What rules apply to service animals?

Often, Americans with disabilities will rely on a service animal to help them perform everyday tasks. The most common example is a service dog leading a blind person. These animals are protected by the Americans with Disability Act to be able to go anywhere their owner does. There are a few important facts to keep in mind when it comes to service animals.

First of all, any business that serves the public must allow service dogs in their facility. This can include hotels, bars, theaters and the like. It is illegal for such businesses to turn away a customer due to disability, including needing a service animal.

For those without disabilities, understanding the difference in a service animal and a pet can be crucial. A service animal is trained to assist their owner in different ways. Generally they will have some kind of special harness or collar, but they do not necessarily have to be. But, each service animal will have documentation stating them as such. Therefore, a business’s strict “no pets” policy does not apply, as service animals are not pets.

There are some exceptions to being able to bar a person with a disability and their service animal. If the animal acts wildly, such as barking or biting other patrons, they may be kicked out of the business. Also, if the animal would alter the nature of the business, such as barking during a film, they may also be asked to leave.

Besides these two situations, it is illegal for a business owner to not allow a service animal on the premises. If anyone with a service animal has been illegally barred from a business or has, in some other way, faced disability discrimination, they may be entitled to compensation. An attorney may help them figure out if they have a legitimate claim and what can be done about it.


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