Understanding Service Animal Law

Understanding Service Animal Law


For individuals with a disability, the ability to use service animals can often be critical. Often, these animals need to accompany the people they help wherever they go. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees the right of people to take service animals with them in public places, like shops, theaters, or restaurants.

Helpful Animals

There are numerous types of animals that help people with a variety of different disabilities or conditions. While dogs are the most popular type of animal used, cats, and even horses, are sometimes utilized. These animals can provide guidance for people who cannot see or comfort for people who get nervous flying, and just about everything else in between. But, it is important to note that “service animal” under the ADA has a very specific definition.

ADA Service Animal

Under the ADA, a service animal is any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Other animals are not considered service animals under this definition. Further, the work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. Some of the types of work that service animals perform are:

  1. Assisting people who have poor or no vision with navigation
  2. Alerting people with low or no hearing to the presence of people or sounds
  3. Pulling a wheelchair
  4. Assisting a person suffering from a seizure
  5. Retrieving items, like medicine or the phone

The emotional support, companionship, or comfort that a dog may provide does not constitute work or tasks under this definition.

Rights Associated with Service Animal

The ADA requires that state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations must allow service animals to be used by people with disabilities. The service animal must be permitted to go anywhere a member of the public is allowed to go. However, there are two instances in which a person with a disability will be asked to remove his or her service animal. These occur if the dog is out of control and the handler does not take control of it or if the dog is not housebroken.

Importantly, the only two questions that may be asked of a person in determining whether their dog is a service animal are the following:

  1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task is the animal trained to perform?

Under the ADA, it is not permissible to ask about the nature or extent of the disability, require medical documentation to prove the disability, or to ask the dog to perform the work or tasks it is trained to do.

Charleston Disabilities Attorneys

For many people with a disability, having a service animal with them at all times can be crucial in allowing them to function in society. It is important for everyone to be aware of, and respect, the rights afforded to individuals with service animals. If you have any questions related to disability law, we would be happy to help. Contact the attorneys at Klok Law Firm LLC today.