The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures protections for people with disabilities. Part of this protection includes the right for a person with a disability to have a service dog. Service dogs can help manage daily tasks, making life easier for their owners.
Unfortunately, a service dog also might make a person with a disability stand out. Businesses often ask probing questions about the service dog. Depending on the nature of these questions, they may violate the rights of the person with a disability.
The ADA sets forth guidelines for business owners to follow, but that doesn't mean these businesses always comply. You should know your rights when entering a place with a business. Here, we cover the kinds of questions businesses are permitted to ask you without violating your rights.
No, establishments are not allowed to ask for evidence that your dog is as a service dog. Even if your dog does not have a collar or vest, the business is not allowed to ask for paperwork or proof. You are not obligated to carry your service dog information with you everywhere.
There are two questions that business owners are allowed to ask:
- Is your dog a service dog?
- What duties does your dog perform?
That is the end of the questions that they can ask. They are not allowed to ask about your disability or condition. If they ask for more detailed information, you can inform them at your discretion. You are under no obligation to answer beyond those two questions.
If the business continues to pester you about your paperwork, you can take legal action. All businesses in the United States of America must follow the ADA laws. If they do not, they can face lawsuits, penalties, and fines.
In general, be wary of a business that asks to see your paperwork after you've confirmed that your dog is a service animal.
In most cases, no. Even if the business has a "No Pets" policy, your service dog is still legally allowed inside the establishment. A service animal is not a pet, so they are protected by different laws than other animals. Your service animal should be able to follow you into any area accessible to other customers.
If your animal is well behaved and simply accompanying you, there is no legal way that a business can ask you to leave. If they do, you can file a lawsuit against them for failing to uphold the ADA laws and regulations.
There is one exception to this rule. If your service dog causes a disturbance, the business can ask you to leave. This could be anything from barking unnecessarily, growling, being unruly, urinating, or defecating on the premises. However, there has to be solid evidence for this to be alright.
It also has to be clear this behavior is not part of their duty as service dog. If your dog is barking at every other customer that walks in, you could be asked to leave. But if your dog is barking due to their training, you cannot be asked to leave.
If a business asks you to leave, they might not know it's a service animal. That's why, though not necessary, a special harness or collar for your dog is highly recommended, but not required. It could save you and your animal from stressful, embarrassing, and potentially dangerous situations. A vest or collar could prevent you from having to explain that your animal is here to help you and is not simply a pet.
No. The business is not allowed to deny your entry if you have a service animal. Again, even if they have a "No Pet" policy, your service animal is exempt from this rule. Even if you do not have an identifying vest or collar on your animal, the company is not allowed to discriminate against you.
Without the indicators, businesses may try to deny your entry at first. A simple explanation should settle everything. If the business owner or employee continues to keep you out, you can take legal action. You can sue any company that does not allow you into their establishment with your service animal.
There is also an issue if they exclude you from areas where other customers are permitted to enter. If the employees say you cannot go into a certain area with a service animal, they are violating ADA laws and your rights. Even if the company tries to tell you about county health codes, your service animal is still exempt. So long as other customers can go, you and your service animal are legally able to as well.
These scenarios are upsetting and aggravating. However, it is recommended to address the issue first with the business in question before taking legal action. Writing a clear and concise letter or email can inform businesses of their mistakes without putting them on defense.
Your service animal is not in the same legal category as pets. Thus, they do not have to abide by "No Pet" policies or regulations. It's important to remember that distinction since it can clear a lot of misunderstandings when taking your service animal out in public. As well, though not required legally, a vest or collar for your service animal can help prevent unwanted situations.
When it comes to public spaces and businesses, you have the same right to access as everyone else. Know your rights in case of emergencies.
- You cannot be asked questions about your disability just because you have a service animal with you.
- Business owners/employees can ONLY ask whether or not the animal is a service animal and what services they perform for you.
- You are allowed in every customer accessible area of a business with your service animal.
- A "No Pet" policy does not apply to your service animal.
Overall, don't be afraid to go out with your service animal.