Welcome to Service Dog Laws Arkansas – A Comprehensive Guide
Welcome to our service dog laws Arkansas guide and FAQ page, updated for 2023. Service dog laws in Arkansas 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 Animal Laws Arkansas.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go through some of the most common questions about service dogs in the state of Arkansas. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, what businesses need to know, plus much more.
People with disabilities who use service animals have a right to whichever of these laws may help them. In addition, there are separate laws in place for when air travel or housing situations are concerned. This article will discuss a variety of these laws and how they relate to Arkansas specifically.
In brief, service animals may go with their (legally disabled) handler wherever the public can go. There are a few exceptions, like sterile hospital environments and religious organizations. Service dogs of any breed may go to malls, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theatres, community centers, schools, buses, taxis, hotels, Airbnb, amusement parks, doctor’s offices, hospitals, trains, and National Parks, just as a few examples.
Service Dog Arkansas Definitions
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 Arkansas and their main purpose in general. Let’s start with the Arkansas laws… But know that there are multiple federal laws, too.
In Arkansas, a service animal is defined as a dog that is trained specifically to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of someone who lives with a disability. This includes:
- A guide dog
- A trained dog that works as a travel assistant for someone who is blind or has a severe visual impairment
- A hearing signal dog, which is a dog trained to alert someone to certain sounds when a person is deaf or has significant hearing loss
- An assistance animal or a dog trained and used to assist someone who lives with a disability
- A seizure alert animal or a dog that has been trained to help someone with a seizure disorder, particularly when a medical event is about to occur, or, to respond to a medical event that has already happened
- A mobility animal, or a dog that is being or has been trained to assist an individual with a disability caused by physical impairments
- A psychiatric service animal, or a dog trained to help someone with a disability to detect the onset of certain psychiatric episodes or effects of psychiatric disabilities, and to lessen the effects of the psychiatric episodes
- A sensory service animal or a dog trained to assist an individual with autism or other sensory disorder
- Fake service dogs are not service dogs
A summary of the other relevant laws:
- The ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – is a federal law. It governs the use of service animals when public access rights are concerned. This law is also referred to for housing situations and employment situations with service animals.
- 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 taking to the skies with their handler. Fully trained service animals are allowed in the cabin of air planes with their handler as long as the 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.
Read more on our blog: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – Summary & FAQ
Service Dog Laws Arkansas – Public Access Rights
Any person in Arkansas who has disabilities has the right to be accompanied by their service animal in public ways, in public places, and in other public accommodations and housing accommodations. In addition, people with disabilities may not be required to pay an extra fee or charge because of their service animal. This includes people with the following types of disabilities:
- Physical disabilities
- Mental disabilities
- Intellectual disabilities
- Sensory disabilities
It may help if you think of a service dog as something more like a wheelchair or a cane (necessary medical equipment like it is) rather than a special kind of pet (which it isn’t). Service animals can go pretty much anywhere the public can go. There are a few exceptions. Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
Damages Caused by Service Animals
Even though people with disabilities who use service animals in Arkansas may not be charged a fee because of their dog, this doesn’t mean it’s okay for the animal to cause damage.
Someone with a physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory disability who is with their service dog in the public, or in a housing situation, is still liable for any damages that are caused by their animal to any facility or premises.
Purposeful Injuries to Service Animals
Under Arkansas service dog laws, anyone who injures or kills a service animal on purpose will be guilty of a Class D felony. Class D felonies are the least serious felonies in Arkansas. They are punishable by up to six years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. Another example of a Class D felony would be aggravated assault.
Service Dogs In Training In Arkansas
Although the federal ADA service dog laws do not cover service dogs in training, Arkansas service dog laws do include them. This means that service dogs in training have the same rights as fully trained service dogs. Service dog trainers, when actively training a service dog, must not be charged a fee because of the dog.
But, just like regular service dogs, they can be charged a fee if the dog is responsible for any damages to the premises or facilities. In addition, service dog trainers when training a service dog must be allowed anywhere the general public can go, including:
- Streets and highways
- Sidewalks and other walkways
- Cars and other motor vehicles
- Railroad trains, buses, streetcars
- Other types of public transportation
- Hotels, motels, and other places of lodging
- Any public government building
- Any building where the general public is allowed to go
- Any other place of public accommodation that the general public is regularly invited or allowed to go
(a) An individual with visual, hearing, or other physical disabilities and his or her guide, signal, or service dog or a dog trainer in the act of training a guide, signal, or service dog shall not be denied admittance to or refused access to the following because of the dog:Arkansas Code
Information For Businesses
Under Arkansas service dog laws, staff at businesses and other entities may not inquire about the use of a service dog if the purpose of the dog is obvious. For example, when observing a guide dog leading a blind person across the street, it would be pretty obvious that the person clearly needs the dog for guidance.
However, many disabilities are not obvious. Many of them are downright invisible. In cases where there are invisible disabilities, and it’s not obvious why someone is using a service dog, staff may only ask two questions to the person using the dog:
1. Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
2. What work or task has the service animal or service dog been trained to perform?
Staff May Not:
- Ask someone about the nature or extent of their disability
- Ask for, or require any kind of medical documentation about the person’s disability
- Require a special identification card
- Require any kind of training documentation (service dogs are not required to receive professional training; people using service dogs may train the dog themselves)
- Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform its work or task(s)
- Deny access to a service dog based on the breed
There is no formal service animal certification process or paperwork that is recognized by Arkansas 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).
The following items are not required for an animal to qualify as a service dog no matter which service dog laws in Arkansas 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. 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.
Service Animal Control
Under Arkansas service dog laws, service animals must be under the control of their handler at all times. This means that:
- They must have a harness, leash, or tether
- If a harness, leash, or tether is not an available option due to the nature of the disability, or the service dog’s work, then the service animal must be under voice control, signals, or another type of control
- Read more on our blog: Federal Service Dog ADA Laws, Easy Guide & FAQs
Excluding Service Animals
A business or another entity can request that a service animal be removed from their premises or facility if:
- If the service animal is out of control, and the handler doesn’t take effective actions to control it
- If the service dog isn’t housebroken – i.e. if the service dog “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately
When a business excludes a service animal because of one of the above reasons, the business or staff at the business must still offer the person using the dog the same services, program, or activity without the dog being there. In other words, excluding the dog does not automatically exclude the person. Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
Service Dogs in K-12 Schools
It is not uncommon that a kindergarten through grade twelve (K-12) student may need the use of a specially trained service dog while at school. Students who need to use a service animal as an accommodation for their academic program need to submit a written request to the school disability coordinator.
This needs to be done at least 30 days before the student beings using the animal in school. The school disability coordinator must gather a team to meet with the parent or legal guardian of the student to plan the integration of the service animal into the student’s academic program.
This meeting needs to take place within 10 school days of receipt of the written request, or possibly, after 10 school days of the written request with consent from the parent or legal guardian.
The team shall include, without limitation:
- The school principal or his or her designee
- The school counselor
- At least one teacher of the student
- A school nurse
- The parent or legal guardian of the student (optional)
- The student (if applicable)
If the student has an existing team under either:
- A plan under 29 U.S.C., 794
- Or an individualized education program under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
…Then the school disability coordinator will need to meet with the existing team.
Caring For Service Animals in Schools
Under service dog laws Arkansas and under the federal ADA laws, a kindergarten through grade twelve (K-12) school does not have any obligation to hire new staff, or to assign existing staff, to care for a student’s service animal. In other words, the student must be able to care for their animal.
- Feeding or watering
- Removing the service animal for periodic voiding
- Cleaning up after the animal
Technically speaking, only dogs are service animals under the federal ADA definition of 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
Let’s just briefly discuss what therapy dogs are and aren’t, since many people aren’t sure and it can be confusing as there are so many amazing types of dogs in the world! Lucky humans, we are indeed. A therapy dog is not a service dog, and that’s because therapy dogs aren’t trained to do “work or tasks” for an individual’s disability. Plain and simple.
A therapy dog is usually someone’s pet that enjoys meeting a large number of different people in different settings. The people who are fortunate enough to spend time with a therapy dog receive great benefits, such as reduced anxiety and added joy. They often visit places such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other settings where the stress in people may likely be high.
Service Animal Fees
Fees, extra charges, or pet deposits may not be charged for service animals. This is true whether we are talking about the ADA, ACAA, FHA, or Arkansas State service dog laws.
A service animal is not considered a pet. Someone using a service animal must not be turned away or denied access because of a “no pets” rule or policy. In the case where a public entity usually charges people for damage caused by an animal or pet, a person with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by their service animal.
Where Does the ADA Apply?
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
The ADA applies to the following locations/situations:
- 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
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: Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – 17 Examples
The difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals 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.
Registration & Certification
The truth is that you are not legally required to register or certify a service dog in Arkansas 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 Arkansas.
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. Check out our blog “Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate?” to learn more about registrations and why they are not required.
How Do I Make My Dog a Service Dog in Arkansas?
Stop making that sound so easy! To make your dog a service dog in Arkansas, 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 yourself
- Or have a dog trainer help you
- You could use a professional service dog training school or organization
- Any combination of these options can work
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. Read more: Service Dog Training Basics & FAQ
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