All business policies, practices, or procedures must permit an individual with a disability to use a service dog. In fact, they must allow an individual claiming their animal is a service dog to enter. Refusing service is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which can result in penalties, fines, and money damages. The only two questions the U.S. Department of Justice permits businesses to ask are if the service dog is necessary due to a disability, and what he is trained to do to mitigate it.
The Laws Behind Service Animals
Under the ADA, any business serving the general public must allow service dogs to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where regular customers are normally permitted. This federal law applies to all public businesses, such as health clubs, hospitals and medical offices, zoos, restaurants, grocery and department stores, parks, hotels, taxis and shuttles, and theaters. Other highlights of the ADA include:
• There is no obligation implied for a business to provide food, care, or a relief station for a service dog.
• Businesses are not permitted to ask for information about the individual’s disability and cannot request to see special ID cards for the service dog.
• Even when local or state health codes are in place prohibiting animals on the premises, businesses selling or preparing food must still allow service dogs in public areas.
• The only acceptable instances for asking a person with a disability to remove his service dog from the premises include an uncontrolled dog and his owner refusing to control the situation. An example includes a dog repeatedly barking during a movie. The other condition where it is permissible to ask the individual with the disability to remove the service dog include when the dog directly threatens the safety or health of other patrons.
• It is against the ADA to isolate people with disabilities who use service animals by charging them extra fees or treating them less favorably than other patrons unless the service dog is disruptive or causes damage.
• If the business owner requests the person with the disability to remove the service dog under the two acceptable situations, the person with the disability should be offered the opportunity to obtain products or services if the dog does not enter the premises.
• Fear of animals or allergies are generally not acceptable reasons for refusing access or denying service to individuals with disabilities who are accompanied by service dogs.
While service animals are expected to behave appropriately at all times, it is important that businesses attempt to resolve any disruptive or uncontrolled situation first before requesting removal of the service dog.
Registering a Service Dog
You may be wondering how to register a service dog. There are a few steps required to complete this process. First, you have to confirm you have a verifiable disability. Next, you qualify your dog using the Public Access Test to prove your service dog can behave appropriately in public situations and can provide assistance to you if necessary. Once your dog passes this test, you can apply for a service dog certificate and register as a service dog. After you complete the registration process, the service dog registration company will send you service animal patches, photo identification cards that identify your dog as a service animal, and an official service dog certificate. Your dog will be listed in the company’s database. It is important to understand that simply registering your dog as a service animal does not give him to any legal rights. Registration is for identification purposes only. At USA Service Dogs, our specialists can help you understand the registration process to obtain a service animal certificate for your dog.