Welcome to New York Service Dog Laws & Info
Are you wondering about service animals? According to a New York Department of Health survey, about one in five adult New Yorkers (over 3 million people) live with a disability due to an impairment or health condition. Some people who have disabilities use a service dog.
Service dogs can be any size or breed (yes, this includes Pitbulls) and can help people by doing an incredibly diverse number of tasks or work that can open up opportunities and reduce barriers, allowing people with disabilities to better participate safely in life, and live the best life that they can.
In this guide, we’ll go through some of the most important service animal information you need to know relevant to New York.
We’ll discuss various laws that you’ll be interested in if you are:
- Someone who wants to get a service dog
- Someone who wants to learn more
- Member of the community
- Family member
- Employer / Businesses
- Other public entities
By the end of this guide, you’ll understand what service dogs in New York are, what they do, where they are allowed, what you can ask the service dog handler, whether they need to be certified or registered, what the rules are for public businesses and housing, and so much more. Let’s dive into this! Or if you’re looking for a related article, check out our guide to Emotional Support Animal Laws NY.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Service Dogs New York
The first thing I want to say is that service dogs can be extremely confusing because there are multiple laws and governing bodies that oversee them.
Different terms and jargon can help to confuse people. In addition, while many disabilities are obvious – such as an amputation of a leg – there are a ton of disabilities that are invisible.
And of course, we have the unfortunate problem of non-disabled folks trying to take advantage of the situation, by trying to bring their pets to public places as fake service animals. This can make things more difficult for people with real service animals, as businesses may grow to see all service animals negatively.
We also have websites online trying to sell service dog registration and certifications, which honestly are scams because service dogs do not need those, and they are not recognized by the Department of Justice or the Americans with Disabilities Act as proof that a dog is a service dog (it says so on the ADA Frequently Asked Questions webpage here).
This article will discuss:
- How to get a service dog in NYC
- Registration information
- Anxiety service dogs in NYC
- Psychiatric service dogs in New York
- Training a service dog in New York
- Service Dog-in-Training (SDiT) laws in New York
- New York City Service Dog License
- The Fair Housing Act regarding Emotional Support Animals in New York
- Much more
Equal Access to Services
Everyone in New York state is entitled to equal access to services, as well as public accommodations, regardless of differing abilities.
Many people in New York depend on service animals. Without the service animal, they wouldn’t be able to go out into public places and do things that people typically need and want to do in normal life.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New York service animal law, businesses and facilities that serve the public may not discriminate against individuals with disabilities.
- Restaurants, hotels, and retail stores
- Theaters and sports facilities
- Transportation, including taxicabs and buses
- They must permit a service animal in all areas of a facility where customers are allowed or the public is normally invited
- Housing providers must allow service animals under the Fair Housing Act, even if they have a “no pets” policy in place
- Service animals are not pets
- Fully trained service dogs can fly in aircraft cabins with their handler, but service dogs in training (SDiT) and emotional support animals (ESAs) don’t qualify anymore. This is under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
- Service dogs in training and emotional support animals can still fly as checked pets; just not in the cabin
- Check out our new article: Can service dogs go on cruises?
There are multiple definitions for service animals, depending on the context (employment, public access, air travel, housing, etc.) Here are a few of the most common.
Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal
Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.Americans with Disabilities Act Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) website page
The Fair Housing Act defines Assistance Animal
An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
Air Carrier Access Act defines a service animal
Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.U.S. Department of Transportation – Service Animals
What Qualifies A Dog To Be A Service Dog in NY?
Any dog that meets the definition from the ADA is considered a service animal under ADA rules; it doesn’t matter whether the dog has been licensed or certified by a state government, local government, another entity, or not at all.
If a dog has been individually trained to perform tasks or work, to help a specific person who is living with a disability, then it’s a service dog.
People with disabilities who use a service dog are allowed to train the service dog themselves.
New York Fake Service Dog Law
New York State has a new fake service dog law. This law came into effect on December 18, 2017. It’s unlawful for anyone to knowingly represent a pet (or non-service dog) as a service dog.
People do this sometimes by affixing false and/or improper tags identifying the dog as a guide, service, therapy, or hearing dog. Violations could result in a fine of up to $100 and up to 15 days in jail.
NOTE: Some businesses, many of them online, sell fake service dog certifications: certificates, licenses, tags, or harnesses that identify service dogs in exchange for a fee. Individuals should be careful when dealing with businesses selling such documentation and accessories, especially those that do not provide training or evaluation, or that charge high fees.New York State Attorney General
Some examples of tasks or “work” a service animal might perform in order to help a person:
- Helping a person with navigation
- Helping someone with stability and/or balance
- Alerting a person to specific sounds or allergens
- Pulling wheelchairs
- Carrying and retrieving items
- Turning lights on and off
- Seizure assistance or seizure warning
- Interrupting impulsive and/or destructive behaviors
- Waking someone up from a nightmare (PTSD, for example)
- Diabetes assistance
- + much, much more (The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks)
Where Are Service Animals Allowed In New York?
Under the ADA as well as New York service dog laws, any business or facility that serves the public must not discriminate against people who are living with disabilities.
Examples of businesses that must allow service dogs when accompanied by a person living with a disability:
- Retail stores
- Grocery stores
- Sports facilities
- Transportation, including taxis and buses
- Basically anywhere the public is regularly invited
Responsibilities Of NY Businesses
New York service dog laws indicate that businesses must allow service animals in all of the same areas that general customers and/or the general public is invited into. For example, in a hospital, a service animal might be allowed in a patient or examination room, because normally people are allowed into those rooms.
However, the service dog can be excluded from sterile environments where the general public is not invited to enter, such as operating rooms. Read more in our article about service dogs in hospitals.
Extra Fees & Deposits For Service Animals
A business or another “covered entity” (in ADA language) in New York must not charge extra fees, deposits, or surcharges for service animals. However, if the service animal causes damage, a fee can be charged as long as it’s also regularly charged to non-disabled people’s pets for similar damages.
Care And Supervision Of Service Dogs In NY
Businesses are not responsible for taking care of service animals
A business – or any other public accommodation provider – is not responsible for taking care of a service animal. They are not required to supervise the animal, provide food, or provide a special location for the service dog. Anyone who violates these laws can be assessed damages and penalties by the State Division of Human Rights. Or, alternatively by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Documentation Is Not Required
A business can not ask personal questions to a person using a service dog.
Public accommodation providers must not:
- Ask about the nature or extent of someone’s disability
- Demand proof or evidence that an animal is certified
If it is not readily apparent that a dog is a service animal, businesses can ask:
- “Is the animal required because of a disability?”
- “What work has the animal been trained to perform?“
Businesses and places of public accommodation must allow service animals, even if they have a “no pets” policy: a service animal is not a pet; it’s a medical assistance device that helps someone with a disability, that happens to have paws and be alive. How lucky are humans that these amazing dogs can help with so many different conditions?
Fake Service Dog Certifications
Websites online selling [fake] service dog papers
There are many online businesses that seem to sell fake service dog certifications. This can include certificates, tags, dog harnesses, and licenses.
These things are supposed to help identify a service dog in exchange for a fee. Be careful and make sure to do your research when considering dealing with these places. A legitimate ADA service dog registration and/or certification entity does not exist.
And remember that certification is not required. So perhaps, if somebody is going around showing off their dog tags and certifications, trying to take a dog everywhere with them, it’s possible that that person is a fraud with a fake service dog.
People living their life with disabilities likely know that legitimate ADA certification is not a thing. Unfortunately, some fully capable people try to take their dog places with them and say their dog is a service dog.
New York Service Dog Registration
Service dog registration is not required
New York service dog laws do not require registration. Registration and certification of service dogs are simply not required by law. Be aware of online organizations that are selling these items. They are not legitimate. Check out our blog “Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate?” to learn more about registrations and why they are not required.
When Can A Service Dog Be Excluded in NY?
New York service dog laws indicate when a service dog may be refused from a public establishment.
The only time a business can exclude (refuse) a service animal is:
- If the animal is out of control
- If the animal is not housebroken (if it ‘goes to the bathroom’ inappropriately)
- If the animal’s handler does not control it
Fears and allergies to dogs aren’t valid reasons to exclude a service dog
Allergies to dogs, as well as a fear of dogs, or fearing a certain kind of dog (Pitbull, German Shepherd), are not acceptable reasons for denying access to a service dog and handler (sometimes called a service dog team).
New York Service Dog Laws For Dog-In-Training (Various Laws)
Public Access For Service Dogs In Training NY
Under the ADA rules, a service dog in training is not an official service dog. It must already be fully trained before it can go into public places. However, most State or local laws give some kind of coverage to animals that are still in training.
In fact, there are only four states that currently do not have any kind of laws covering service dogs in training. These are Hawaii, Michigan, Washington, and Wyoming. Note that the remaining states have different particulars (they are all slightly different) so be sure to research a particular state if you need to.
- Read more on our blog: Service animal in training laws by state.
Air Travel for Service Dogs in Training
Service dogs in training (SDiT) aren’t permitted
Similar to the ADA, the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) doesn’t recognize service dogs-in-training as official service dogs (anymore). So, they’re generally not allowed in the cabin of airplanes. However, individual airlines may vary, so do check it out if you need to fly somewhere. You can still fly with your service dog in training as a pet (just not in the cabin).
Employment & Service Dogs in Training
New York Service Dog Laws
For employment situations, someone could request their service dog-in-training to be allowed to come to work, especially if the dog is being trained to assist the person with their job. This would be a reasonable accommodation request (under ADA Title I).
Ultimately, it is up to the employer to approve or deny the request. If it is denied, it must be for a valid reason.
Employers only need to accommodate a disability that they’ve been notified about. The service dog-in-training could be excluded if it becomes a workplace distraction or causes undue hardship.
- Read more on our blog: Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Laws Summary & FAQ
New York Service Dog Laws – Service Dog in Training Laws (SDiT) – State Laws
New York State has service dog laws, too, in case you didn’t already think there was enough. Service dogs in training have the same rights as fully trained service dogs in New York State.
A person engaged in training a dog to guide or otherwise aid persons with a disability, while engaged in such training activities, and a person with a disability for whom the dog is being trained, shall have the same rights and privileges set forth for persons with a disability in this article.New York Code
New York Service Dog Laws – Housing
The federal Fair Housing Act applies to NY & all states
People living with disabilities are protected under The Fair Housing Act. This Act prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing based on a person’s disability. It applies to virtually all and any housing situations.
The Fair Housing Act requires that a housing provider make “reasonable accommodations” for a person living with a disability so that person can fully use and enjoy the housing.
Part of “reasonable accommodations” means that a housing provider must allow a service dog to live with a person with a disability.
No pets policies
It does not matter if there is a “no pets” policy in place, as service dogs are not pets. Adjustments might need to be made to the size or weight restriction policy for dogs to make an exception for a service dog. Check out our new article on the Fair Housing Act and emotional support animals to learn more about the details.
New York Service Dog Laws – ADA And Fair Housing Differences
Both the ADA and the Fair Housing Act protect people who are living with physical and mental disabilities. The Fair Housing Act requires that service animals be allowed in housing.
There are some differences between the ADA and the Fair Housing Act in regard to service animal rules.
The differences are:
1. Definition of Service Animal For ADA And Fair Housing Act
The definition of service animals is different. The Fair Housing Act has a broader definition. In other words, animals that provide comfort, or emotional support, qualify as service animals under the Fair Housing Act. And, any animal may qualify; it’s not limited to dogs.
Under the ADA, animals that provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service dogs, and can therefore be excluded from places where the general public is normally invited to go. The service animal must be a dog (or miniature horse).
2. Training Of The Service Dog/Service Animal
Under the ADA, a service dog must be specially trained to do a certain task for a specific person.
For the Fair Housing Act, the animal doesn’t necessarily need to be specially trained as a service animal. It only must:
- Provide physical or emotional support
- Lessen the effects of the person’s disability
- And is necessary for the person to be able to fully enjoy the housing
3. Documentation For Housing
Under the ADA for public accommodations, businesses can not ask to see documentation as it’s not required for service dogs and their handlers.
A housing provider – on the other hand – can require a person to provide documentation of their disability. In addition, the documentation must explain their need for the animal.
For most cases, a letter from a doctor or therapist explaining how the animal helps the individual would suffice.
New York Service Dog Laws – Local Laws vs Federal ADA
Sometimes, local laws have different – and sometimes more limited – definitions of dogs that work with people. For example, “seeing eye” or “guide dog.” In this limited definition, other types of service dogs may be excluded.
However, businesses must not refuse to admit any of the other types of service dogs due to these local laws. The ADA is enforced on a federal level, and excluding a certain type of service animal may be in violation of the law. This includes local health department regulations.
For example: if a local establishment sells or prepares food, it must allow service dogs into public areas, regardless of a local health code prohibiting animals.
Emotional support animals can be excluded from public places
Emotional support dogs and therapy dogs are not service dogs, so these can legally be excluded from public places. A service dog must be individually trained to perform a task(s) for a specific person who is living with a disability. Read more on our blog: New York Emotional Support Animal Laws.
New York Service Dog Laws – Service Animal Discrimination
If you’ve been discriminated against because of your service animal, you can contact:
- NYS Office of Attorney General
- Civil Rights Bureau
- 28 Liberty Street New York, NY 10005
- (212) 416-8250 (voice)
- (800) 788-9898 (TDD/TTY)
Or, If you have been a victim of discrimination, please call the Commission’s Info line at 212-416-0197 to report it.
New York Service Dog Laws – How Do I Get A Service Dog In NYC?
There are a few different avenues you could take to get a service dog in NYC.
Getting your service dog is not always easy. Organizations often have long waiting lists (several years). However, it’s much easier when someone else trains the dog for you. But you could also train the dog yourself, get someone like a dog trainer to help, or use any combination of these options.
Emotional Support Animal vs Psychiatric Service Dog
Sometimes it’s confusing to figure out the difference between an emotional support dog and a psychiatric service dog. They sound kind of similar.
Emotional Support Animals
If the only “tasks” your dog needs to do in order to calm your anxiety are to be there for you, provide companionship, calm you down and/or provide a sense of safety merely with its presence, then that is considered an emotional support dog (ESA) (those don’t count as “tasks”).
ESAs do not have the same public access rights as service dogs. ESA’s can be exuded from restaurants and other public places. ESA’s, however, do have rights in terms of housing, and maybe workplace accommodations. You may need to obtain a doctor’s letter to give to your housing provider that states the dog is necessary.
If you don’t know whether to get an ESA or a PSD, think about your needs.
- Is this animal going to help you with tasks you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do? Then you’ll probably need a psychiatric service dog
- Is the animal primarily going to provide companionship, affection, and non-judgmental positive regard? That sounds more like an ESA, which is much easier to obtain.
Once you know which type of dog sounds like the right kind, then you can narrow down where to get one.
If you’re in the market for a new dog, check out our blog: the best service dog breeds and how to choose one.
NYC Dog Licenses
New York service dog laws indicate that all dogs in New York City must have licenses, and this includes service dogs. Service dogs are subject to local dog licensing and registration requirements.
The licenses must be attached to their collars while in public. Dog owners can be fined for violating these requirements.
People who have service animals are not exempt from local animal control or public health requirements, either, such as a requirement to be vaccinated. However, mandatory registration of service animals is not permissible under the ADA.
You can purchase a license that is good for one year or up to five years. The cost of the license will depend on its length and whether the dog is spayed/neutered.
A dog license can help to:
- Find lost dogs
- Let dogs go off-leash With proof of current dog license and rabies vaccination, dogs can run off-leash at New York City park dog runs
- Simplify medical follow-ups. This is especially important if your dog bites someone
- Support animal shelters. Licensing fees help fund shelters and pay for free and low-cost spay and neuter programs
Dog license application can be found here.
New York Service Dog Laws – Service Dog Licenses
- The Health Department no longer issues tags for service dogs
- This is because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that service dogs don’t need a service tag to enter any publicly accessible place
- All government buildings, businesses, and nonprofit groups are required to allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities wherever the public is normally allowed to go
- Service dogs in New York City still need to be licensed, just like any other dog
Guard Dog Licenses
The Health Department requires trained guard dogs to be licensed and registered.
- These dogs must wear their license tag, and guard dog tag, all the time
- The fee for registering a trained guard dog is $10
- Guard dogs must also have a microchip implanted as a permanent form of identification
- Owners must supply the ID number to the Health Department
- Guard dog owners and other people in control of the premises where a trained guard dog is kept are required to post clear signs to warn the public of the dog’s presence
- The sign must include the owner’s name and contact information
- People who train, sell or rent guard dogs must post a clear sign or notice notifying clients about their compliance with licensing, tagging, micro-chipping, and signage requirements.
To apply for a guard dog license or get more information about guard dog requirements, call 311.
How Do I Get A Service Dog For Anxiety In NYC?
The first step is to figure out if you need an emotional support dog (ESA) or a service dog. Psychiatric service dogs are a specific type of service dog. They can help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, as a few examples.
Emotional support animals provide comfort and companionship but aren’t specially trained. You can turn your own dog into an emotional support dog.
Or, if you need a psychiatric dog, you can work with an organization that will help you get one.
Remember that a service dog, by definition, is specially trained to perform a specific task or job for someone living with a disability.
Psychiatric Service Dog New York
As one example, a psychiatric service dog might be trained to turn on lights or do room searches. It may help someone out of a dissociative episode by keeping the person safe and not allowing the person to wander into danger.
Or, a dog could wake someone up when they’re having a nightmare. Many people living with PTSD suffer from nightmares and night terrors.
New York Service Dog Laws & Miniature Horses
Technically speaking, with the updated ADA laws, dogs are the only permitted type of animal defined as a service animal for disabled people where the ADA public access rights are concerned.
However, the ADA has a separate and specific provision that covers miniature horses. The rules that apply to service dogs also apply to miniature horses.
Businesses must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.Americans with Disabilities Act
Businesses and other covered entities can use the following factors to help in determining whether a miniature horse could potentially be accommodated safely at their location.
- The miniature horse must be housebroken (“goes to the bathroom” appropriately)
- The miniature horse must be under the control of its owner at all times, the same as service dogs
- Can the facility safely accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight?
- The miniature horse’s presence must not compromise legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for the safe operation of the facility or business. This must be based upon actual fact, not speculation, assumptions, or fears
Just like service dogs, a miniature horse meets the criteria of a service animal when it has been individually trained to do work or perform a certain, specific task for someone with a disability.
However, businesses and other public places may limit access based on the mini horse’ height and weight
This is different from the rules for service dogs. Service dogs can be any size, any type, any breed of dog, even pit bulls.
A bit more about miniature horses…
- They can live longer than both dogs and regular horses, about 25-30 years
- They have great eyesight, peripheral vision, as well as night vision
- They can push or pull heavy objects more easily than most dogs
- Among many other things, of course, they can help stabilize a person with balance difficulties, or help to stop someone from falling
Read more in the news: Woman boards flight with her service animal – a miniature horse
New York Service Dog Laws – Conclusion
Service dogs aren’t just nice-looking furry animals you see walking around with someone. They are literally a lifeline for people who live with disabilities. Service dogs are not pets, and do not have to abide by “no pets” policies. New York service dog laws along with the ADA laws protect people and their service dogs.
Service dogs are medical devices that happen to be alive. Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs and do not have the same public access rights in the U.S.
But, emotional support animals may have rights in housing and employment situations when being considered as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.
There’s a lot of information here regarding service dogs. And no matter if you are a person with a service dog or wondering how to get one, a business owner wondering about the rules, or a landlord wondering what your rights are, the laws are here, even if they are somewhat confused by nature. Hopefully, this has eased some of the confusion.
New York Service Dog Laws Reference:
- New York State Attorney Generals’ Office Service Animals
- Emotional Support Animals in Housing – FAQ
- NYC – Human Rights
- Service Animals In Public Places And Facilities
- NYC Dog Licenses FAQ
- NYC Dog Bites – Prevention and Response
- Assistance Dogs International
- ADA – Americans With Disabilities Act
- ADA – FAQ
Read more on our blog: