Welcome to Service Dog Laws Alaska
Did you know that the overall percentage of people with disabilities living in Alaska is about 12.2%? This is according to the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium. Some folks who have a disability may utilize a service dog to assist them with certain aspects of daily life.
Service dogs are specially trained animals who do certain “work” or “tasks” and are individually and specifically trained for each unique person. In Alaska, people with disabilities who have a service dog are protected under various laws, including:
- Alaska Statute Law AS 18.80.230
- ADA – Federal Americans with Disabilities Act
- FHA – Federal Fair Housing Act
- ACAA – Federal Air Carrier Access Act
Sec. 18.80.230. Unlawful practices in places of public accommodation. It is unlawful for the owner, lessee, manager, agent, or employee of a public accommodation (1) to refuse, withhold from, or deny to a person any of its services, goods, facilities, advantages, or privileges because of sex, physical or mental disability, marital status, changes in marital status, pregnancy, parenthood, race, religion, color, or national origin;Alaska Statutes
In this article, we’ll discuss various service dog laws relevant to Alaska, including various federal and state-specific laws. These laws have to do with public access rights, housing, employment, transportation, and more. For a related article, check out our comprehensive ADA service dog laws summary, which dives into the federal public access laws that are the same for all U.S. States.
What is a service animal?
Service dogs can be defined slightly differently, depending on circumstances and laws (air travel, public access, employment, etc.) The Alaska definition is: A service animal is any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of someone with a physical or mental disability.
The “work” or “tasks” performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.
What a service animal is not
Under Alaska State and Federal Law, service animals are not:
- Emotional support animals (ESAs are usually untrained animals that provide comfort and other benefits by their mere presence). *ESAs are included in the Fair Housing Act’s definition of “assistance animal” and can therefore be requested as a reasonable accommodation in housing for a person with a disability
- Comfort animals
- Therapy dogs (Therapy dogs visit many different people in different settings with their owner to spread joy and ease anxiety, for example).
- Other species of animals, either trained or untrained
A doctor’s note stating that someone needs to have an animal for emotional support purposes is not sufficient to determine whether the animal is a service animal. As per the Alaska definition of a service animal, it must be individually trained to do certain “work” or “tasks” for a specific person related to their unique disability. Related article: Emotional Support Animals – The Ultimate Guide.
Where are service animals allowed?
Under both federal law and Alaska State laws, service animals are allowed with their handler in places of public accommodation; any place where members of the public, customers, and clients are allowed or invited to go.
No Pets Policies
Even if the business or public program has a “no pets” policy, it may not deny entry to someone with a service animal. Service animals are not pets.
Information for businesses
When someone with a service animal enters a business or another place of public accommodation, the person cannot be asked about the nature or extent of their disability.
Only two questions* may be asked to the service animal handler:
1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
*These questions may only be asked if the animal’s service tasks are not obvious. Obvious tasks include things like a guide dog for the visually impaired, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or a dog being used to aid mobility. However, many disabilities are invisible, and in those cases, the tasks may not be so obvious.
Businesses must not…
- Ask for a demonstration of the tasks the service animal is trained to perform
- Ask for documentation or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal
- Service animals are not required to wear a vest or other items identifying them as a service animal, so businesses must not ask for these
- Ask an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge for their service animal, even when people with pets are required to pay fees
- Someone with a disability may only be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal if other people are charged for damages caused by their pets
- Require anything of people with service animals that they don’t require of individuals in general (with or without pets)
Banned dog breeds
Local laws that prohibit specific breeds of dogs (Pit bulls, for example) do not apply to service animals. As far as I can tell, at this time Alaska does not have any breed-specific regulations in place.
Municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Under the “direct threat” provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history, but they may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave. It is important to note that breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In fact, some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions.Americans with Disabilities Act – Frequently Asked Questions
Responsibilities of service dog handlers
The service dog handler is responsible to:
- Care for the service dog
- Control and supervise the service animal
- Ensure the service animal is housebroken
- Ensure the service animal is vaccinated in accordance with state and local laws
- A business or facility is not required to provide for the care or supervision of a service animal, including cleaning up after the animal
If a service dog behaves in an unacceptable way and the service dog handler (or person with a disability with the service animal) does not control the animal, a business or other entity is not required to allow the animal onto its premises. The business must still offer the person the goods/services without the animal being present.
Examples of control
- Use of a harness
- Use of a leash
- Use of a tether
Leashes are sometimes not used
Sometimes, a service dog handler is not able to hold a leash because of a disability or because its use would interfere with the service animal’s safe, effective performance of work or tasks. In this case, the service animal must still be under the handler’s control. This can be accomplished by some other means, such as voice control or signals.
When a service dog can be excluded
A business or other entity may exclude a service animal when the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Or if the animal disrupts the business.
Examples of unacceptable behavior
- Uncontrolled barking
- Jumping on other people
- Growling at other people
- Running away from the handler
Transportation with service dogs in Alaska
Someone traveling with a service animal may not be denied access to transportation. This is true even when there is a “no pets” policy in place; service animals are not pets. The customer is not required to provide advance notice regarding the service animal, except perhaps for air travel situations. The laws apply to both public and private transportation providers (public bus, private bus or private taxi company, for example).
The Alaska Railroad stretches 470 miles from the South central town of Seward to the city of Fairbanks in Alaska’s Interior. Along the way the train tracks travel through some of the most beautiful, scenic and rugged territory that there is in Alaska. The Alaska Railroad operates a number of different trains, and most offer visitors different onboard service options.
ACCESSIBILITY: We are pleased to provide wheelchair lifts at all summer stations: Anchorage, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali, Fairbanks, Girdwood, Portage, Whittier, Spencer Glacier, Grandview, and Seward. Winter trains offer wheelchair lifts at Anchorage, Wasilla, Talkeetna and Fairbanks only. Accessibility on other connecting modes of transport can vary, so please check with an agent for details. Alaska Railroad’s passenger trains are wheelchair accessible and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Service animals are welcome aboard.Alaska Railroad Terms and Conditions
More to come…