Service animals are individually trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Service animals may do such things as guide a person who is blind; pick up or fetch things for a person with a physical impairment; act as "medic alert" animals for people with seizure disorders, heart problems, or hearing impairments; or perform a variety of functions for people with psychiatric disabilities. Service animals are not pets; they are working animals.
As of March 15, 2011, the definition of a service animal under Title II (State and Local Government) and Title III (Public Accommodations) of the ADA includes only dogs. These new rules also say, however, that public accommodations and government entities must make reasonable modification for miniature horses, as these are an alternative to service dogs.
No other types of animal, whether wild or domestic, are considered service animals under the ADA.
Please note that some states, cities, and/or counties do have different definitions of what a service animal is. If this definition is more broad than the ADA definition, it may supercede the ADA. Check out our Service Animal Matrix (below) for info on Region 10 service animal law.
Service Animal Facts
- Service animals do not have to have any kind of certification or identification, and by law they are not required to wear any type of vest or any other gear that identifies them as a service animal.
- Any business that serves the public must allow service animals, regardless of any "no pets" policy that they may have.
- The only questions a public entity may ask a service animal handler is:
1) Do you have a disability (a yes/no question)?
2) What tasks does the animal perform?
No one may ask, "What is your disability?"
- Service animal handlers can only be asked to remove their service animal from a place of public accommodation if the animal poses a direct threat (i.e. they bite someone, are dirty/have fleas, are disruptive for a reason unrelated to their task as a service animal).
- Service animal handlers are responsible for cleaning up after their service animals.
- Under the Fair Housing Act, service animals, as well as comfort or companion animals, must be allowed in multi-family rental buildings (i.e. an apartment), regardless of any "no pets" policy. Additionally, no pet deposit may be charged, even if one is normally charged for animals living in the establishment.
Each state and federal law has different rules with regard to service animal law. See our Service Animal Matrix, with which we try to put these differences in perspective. This document compares the ADA, Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act, and the state laws of Region 10.
Service Animal Matrix
Please see the following sources for more information on service animals:
Northwest ADA Center Service Animals: Frequently Asked Questions PDF DOC
Northwest ADA Center Service Animals as an Employment Accommodation PDF DOC
ADA National Network Title II and Title III Revised Regulations: Service Animals HTML PDF
Dept. of Justice Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals HTML PDF