Service Dog Laws Connecticut – Epic Summary
Welcome to our service dog laws Connecticut guide and FAQ page, updated for 2023. Service dog laws in Connecticut require that a specially trained service dog (sometimes called an assistance dog, especially in housing) 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. Fake service animals are simply pets that people attempt to take into public places, posing as service dogs. For a related article, check out my guide to Emotional Support Animal Laws Connecticut or Emotional Support Animals – The Ultimate Guide.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go through some of the most common questions about service dogs in the state of Connecticut. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, employment, what businesses need to know, plus much more.
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.
Summary of Service Dog Laws Connecticut
Part of the reason why service dogs can be so confusing is that there are multiple laws around them. Things can seem confusing fast. Here is a summary of the different laws relevant to Connecticut and their main purpose in general.
- 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 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
- Connecticut State Laws
- 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
Registration & Certification – Service Dog Laws Connecticut
The truth is that you are not legally required to register or certify a service dog in Connecticut or any other state in the U.S. Service dogs are protected under the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, there is no state registration system in place for Connecticut.
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, certifications, and why they are not required.
What is the ADA?
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
Connecticut State Laws & The ADA
Connecticut law requires businesses and other public accommodations to permit people who are blind, deaf, or mobility impaired to use service dogs. The ADA has similar provisions, but it covers a wider range of disabilities. Some of these include mental and psychiatric disabilities.
Proof of Service Animal
Connecticut service dog laws do not require someone using a service dog to prove that the purpose of the service dog is to help with disabilities. People with disabilities are permitted the protections allowed to people using service dogs.
Connecticut Dog Licensing Info
Dog Licensing, Dog Health, and Control of Dogs
Dog owners in Connecticut need to be aware of the rules and regulations about dog ownership in Connecticut. Service dogs, under the ADA laws, are not exempt from local or state dog licensing laws.
If all dogs require a license, then service dogs do, too. However, forcing a service dog to be licensed as a service dog merely because it is a service dog is prohibited by the ADA.
- Dogs six months of age or older must be licensed in Connecticut.
Download Dog License Application (in Spanish)* or Dog License Application (in English)*. *NOTE: This application must be mailed to your Town Clerk, with fees and required documents.
- All dogs three months of age or older and must be vaccinated against rabies. Rabies vaccinations need to be kept current.
- No dog under 8 weeks old can be sold or imported into Connecticut without its dam.
- Dogs imported into Connecticut that is over 3 months of age and staying more than 30 days need to have a health certificate. And, a current rabies vaccination certificate.
- Dogs imported into Connecticut between the age of 8 weeks and 3 months, and staying more than 30 days, must be accompanied by a health certificate.
- All dogs must be under control and must not be allowed to run at large.
- It is illegal to transport a dog in the back of a pick-up truck… unless the dog is secured in a cage, container, or otherwise secured.
- Breeders of two or more litters of dogs per year must apply for a “town kennel license”.
Service Dog Definitions
Since there are different service animal definitions depending on the context, 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
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 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 dog that is 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 website)
- There is no formal service animal certification process or paperwork that is recognized by Connecticut 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:
- 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.
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
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.
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 Connecticut 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.
Control of Service Animals
- Service animals must be under control at all times & should not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others
- Service animals must comply with state and local animal control laws
Service animals should be kept at a person’s side quietly unless they are performing a specific task. Service animals must be leashed, harnessed, or tethered unless this may interfere with the service animals’ work. Or, if a disability prevents using them. In those cases, service animals still need to be controlled through voice, hand signals, or another effective way.
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
Info for Businesses
It’s obviously important for businesses and other “covered entities” to be aware of service dog laws in Connecticut as well as federal laws. If not, they could be accused of discrimination.
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
Permitted Questions to Ask
If the reason for the service dog is obvious, then businesses and other covered entities may not inquire about the use of the animal.
When it’s not obvious – and many disabilities are invisible – businesses may only ask two questions to someone using a service dog. That’s it. By the way, service dogs can be any breed, even breeds that have been locally banned.
The questions are:
(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
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.
Training & Service Animals in Training (SDiT) in Connecticut
Service dogs do not need to be trained by a professional service dog training program, or professional trainer (under the ADA laws). But, they do need to be trained by somebody.
Many people train their dogs by themselves or with some help, as many service animal programs have limited resources and long waiting lists. Under the federal ADA laws, service animals in training do not get the same public access rights as fully trained service animals.
But, most states have some kind of state laws that allow service animals in training some kind of public access rights. Read more: Service Animal In Training – U.S. State Guide
Connecticut State Laws cover the use of service animals in training, and service animals in training have the same rights as fully trained service animals or service dogs. The following is a quote from Connecticut state law.
“(a) It shall be a discriminatory practice in violation of this section:
…Any blind, deaf or mobility-impaired person or any person training a dog as a guide dog for a blind person or a dog to assist a deaf or mobility-impaired person may keep his guide dog or assistance dog with him at all times in such place of public accommodation, resort or amusement at no extra charge, provided the dog wears a harness or an orange-colored leash and collar and is in the direct custody of such person.” Connecticut Code
How Do I Make My Dog a Service Dog in Connecticut?
Stop making that sound so easy! To make your dog a service dog in Connecticut, 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.
Even though service animals do not need to be professionally trained by an organization or school, they do need to be trained for a 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 all day. Read more on our blog: Service Dog Training Basics & FAQ
- Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – General Guide & FAQ
- Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide
- Emotional Support Animal Laws Connecticut