What Recourse Do I Have If a Business Does Not Follow the Law and Allow Me the Same Access with My Service Dog?2019-12-31
All businesses must allow people with disabilities to access their premises with a service dog. In fact, the law requires it. However, far too often, businesses do not follow these practices. They will prohibit a person from entering the establishment even when they state their animal is a service animal.
In this guide, we'll cover the protections you are guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We'll also address what actions you can take if a business fails to comply with the law and violates your rights as a service dog owner.
ADA Laws behind Service Dogs
The ADA states that any business that serves the general public is obliged to allow service animals to accompany a person with disabilities. The person should have access to all areas where other customers are permitted. This law applies to ALL public businesses. These include restaurants, hospitals, hotels, theaters, department stores, groceries, taxis and more. Directions set by the ADA include:
Public businesses are prohibited from asking for information about the person’s disability.
The US Department of Justice allows businesses to ask only two questions: Is the service dog necessary due to a disability? What is the service dog trained to do to mitigate the disability?
Food and Health Codes
Businesses that deal with the sale and preparation of food should allow service animals in public areas. This should happen even if local health codes or the state doesn't allow animals on such premises.
Fear of animals or allergies related to animals is not an acceptable reason to deny people with service dogs access to the business premises.
Reasonable Requests for Removal
The only acceptable occurrence that can lead to asking an individual with a disability to remove his/her service animal from the premises are:
- The dog begins to misbehave
- The owner fails to control the situation
Such instances include the service dog barking repeatedly. Another acceptable call for removal is acceptable is when the service dog poses a direct threat to the safety of other patrons.
However, even when a person with a disability has been asked to remove their service dog, they still have the right to service. The person should still be offered the opportunity to purchase products or services. They may do so if the dog is left outside the premises.
The business is not obligated to provide accommodations for the service dogs. Such accommodations include relief stations, food, and care.
Fines and Penalties
Failure to provide products or services to the person with a service animal is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The violation can lead to penalties and fines.
A business can face a penalty or fine from the ADA if it isolates people with disabilities. Isolation may include asking them to pay extra charges or treating them less favorably than non-disabled people. The only acceptable instances for people with disabilities to pay extra charges is when their service dogs cause damage or are disruptive.
What Do I Need to Do to Avoid Confrontation?
It's against the federal law for a private employer to have a “no service dogs” policy if their business is open to the public. Such policies violate the ADA and any other state or local laws that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities.
Communicate and Resolve the Situation
If a business fails to allow you access because of your service dog, try to communicate with the manager or owner. You can do so through formal means such as a letter. You can also explain your situation to the business administrators to resolve the matter. Let the business owners know that your animal is a service dog and explain how it helps you in your daily activities.
Know Your Rights
Remember, the business owners cannot demand that you show them any proof that your dog has been trained. Your claim should be enough. Know your rights to protect yourself and your service animal.
It helps to keep in mind that non-disabled business owners and workers may have limited knowledge of service animals. They may be familiar with guide dogs for visually impaired persons. However, service dogs that perform other duties may be new to them. If you educate them with even a few facts, they may grant you and your service dog access.
Carry Your Documentation
It could also help to carry your copy of the US Department of Justice ADA Business Brief on Service Animal. You might do so even though the law prohibits business owners to ask for documentation.
However, this can be a backup plan to avoid trouble and wasted time. You can have the document in your service dog's vest pocket. The brief is a statement that can be used to educate a resistant worker. It can make your life much easier.
What Do I Do If I Was Still Denied My Rights?
If the business still denies you access to the premises, you should comply with their directions for the safety of yourself and your dog. Next, follow up with business management to determine how they will remedy the situation.
Some remedies for a business that are reasonable include training employees about the use and importance of service dogs to people with disabilities. The business can also add a sign on the door to confirm that it adheres to ADA rules and regulations on allowing access to service dogs.
In the worst-case scenario, you can file a complaint through the US Department of Justice. You can find a lawyer with knowledge of ADA laws. An ADA attorney will help you file a claim and seek compensation.
If a business causes you any problems, know your rights. Stand firm on your position and why you require a service dog. If you are still unsure about a business’ policy on service dogs, consult an experienced ADA attorney to follow through on your legal your options.
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