a hotel manager, it is a very frustrating situation. So many customers just say it is a service animal and when you ask what does it do, they say:”it keeps me company.” Sounds like the definition of every pet I ever had! Then a day or two later, my maintenance man will tell me he talked to the people and they tell him: “oh, it was lost and we found him.” I have had rooms that where so bad after the “service animal” did it’s business, that my crew didn’t want to clean afterwards, the room was so trashed. I have had ones that barked at every passing customer, I thought “service animals” had to behave?

    The problem as I see it is that too many people are abusing the situation and it will hurt the people that really need “service animals” and that’s bad.

  36. Marc Dubin on September 28th, 2013 9:20 pm

    The current ADA regulations published by the Justice Department are a fair balance between the interests of business owners and persons with disabilities accompanied by a service dog. The business is protected from a disruptive service dog, and the individual with a disability is protected from unnecessary intrusive questioning about their disability. A person with a disability should not have to reveal their medical history in order to buy a cheeseburger or stay at a hotel. There is no national certification, and any dog that is individually trained to assist a person with a disability or perform tasks for the individual is a service dog under the ADA. Many excellent service dogs are trained by their owners to perform tasks or assist the person with a disability.
    The Fair Housing Act contemplates a longer relationship with the housing provider, and provides broader protections for the individual with a disability, including allowing them to have any animal that enhances the use and enjoyment of the premises, whether it is trained or not. The housing provider is protected as well, and may require documentation that is not allowed under the ADA.

    Marc Dubin, Esq.
    Former Senior Trial Attorney, US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section 1993-2005.

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  38. Jocelyne on October 27th, 2013 12:24 am

    I am going to see a therapist tomorrow about some of the issues I have been having for the past 2 years with my anxiety & I think I might have a couple of anxiety disorders. My dog Dreamer has been the only one who has gave me comfort through my panic attacks & etc. I know the difference between a service dog & an emotional support animal & I found out I’m able to get her into classes, get permits, licenses, certificates & notes from my therapist so she can be my emotional support dog but the only thing I’m concerned about is that I can’t take her into the store with me. I don’t feel myself or feel comfortable unless she is with me. I am 16 yrs old & stay home 24/7 unless I can take my dog to a place that allows me to take her there. I just find myself always needing her for comfort/emotional support & this is what angers me, this law that doesn’t allow her to come into Walmart with me. I need her for things like this, she helps me out so much emotionally. I would like to write a letter to someone about my feelings towards this law. Does anyone know who I should write this letter to? Because I am clueless.

  39. t king on November 5th, 2013 1:03 pm

    I have a service, he wears a enamel tag and also has a vest. Sometimes due to warm weather , I do not put the vest on him , but there`s a tag on him. I am harrassed by my landlord who demands that the vest be on at all times. But it is not required by law. I can not afford to move yet I don`t want my landlord making new laws for me. It`s a pain in the ass, because my dog has never caused conflict, it is a no pet housing. I can understand someone who does not know might have a question about it. But I feel I`m being bullied.

  40. Angela on February 1st, 2014 11:32 pm

    The fake service dog issue needs to be addressed immediately before it gets any more out of hand. I do not own a restaurant but I couldn’t even imagine how violated I would feel if I did own one and then had people falsely claiming their dogs to be service animals just to bring them into my establishment. I have absolutely NO problem with legitimate service dogs that are properly trained because they do not cause disturbances. What exactly is considered a “disturbance” by the dog? In my opinion disturbances shouldn’t just be limited to barking, making a mess, growling, etc. If a dog is at a restaurant and doing anything other than waiting very still and quietly then I would be able to legally ask the owner to leave, correct? Also, can restaurant owners mandate what they consider acceptable service dog behaviors in their establishment? For example, it is unacceptable for service animals to eat out of your hands, off the table, or off the floor while assisting you in my restaurant. If they do not comply I will have to ask you to leave… Is that legal?

    And another thing! I’m extremely allergic to cats and dogs. At what point does a humans right to breathe air that doesn’t make them break out in hives supersede a persons’ right to carry their service dog everywhere.

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  42. Morgan Riegel on April 22nd, 2014 7:53 am

    I am currently training a service dog for myself, she is going to be a medical response, mobility and psychiatric service dog, I have an anxiety disorder which I am training her to “ground” me for and alert me to my destructive behaviors (I will chew my nails to the quick and pick my lips until they bleed) I also have panic attacks occasionally especially if I’m alone. On top of all that I have asthma which manifests itself in painful, violent coughing fits which leave my dizzy and gasping and clinging to the nearest object. I also have 4 daily medication and one emergency inhaler, the emergency one leaves me with tremors, I can’t focus and it increases my anxiety. So I guess my question is… Do I qualify with the new regulations?

  43. Ellen on May 1st, 2014 11:14 pm

    I see a reason that ADI certification would be a problem. There are not enough programs available. I would like to see ADI open up and expand . I believe the CGCA given by AKC parallels the PAT in showing that a team can handle public access. The problem is that the tasks wouldn’t be certified. The AKC Community test is more accessible. An occupational therapist could confirm that a dog can complete at least 2-3 tasks for the disabled person. If ADI certification is the future, it will shut the doors to many deserving service dog teams throughout the US. That should never happen.

  44. Stephanie on May 2nd, 2014 2:55 pm

    Are there that many people who try to bring their random dogs into a business that we need to be that concerned… if the dog has the vest on and is controlled, why not trust that the animal is a service animal. We’ve become so cyincal that we think everyone is trying to “get one over”.

  45. Stephanie wetzel on May 8th, 2014 10:34 pm

    I work in a restaurant and we have customers that say their dog is a service animal. I or my superviser have told them that they need to prove it. We were told no that they did not have to prove it. Is this true? I believe that they should. Can you tell me if this is true.

  46. Pam on July 10th, 2014 10:03 am

    In regards to the comment above. I have encountered more and more people trying to pass off their PET dog as a service dog. We had an encounter with one of these Pet owners at the airport. I was with my service dog. My dog is highly trained and very well behaved. The other dog was obviously NOT a service dog and continued to bark at my dog who ignored the whole thing. They were having great difficulty even holding this dog.

    This dog was lunging at my very well trained service dog and we moved away to keep him from injuring my dog. After I went out I spoke to the TSA offier and gave him the ADA questions to ask this person. The dog was part Pit Bull and Chow. Most of these people do not know the rules when they have thier dog out in public and they are easy to spot. They go on the defensive when you ask them anything about their dog…

    We have to do something about this to protect our service dogs that have been highly trained for the disable person. It takes at lease 2 1/2 years to train a service dog and hours and hours of socialization in public areas. They start their training when they are 8 weeks old and continue for over 2 years before they take the public access test. These dogs are always in service and very well train. You can tell the difference immedialty. Lets protect the disabled people who needs these dogs so desperately.

    Make up a fine and report them to ADA

  47. Laura on June 14th, 2016 1:54 pm

    I’m a front desk agent at a hotel. I’m a dog lover and was in the medical field for many years. I am amazed by how many people abuse the service dog laws and how rude they are if any question is asked. One of the problems with the law is that they do not have to any type of visible vest, tag ect. and then other guest want to know why they can’t bring their dogs also. What about the people that have allgeries to dogs? What about people that have a true fear of dogs? We have lost business over this issue. Service dog owners or those that claim that they are have been the rudest guest that I’ve had to deal with. They feel that they have the right over and above anyone else. Most people do not even inform us the animal is in the room and feel that they don’t have to. We have to deep clean a room after a service animal leaves because of odor and hair which means the room is offline and unrentable for a day (200.00) . I was worked in dialysis for many years and service dogs were allowed and it was no problem and very useful. I have noticed in the hospitality business people abuse the term service animal. The law needs to be changed.

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