Welcome to Service Dogs Laws Alaska
Welcome to our service dog laws Alaska guide and FAQ page, updated for 2023.
Service dog laws in Alaska require that a specially trained service dog (sometimes called an assistance dog, in housing situations and in Europe) be allowed to accompany a person with a disability to all public accommodations and public carriers, with a few exceptions. There are multiple laws that govern the use of these special animals. For a related article, check out my guide to Emotional Support Animals in Alaska.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go through some of the most common questions about service dogs in the state of Alaska. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, what businesses need to know, plus much more.
Table of Contents
Service Dog Laws Alaska Introduction
Some people who live with disabilities use service dogs to help with everyday life activities or to help enable them to more fully participate in society.
Alaska has a policy that states that people with disabilities must be included and accommodated in services, programs, and activities.
Multiple Service Animal Laws – Federal and State
Part of the reason why service dogs can be so confusing is that there are multiple laws around them. Here is a summary of the different laws relevant to Alaska and their main purpose in general.
- The ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – is a federal law. It is most well-known for governing the use of service animals when public access rights are concerned.
The ADA is divided into five titles:
- Employment (Title I)
- Public Services (Title II)
- Public Accommodations (Title III)
- Telecommunications (Title IV)
- Miscellaneous (Title V)
- The FHA – Fair Housing Act – is another federal law that governs the use of service animals – or what is known in this context as “assistance animal” when housing situations are concerned.
- The ACAA – Air Carrier Access Act – is what is used when service animals will be taken to the skies with their handler. Fully trained service animals are allowed in the cabin of airplanes with their handler as long as they meet the ACAA requirements, and fill out any required paperwork or documents prior to their flight.
- State-specific service animal laws. Even though we have the federal ADA laws, each individual state may or may not have additional or “state-specific” service dog laws for their own area. Check with individual states for anything that may be different from the ADA laws.
- A common example is that under the ADA, service dogs in training are not allowed public access rights. However, certain states extend the same rights to service dogs in training, as fully trained animals have
- Section 504 – is similar to the ADA, and protects the rights of students with disabilities in educational settings.
- IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – is yet another law in place for students with disabilities in the United States.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment division of the ADA.
Read more on our blog about public access laws that are the same for all states: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – Summary & FAQ
What is a Service Dog?
There are at least three definitions of a service dog or service animal, depending on whether we’re discussing public access rights, air travel, or housing situations. For now, let’s talk about the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) definition of a service animal, concerning public access rights. Read more about the ADA laws.
The ADA definition of a service animal is: it’s a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person who is living with a disability. It can be any breed and any size of the dog.
The work or tasks that the dog does must be directly related to the person’s disability and must help to mitigate some of the effects or characteristics of the disability.
Some well-known disabilities
Some of the most well-known disabilities have to do with vision or hearing loss, and service dogs can positively help people who are hard of hearing, deaf, or blind or who have limited vision. Service dogs can help with navigation, or alert someone to an important sound such as a smoke alarm, or a knock at the door.
But there are countless disabilities in which service dogs can help to lessen the impact and provide a better life experience for many people. People who live with autism, epilepsy, diabetes, PTSD, and many more types of disabilities – some visible and many invisible – are all benefiting from these amazing animals.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals, therapy dogs, comfort dogs, and companion dogs are fantastic but are not considered service dogs under this definition because they are not trained to help a specific person with their disability.
Multiple Service Dog Definitions
Since there are different service animal definitions depending on context (public access rights, air travel, housing) we’ll go through the different ones right now. As you’ll see, they are similar, but the differences are important to understand.
The ADA Service Animal Definition for Public Access Rights
The federal ADA law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in:
- State and local government
- Public accommodations
- Commercial facilities
- United States Congress
Under the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act federal laws, “Service animal means any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for purposes of this definition.”
The work or tasks that the dog does must be directly related to a specific person’s disability. In addition, the work or tasks must help to mitigate at least some of the effects of that disability.
It’s important to note that while dogs are the only animal defined here, there is a separate ADA provision for the use of a miniature horse as a service animal.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) Definition of Assistance Animal
Under the FHA, “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.”
The Air Carrier Access Act Definition of 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, companion animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.“ Read more on our blog: American Airlines Service Dog Info – The Easy Guide
Public Access Rights With a Service Dog
The ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is a federal wide-ranging civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination based on disability.
Under the ADA, the following “covered entities” that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the business or facility where the public is normally invited or allowed to go.
- State governments
- Local governments
- Nonprofit organizations
People with disabilities who have a service dog may go with their service dog to anywhere the general public is normally invited – or allowed – to go.
This includes, but is not limited to all State Facilities, restaurants, hotels, motels, movie theaters, malls, hospitals (with a few exceptions like the operating room), and many other places. Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
Where Does The ADA Apply?
- Places of public accommodation which include…
- Places of lodging
- Places serving food or drink
- Places of entertainment
- Places of public gathering
- Sales or rental establishments
- Service establishments
- Stations used for specified public transportation
- Places of public display or collection
- Places of recreation
- Places of education
- Social service center establishments
- Places of exercise or recreation
- Public services, programs, and activities, which include: schools, and state and local government offices
- Public transportation
- Private transportation, like Greyhound bus service
- The Workplace
- Airport terminals
More Than One Service Dog
Some people who have a disability may have more than one service dog, and this is okay. Someone might have two different disabilities, or they may need two different dogs for the same disability.
Examples would be someone who needs a dog for navigation and another dog that will alert of a dangerous blood sugar level for a diabetic. Or, someone who needs two dogs for stability and/or balance issue. Read more on our blog: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws Easy Guide & FAQs
Service Dog Harness and Control
Service animals do need to be harnessed, leashed, or tethered. The only exception is if those things would interfere with the dog’s task or work, or if the person’s disability prevents using them.
In that case, the service dog handler must maintain control of the animal at all times through voice, signal, or another effective way.
Questions Businesses Can Ask of Service Dog Handlers in Alaska
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits the following:
- Asking about a disability
- Requiring medical documentation
- Requiring a special identification card or training documentation for the dog (or mini horse)
- Ask that the animal demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
- Charge an extra fee because of the animal
- Segregate the customer with a disability from other customers
Sometimes it’s obvious that someone who is using a service dog has a disability. This would be the case for a service dog pulling a wheelchair, or guiding someone who is blind across a busy street.
However, many other disabilities are invisible, and it’s not always obvious what the service dog will do for any certain person. In the case it’s not obvious, a person working at a business or other entity is limited in the questions they may ask of someone with a disability.
Staff may only ask these two questions…
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Staff must not…
- Ask about someone’s disability
- Require medical documentation
- Require a special identification card
- Require training documentation for the dog
- Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
Service Dog Laws Alaska – Allergies & Fear of Dogs
Service dogs may not be excluded on the basis of an allergy to dog dander, a fear of dogs, or the fear of a certain breed of dog.
In the case where there may be someone who is allergic to dogs, and someone who uses a service animal, spending time in the same room or area such as in a restaurant, business, entity, or another facility, they both need to be accommodated. Sometimes you may need to get creative.
It might be possible to do this by assigning each person, whenever possible, to separate locations within the room or area, or different rooms in the facility.
Removal or Exclusion of Service Dogs
There are only a few situations in which staff can ask someone with a disability to remove their service animal from a business or another place.
A service animal can be asked to leave if:
- The service dog is barking, or out of control and the handler fails to take appropriate and effective action to control it
- The dog is not housebroken (i.e. it “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately)
- The dog is posing a direct threat to the health and safety of other people
- If that particular dog has a history of these types of bad behaviors
When a service dog is excluded for any of these reasons, a business or other entity must offer an opportunity for the person with the disability to their access their product, services, or facilities without the service dog being present.
Service Animals in Training in Alaska
Alaska has a state law that gives service animals in training the same rights as fully qualified service animals. Service animals in training are allowed in State buildings and many other places that the general public is normally allowed and/or invited to go.
(a) A person commits the offense of interference with the training of a service animal if the person intentionally prevents or restricts a person who is authorized to train a service animal from being accompanied by an animal that is identified as being in training to be a service animal, or assesses an extra charge because of the animal, in a public facility, except as provided in (b) and (c) of this section.
(b) A trainer who is accompanied by an animal in training to be a service animal in a public facility is liable for property damage done by the animal.Alaska Code
Alaska State ADA Coordinator’s Office
Did you know Alaska State has an ADA Coordinator’s Office?
The ADA Compliance Program coordinates the implementation of disability rights for all of Alaska state. This is to ensure that people with disabilities can have access to programs, facilities, and services.
The State Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator’s Office (SADACO) was established in April 1992 by Governor Walter Hickel. The enforcement efforts by this office promote awareness and accountability for state programs and services, which helps to reduce the number of complaints and legal actions.
State ADA Coordinator
Alaska Department of Administration
550 W 7th Avenue, Suite 1960
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone (voice): (907) 375-7716
Phone (TTY): 711 for Alaska Relay
Fax: (907) 375-7719
Alaska Service Dog Certification & Documentation
The truth is that you are not legally required to register or certify a service dog in Alaska or any other state in the U.S. Service dogs are protected under the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, and other laws.
In addition, there is no state registration system in place for Alaska.
Registration and certification done online from non-government websites do not convey any legal rights under the ADA or the Department of Justice. Buying a piece of paper from the internet does not “turn a dog into a service dog.”
Requiring documentation of any kind, or certification, as a condition for entry to a business or another place is prohibited. In addition, service dogs are not required to carry a special tag, vest, or any kind of documentation that identifies them as service animals.
- There is no formal service animal certification process or paperwork that is recognized by Alaska State or the federal government
- Having said that, air carriers (airlines), employers, and housing providers such as landlords may require certain and specific documentation
- Documentation may not be required for public access as a condition of entry (prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act)
- Check out our blog Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate? to learn more about registrations, certifications, and why they are not required
The following items are not required for an animal to qualify as a service dog no matter which service dog laws in Alaska we are talking about:
- Service dog vest
- Service dog markings of any kind
Vests, service dog markings, and service dog documentation can not be used as a reliable indication of whether an animal is legally a service dog. Service dog vests are sometimes worn by fake service animals.
A therapy dog/animal, emotional support animal, or another animal wearing a vest or having a special marking, does not make these types of dogs service animals.
Does Alaska Airlines Allow Service Dogs?
Yes, Alaska Airlines will accept service dogs, but only official service dogs as defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which are: Dogs that are trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified person with a disability.
Due to changes in policy effective January 2021, emotional support animals are no longer accepted as service animals. Those animals may travel under Alaska Airlines’ Pet Policy.
Check out Alaska Airlines’ free mobile app called Fly For All, which was designed for people living with cognitive and developmental disabilities, as well as for first-time flyers, and unaccompanied minors (young people).
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against disabled people in employment situations. In addition, it requires reasonable accommodation at the employee’s request.
Allowing someone with a disability to bring their service animal into the workplace environment is a form of reasonable accommodation. As with any accommodation request, the employer must consider allowing the use of a service animal at work unless doing so poses an undue hardship, or could disrupt the workplace environment.
Note that an employee may also request that an employer allow a companion animal or emotional support animal in the workplace as an accommodation. Reasonable requests in this situation are not restricted to dogs only. Read more on our blog: Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide
Psychiatric Service Dogs
Psychiatric service dogs are a type of service dog that perform work or tasks related to psychiatric disabilities.
A few examples of these types of disabilities include:
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety disorders
Here are a few examples of some psychiatric service dog tasks:
- Providing reminders to take medication at a certain time
- Service dogs can lay across their handler and apply pressure (Deep Pressure Therapy) during a panic attack, for example
- Provide tactile stimulation or grounding
- Interrupting dissociative episodes or other repetitive or problematic behaviors
- Alerting the handler to rage or other types of strong emotions
- Interrupting self-harming behaviors
- Retrieve an item, such as a water bottle and medication for a panic attack
- Wake someone up from a nightmare
- Interrupting flashbacks
- Searching the house or home to ensure it’s clear and safe before the handler enters
- Providing a “reality check” to help with hallucinations
- Stabilizing a routine for someone
- Read more on our blog : Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – 17 Examples
The difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs is simple: Psychiatric service dogs are trained to do at least one task for a specific person’s disability, and the task is related to the disability.
Emotional support animals are not task-trained like this and provide comfort and other benefits by their presence alone. Emotional support animals are not service dogs, but they do have some rights when it comes to housing and employment situations.
How To Make Your Dog a Service Dog in Alaska
Stop making that sound so easy! To make your dog a service dog in Alaska, you must have a disability and a disability-related need for the animal. Start your service dog training journey, and work on having your dog learn how to act properly in public, with basic socialization and obedience training, and performing specific tasks that mitigate the effect(s) of your disability. There are different avenues for getting a service animal.
- You could train the dog by yourself or with some help
- A dog trainer could help you a lot or a little
- Sometimes you may be able to find a service animal organization or professional training program. Sometimes these have long waiting lists but it is still a potential option
- Any combination of these options may be used
Even though service animals do not need to be professionally trained by an organization or school, they do need to be trained for their disability. This is not usually an easy task, and many people need at least some help.
It’s also important to note that not just any dog can become a service dog. Dogs are like people and have individual personalities. Some personalities do great with working; others just don’t. Some dogs truly just can’t focus, don’t listen, or want to only play (or relax) all day.
As we’ve already talked about, service animals perform various work or tasks to help someone with a disability to live safely and independently. U.S. Department of Transportation Americans with Disabilities Act regulations define a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or another animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to:
- Guiding individuals with impaired vision
- Alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds
- Providing minimal protection or rescue work
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Fetching dropped items
When riding transit, customers with disabilities who use service animals are responsible for maintaining control over their animals (and caring for them) at all times.
Riders are also responsible for knowing the best way to board and position their service animal on the vehicle, especially if the service animal may be required to provide assistance (“tasking”) during the transit trip. Service animals may not block aisles or exits.
According to ADA regulations, every transportation employee or operator who serves people with disabilities needs to be trained so that they know how to provide non-discriminatory service in an appropriate and respectful way.
When serving passengers who are blind, operators should:
- Identify themselves
- Speak directly to the customer instead of through a companion
- Use specifics such as “there are five boarding steps and a 10-inch drop to the curb” when giving directions
Transit agencies should be aware of the following rules under ADA:
- Operators must allow all service animals on board
- Operators may not ask for proof of service animal, certification or of the customer’s disability
- Operators may not require a person traveling with a service animal to sit in a particular seat on the vehicle or charge a cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals onto the vehicle unless the animal causes damage
Service Animal Work or Tasks
The work or tasks done by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. The training must be specific to the person using the animal. A service animal is not a pet.
The disability could be:
- Or another mental disability
The tasks or work done by the animal may include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Helping to guide someone who is visually impaired or blind
- Alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Helping someone with mobility or balance
- Alerting others and protecting someone having a seizure
- Retrieving objects
- Bringing attention to the presence of allergens
- Providing physical support and help with balance and stability to someone with a mobility disability
- Helping someone with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors and/or patterns
- Reminding someone living with a mental illness to take their prescribed medications
- Calming someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack
- Doing other specific work or performing other special tasks
- SSigDOG is a Sensory Signal dog or Social Signal dog. These are service dog that has been trained to assist someone with autism. The service dog typically alerts their human handler to distracting repetitive movements which are common with people living with autism. This allows the person to stop the movement.
- Psychiatric Service Dogs are a type of service dog that has been trained to perform “work” or “tasks” that help people with psychiatric disabilities to detect the onset of certain, specific episodes and lessen their effects.
- Seizure Response Dogs are a type of service dogs that are trained to help somebody who has a seizure disorder. How the dog serves the person will depend on individual needs. The seizure response service dog might do a variety of tasks, such as stand guard over their human during a seizure to keep the person safe, or the dog might go and get help.
- A few dogs have learned to predict a seizure and warn the person in advance to sit down or move to a safe place, but it seems like this can’t reliably be trained in just any dog.
- Read more: The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks (K9 Total Focus)
Technically speaking, only dogs are service animals under the federal ADA definition for public access rights. Other species of animal, whether that be wild animals or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of the ADA.
Service animals may or may not be other types of animals in terms of housing and employment situations. But for now, let’s talk about public access rights.
Even though dogs are the only service animal defined by the ADA, there is a separate provision in the ADA that does cover miniature horses.
What this means is that a miniature horse that has been trained to do work or tasks for a specific disability shall have the same rights as service dogs wherever possible.
Businesses and other covered entities need to provide access to miniature horses whenever possible. Reasonable modifications need to be made in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by a person with a disability.
There are additional assessment factors for miniature horses
To determine whether to allow a miniature horse into a specific facility, the business will need to consider the following:
- The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features safely
- Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse
- Whether the miniature horse is housebroken
- Whether the miniature horse’s presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation
Read more on our blog:
- Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – General Guide & FAQ
- Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide
- Emotional Support Animal Laws Alaska