Service Dog Registration Of America

What To Do If Your Service Dog is Denied Access


If you suffer from a disability, life can be difficult without your furry canines. Service animals provide the opportunity to interact with the world in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. However, if you’re concerned about being denied access to public places, you don’t have to worry. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act says service animals have the same public access rights as their person with a disability, including the right to visit restaurants or live in “no pets” apartments.

This blog will cover how to handle situations when you may be denied access to public places. 

Can Service Dogs Be Denied Access to a Public Place?

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination, allowing them to access public spaces without being denied. Service dogs receive ADA protection as long as they meet the specified criteria. 

The ADA defined service animals as dogs trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Typically, they help people with physical disabilities such as mobility impairments, deafness, blindness, and cerebral palsy. 

Service dogs are generally allowed anywhere their owners go. They must be allowed in public locations such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, restaurants, and public transportation. The only exception to the rule is when the animal may pose a safety threat to other employees or patrons, like inside hospital operating rooms. 

However, denying access to service animals is against the law since all public institutions, including businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government buildings, must allow service dogs to accompany their owners in any facility accessible to the general public. 

The ADA isn’t the only governing body that provides legal authority to where their owners are allowed access. Some states have additional laws about modifications you can make for your dog to adapt to various places. 

It’s also important to note that the law doesn’t necessarily provide access to every public space. Here are some places where your service dogs aren’t allowed: 

  • Restaurant kitchens: Animals can contaminate food or introduce allergens into the environment. 
  • Operating rooms: Even if the dog is well-behaved, it will fill the space with various contaminants like parasites, infectious breath, and dander. 
  • Churches: According to Title III of the ADA, churches can deny access. However, many churches happily allow congregants with disabilities to their worship centers. 
  • Mosques: Islam religious culture has views that dog saliva is impure, which is why they don’t allow service dogs. 
  • Private Properties: If you’re visiting another person’s home or private property, the owner has the right to ask you to leave or deny access. 

How To Handle Service Dog Access Challenges

Being denied access to a public place, especially when you know you have rights as a disabled person, can be a gut-punching scenario and a tough pill to swallow. 

It can leave you feeling frustrated and feeling like you should lash out. However, you want to make sure to properly handle the challenge since it can help the person in charge to change their mind. 

Here’s how you can better handle the situation. 

Be Polite 

The first step to settling an access dispute is to remain polite and calm. Politeness will go a long way toward solving things more amicably. Even more, it’ll set the tone for more open communication and increase the chances of finding an agreement. 

Remaining polite also reinforces you as someone who is reasonable and responsible, supporting the legitimacy of your access request.

Professional and Calm 

Staying calm can be the last thing on your mind, especially when confronted with public access challenges for your service animal. While it may be easy to lose your temper, the person in charge will be much more willing to accommodate your needs if you act professionally and calmly. 

Often, those who are denying you don’t have any malicious intent. They likely don’t know or understand the law. Remember that if you’re in the public eye, there’s a good chance you’re on video. Thus, it’s better to leave a good impression to help your case in the future. 

Explain Your Rights

Most importantly, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the ADA law and any relevant state regulations protecting your service dog owner’s rights. Once you know your rights, you can express them clearly and confidently. 

Explain that service dogs are permitted access to public spaces, including the specific establishment in question, under the ADA. Make sure to distinguish between pets and service dogs since your dog is designed to help with your disabilities. 

That said, if you don’t have the verbal ability or energy to educate the person in charge, your best bet is to carry a copy of the ADA requirements for service dogs. 

Document Your Access Challenge 

If you still can’t get through to the person who has denied you access, you may have to take matters a step further. You should always document everything that transpires, such as recording audio or video of the situation. You may be able to file a complaint against the establishment so they can investigate and resolve the situation. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re still concerned about being denied access to certain places, we’ve put together a small FAQ section to help. 

Can a Hospital or Dentist Deny Access to a Service Dog?

Yes, service dogs are allowed in hospitals, dentist offices, and other healthcare facilities, provided the presence doesn’t impede the operations of functions or services. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, people with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places. 

Can a Service Dog Be Denied Access From a Spa?

Generally, service dogs should be allowed into spas, as they are considered a public establishment and would receive the same rights as other places listed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Final Thoughts

With over 500,000 disabled US citizens who’ve enlisted the help of a service animal to make their life easier, there’s no shame in standing for your rights. 

Sometimes, people who work at establishments don’t know any better and will want to exert their power without being sensitive to your needs. 

Knowing the rules surrounding service dogs and public access allows you to confidently explain your rights and handle the situation calmly. 

If you need more resources on registering your service dog to add legitimacy to your disability or want resources or accessories to support your needs, Service Dog Registration of America has you covered. Register your service dog with us today and receive a vest for easy identification.