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Service animal

Generally, a service animal is an animal that is individually trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability. The specific definition, however, varies in different contexts:

  • Title II and Title III, generally: Under the regulations from the US Department of Justice for Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to perform a specific task for an individual with a disability. No other types of animals, with the sole exception of a miniature horse, are considered service animals. Service animals are generally allowed wherever the public is permitted to go. This includes restaurants, theaters, hotels, colleges, county social service offices, and medical offices. A special license or certification is not required for a service animal. This definition does not include emotional support as a task.
  • Title II and the US Department of Transportation (DOT): It is important to know that the DOT uses a different definition of service animal in relation to Title II. This applies to transportation controlled or operated by a state or local government, such as city buses, light rail, and commuter trains. In these circumstances, a service animal is defined by the DOT as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability…” In these regulations, a service animal does not necessarily have to be a dog.
  • Employment: The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) does not define a service animal, but a service animal is considered to be a reasonable accommodation, so an employee must request to have their service animal in the workplace.
  • Fair Housing Act (FHA): Under the FHA, the term assistance animal is used instead of service animal. This law—which is enforced by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development—uses a very different definition. This definition includes what is considered a service animal under the ADA, but it has fewer limitations.

[ Read: Service Animals Overview ]


Fact Sheets

Ask About the ADA

  • Service Animals on Airplanes
    Q: Recently the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed the rules for service animals and emotional support animals on airplanes. Why was this done? A: The DOT made these changes to avoid problems...
  • Service Animals on Public Transit
    Q: Are the rules for service animals different on public transportation than they are for service animals in other areas like restaurants and stores? A: The biggest difference between the Dept. of Tr...
  • Service Dogs at My B&B
    Q: I live in and own a bed and breakfast that has four rooms. Do I have to allow service animals or emotional support animals to stay? A: No. The definition in the Americans with Disabilities Act (AD...
  • The difference between service animals, emotional support animals, or therapy animals can be confusing. Are they all covered under the ADA?
    Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog, and sometimes a miniature horse, that has been trained to complete a specific task relative to the needs of an in...
  • Service Animals and Vests
    Q: Does a service animals need to wear a vest that identifies it as service animal? A: No, a simple leash or harness is all that is required for a service animal. A service animal must always be unde...


Service Animals in Retail

Infographic that says: Service animals are not pets.
Store employees can ask: 
* Is this service animal required because of a disability?
* What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
A service animal must be under the control of its handler. If it is not, a store employee can ask that the animal be removed. The handler may continue shopping without the service animal. Share on Facebook

Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals Are Not the Same

Infographic that says: Covered by the ADA to enter public establishments with handler. Service Animals: Yes. Emotional Support Animals: No.
Specially trained (task-trained). Service Animals:Yes. Emotional Support Animals: No.
Allowed by Federal law to stay with residents with disabilities in condos and apartments that have a “no pets” policy. Service Animals: Yes. Emotional Support Animals: Yes.
Primary function is to provide emotional support through companionship. Service Animals: No. Emotional Support Animals: Yes.
Must be certified or registered. Service Animals: No. Emotional Support Animals: No.
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What does accessible mean?

Social media image that says: What does accessible mean? A place, product, service, activity, or communication is accessible if it can be used with or without a disability. The photo shows an accessible ski lift. Share on Facebook

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