Service Dog FAQ (ADA)

Americans With Disabilities Act

Service dogs, and the people who use them, are protected under the The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). Here are some common Q&A regarding the ADA and how it relates to service dogs.

Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

The Department of Justice continues to receive many questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service animals. The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a “no pets” policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities.


What is a Service Animal?

A Service animal is a dog which has been individually trained to work with or perform tasks for a person who has a disability. The tasks that the dog performs must be directly related to the person’s disability.

What Work or Tasks Does a Service Dog Perform?


A service dog must be trained to handle a specific job or task as required by the person with the disability. Service dogs can do many different tasks. Some examples are a dog that can alert a diabetic person regarding high or low blood sugar levels. Another example is a service dog that could remind a person to take medication on time. Or a service dog who can detect the onset of a seizure and can help keep the person safe during the event.


Are Emotional Support, Therapy, Comfort, or Companion Dogs Also Service Dogs?

Under the ADA, these are not service dogs because they simply provide comfort just by being with a person and have not been trained to perform a specific task or job. However, some cities and states may still allow these animals into public places where otherwise pets would be prohibited.

Do Service Dogs Need to be Professionally Trained?

Under the ADA, service dogs are not required to be professionally trained. People with disabilities have the right to train their dog themselves. Using a service dog training program is completely optional.

Is a Service Dog-in-Training Considered a Service Animal?

Under the ADA, the dog must be completely trained before it can be taken into public places. However, individual state laws vary and some allow service dogs in training to enter public places that are normally prohibited to animals.

What Questions Can Employees Ask About a Service Dog?

Under the ADA, employees and staff may only ask two specific questions when in a situation where it’s not clear if a dog is a service animal.

(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

Do Service Dogs Have to Wear Identification?

Under the ADA, Service dogs are not required to wear an ID tag, vest, or specific harness.

Who is Responsible for the Care of a Service Dog?

The service dog handler is completely responsible for the supervision of a service dog, including toileting, feeding, grooming, and veterinary care.


Are Service Dogs Permitted in Salad-Bars and Self-Serve Food-Lines?

Under the ADA, service dogs are permitted in these areas, as well as in communal food preparation areas such as in dormitories and shelters.

Can Hotels Restrict Service Dogs to Pet-Friendly Rooms Only?

Under the ADA, a person with a service dog is permitted the same opportunities as any other person and must not be restricted to pet-friendly rooms.

Can Hotels Charge Cleaning Fee for Guests with Service Dogs?

Under the ADA hotels can not charge a fee for cleaning the hair or dander shed by a service animal. If a service dog causes damage to the room, the guest with the service dog can be subject to fees the same as any other guest.

Can a Person Bring More Than One Service Dog into a Public Place?

Generally speaking, Yes; whenever possible.

Are Service Dogs Permitted in Hospital Rooms?

When an in-patient in a hospital has a disability and uses a service dog, the service dog must be permitted in the hospital room as well as any other place inside the hospital that members of the public are permitted. The service dog can not be denied simply because the task they usually perform can be performed by other people, such as a nurse,  in the hospital ward.

Is a Service Dog Allowed in an Ambulance?

Generally a service dog is allowed in an ambulance with its handler as long as space permits and as long as the dog doesn’t interfere with the emergency medical staff’s ability to treat the patient. Otherwise, alternative arrangements can be made for the animal to be transported to the hospital.

Does the ADA Require Service Dogs to be Certified or Registered?

Service dogs do not need to be certified or registered, and public entities may not request proof that the dog has been trained, certified, or registered as a condition of entry.

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Vaccinations for Service Dogs

Service dogs are not exempt from local animal control or public health requirements and are subject to vaccinations as other animals are, as required.

Local Requirements for Licensing and Registering any Animal/Pet

Service dogs are not exempt from local laws requiring licensing and registration of pets/animals.

Local Requirements to Register Dog as a Service Dog

The ADA does not require service dogs to be registered. Service dogs are merely subject to the same vaccination and licensing laws of any other dog.

Is Voluntary Registration Legal?

Under the ADA, voluntary registration of a service dog is permitted (Some colleges and local governments offer voluntary registration of a service animal). This may be beneficial in emergency situations and would allow emergency personnel to locate service animals. Registration is completely optional and must not be required as a condition of being permitted into a public place.

Service Dog Breeds

The ADA does not restrict which breeds of dogs are permitted as service dogs.

Access Denied Due to Breed

A service animal may not be excluded based on stereotypes or assumptions about the breed or how the animal might behave. However, if a service animal behaves in a way that threatens the health or safety of others, or has a history of this behavior, or is not under control of the handler then the animal may be excluded. The person must still be permitted access to the goods and services without the animal present.

 Municipalities Banning Certain Breeds

In cases where a municipality has banned specific dog breeds, they must make an exception for a service dog of prohibited breed unless the dog poses a direct threat to the safety or health of others.

Leaving a Service Dog Unattended in Hotel Room

Service dogs must not be left alone in hotel rooms unattended and must remain with their handler.


If you believe that you have been illegally denied access or service because of the use of your service animal, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.  You also have the right to file a private lawsuit in Federal court charging the entity with discrimination under the ADA.

Service Dogs in Restaurants, on Chairs, at Tables

Seating, food, and drink are provided for customer use only.  The ADA gives a person with a disability the right to be accompanied by his or her service animal, but establishments are not required to allow an animal to sit or be fed at the table.

Are Service Dogs Allowed in Pools?

No.  The ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swimming pools.  However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where the public is allowed to go.

Religious Facilities & Places of Worship

Religious institutions and organizations are specifically exempt from the ADA.  However, there may be State laws that apply to religious organizations.

Apartments, Mobile Homes, Housing

The ADA applies to housing programs administered by state and local governments, such as public housing authorities, and by places of public accommodation, such as public and private universities.  In addition, the Fair Housing Act applies to virtually all types of housing, both public and privately-owned, including housing covered by the ADA.



Qualified Disabilities For A Service Dog Under The Americans With Disabilities Act

Here are a few of the physical or emotional conditions which quality a person living with the condition for a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act ADAOpens in a new tab..

Basically, if you are limited in your ability to perform major tasks such as seeing, hearing, standing, walking, eating, sleeping, thinking, speaking, or something similar, then you would likely be eligible to have a service dog under ADA laws.

Physical Conditions

  • Asthma or other breathing problems
  • Allergy alert
  • Blindness, partial blindness
  • Cancer
  • Deafness, partial deafness
  • Cardiovascular
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Epilepsy
  • General hearing difficulty
  • Mobility problems
  • Neurological problems
  • Paralysis
  • Physical weakness
  • Speech problems
  • Seizures
  • General medical alert

Emotional Conditions

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Mood disorder
  • Fear, phobia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Suicidal thoughts, tendencies
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Separation anxiety
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Factitious disorders
  • Impulse disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Mental disorders due to a general medical condition
  • Neuro-cognitive disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Sleep disorder, stress
  • Substance related disorder