Can service dogs go anywhere? In this article we’ll dive in and answer this question in detail. We will also talk about some places where service dogs are simply not allowed to go. The short answer is yes, service dogs can go almost anywhere the public can go. A few exceptions include a sterile hospital environment, religious organizations, certain areas of the zoo and if the service dog is posing a threat to the health and safety of others.
ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act Law
The federal ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act law is a U.S. civil law which protects people who use service dogs. It allows people who use service dogs public access rights. This translates into people with disabilities having the opportunity to more fully participate in society, and in their communities.
Where Service Dogs Are Allowed
Service dogs, under the ADA, are generally allowed to go anywhere that members of the public can go.
This includes places like:
- Movie Theatres
- Shopping Malls
- Grocery stores
- Salad Bars
- Cafeterias and Cafes
- Food preparation areas in shelters and dormitories
- Community Centres
- Gyms and Fitness Centres
- Public Universities
- Private Universities
- Housing at Private and Public Universities
- Public Housing Programs run by State, County, and City Governments
- Emergency Shelters
- To Work
- Hotels and Motels
- In Housing Situations
- Medical Offices and Buildings
- State and Local Government Offices and Buildings
- Art Galleries
- Amusement Parks
- Train Stations & Trains
- Busses and Cars
- Any business or non-profit organization that serves the public
- Businesses or establishments that sell or prepare food have to generally allow service dogs in public areas. This is true even in the case where state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises
- Places that don’t allow pets, or have a “no pets” policy. Service dogs are not pets.
When Service Animals May Be Excluded
There are a few instances where a business or another place may ask a service dog to leave. In other words, times when service dogs can be excluded. These are:
- In the case where a business, or another “covered entity” would need “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities that it provides to the public
- When there are legitimate safety requirements or concerns
- If a service dog is out of control, and the handler does not take effective action to control it
- If the service dog is not housebroken (i.e. it “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately)
Where Are Service Animals Not Allowed?
Service animals are not allowed under certain conditions, situations, and/or locations. Here are some examples.
Boarding School Example
- At a boarding school, a service dog could be restricted from a specific area of a dormitory that has been specially reserved for students who have allergies to dogs or dog dander. However, allergies to dogs is not normally a valid reason to exclude a service dog from a public place. Businesses must generally accommodate both the person with the service dog as well as the person with allergies.
- At a zoo, service dogs or service animals could be restricted from areas where the zoo animals that are on display, are the natural prey, or natural predators of dogs. In other words, if the the presence of a dog would be disruptive. If the dog’s presence would cause the zoo animals to behave aggressively or become agitated, then the dog can be excluded. However, service dogs and service animals can’t be restricted from other areas of the zoo, such as the cafeteria, gift shop, or anywhere else members of the public can go
Swimming Pool Example
- The ADA does not override public health rules. This means, for example, that service dogs can be prohibited in swimming pools. Having said that, service dogs must still be allowed on the pool deck. In addition, they must be allowed in other areas where the public is allowed to go, such as the change rooms
- Religious institutions and organizations are exempt from the ADA laws. However, states may have their own laws which may apply to religious organizations. So it’s important to check with the state laws before coming to any conclusions about a particular place or organization
- Under the ADA, service dogs are allowed in patient rooms, clinics, cafeterias, and examination rooms. But, they may be excluded from a burn unit or an operating room. This is because it would be appropriate to exclude a service dog from an area where the animal’s presence might compromise a sterile environment
Can Service Dogs Go On Planes?
Generally speaking, fully trained service dogs can ride in the cabin of an airplane with their handler as long as they meet the airline’s requirements. However, emotional support animals are often not included and not allowed. Emotional support animals can still fly as a pet, under the pet rules. Often, you must submit your service dog paperwork in advance of your flight.