Hello and welcome to our updated 2022 article for service dog laws Georgia state in the beautiful U.S. In this article, we’ll go through the various federal service dog laws as they pertain to Georgia state specifically, as well as any Georgia state service dog laws. We’ll also go through some common FAQs.
Do not worry if you’re confused because we are going to sort it all out. Let’s jump right into it. Service dogs are specially trained animals that help people who are living with disabilities to better participate in life.
Feel free to also read about the federal ADA service dog laws (easy guide, summary & FAQ) for the federal public access laws that are the same for all U.S. states, or our federal ADA workplace accommodation laws summary to learn about how workplace accommodation requests are handled.
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 centres, schools, buses, taxis, hotels, Airbnb, amusement parks, doctor’s offices, hospitals, trains, and National Parks, just as a few examples.
Jump to a section:
- Service Dog Definitions
- What Do Service Dogs Do?
- What Questions Can Be Asked About a Service Dog?
- Registration and Certification
- Is it Illegal To Ask For Service Dog Papers in Georgia?
- Can You Train Your Own Service Dog in Georgia?
- Do Service Dogs Have to Wear a Vest?
- Are Service Dogs Allowed Everywhere?
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
- Miniature Horses
- How To Make Your Dog a Service Dog
- Control of Service Animals
- Does Georgia Recognize Emotional Support Animals? (ESAs)
1. Service Dog Laws Georgia – A Deep Dive
What Are The Service Dog Laws in Georgia?
Service dogs are specially trained animals who work with people who are living with disabilities. As per the federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), folks with disabilities in the state of Georgia have a right to take their service dog into public places (anywhere the public can go, including Airbnb, with a few exceptions).
There are additional federal laws for air travel and for housing rights, as well as state laws. Some people attempt to take pets into public places with a service dog vest on them… These fake service dogs unfortunately are a problem.
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 Georgia 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 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
- Georgia 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 that in place for students with disabilities in the United States.
Read more: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – Summary & FAQ
2. Service Dog Definitions
The confusing thing about service animals is there are different federal definitions – all valid – depending on the context. Each particular U.S. state may have their own definition, too.
There are (at least) three very different, but important, definitions of ‘service dog’ or ‘assistance animal.’ “Assistance animal” is the term used by the FHA (Fair Housing Act) and for service animals in Europe.
1. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – governs the use of service animals when it comes to public access rights, rights in schools, and rights in employment situations. Under the ADA, service dogs can be any size, type, or breed.
Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.Americans with Disabilities Act
2. Fair Housing Act (FHA) – Along with the ADA, the Fair Housing Act governs the use of what they call “assistance animals” for housing situations. This definition is written more broadly and it includes emotional support animals, unlike the ADA definition.
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.U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
3. Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) – is referred to whenever people will be taking to the air with their service animal. Fully trained service animals can ride in the cabin of air planes with their handler as long as they meet the criteria and complete necessary paperwork before their flight.
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, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.U.S. Department of Transportation
4. State specific laws – Almost all U.S. states seem to have some kind of their own service dog laws and legislation. These are most commonly in addition, to supplement the federal laws.
3. What Do Service Dogs Do?
Service animals are utilized by people who live with a variety of different disabilities. Service dogs can help people in many different ways. There are many different disabilities, and many different service dog tasks or work.
Here are just a few examples of service dog tasks or work:
- Lead blind people, or people living with low vision
- Serve as the ears of a deaf or hard of hearing person, alerting them to important sounds, such as their name, a knock at the door, a smoke alarm, etc.
- They can carry and pick up items such as grocery bags
- They can help people with stability and balance issues
- Provide warnings of impending seizures or low blood sugar
- Service animals may allow people with anxiety disorders, PTSD or other emotional conditions to function in society by alerting their handlers to avoid anxiety triggers, by recognizing and blocking behaviors, or by stimulating the person to “snap back” to a conscious state
- Provide deep pressure therapy
- They can wake someone up from a nightmare, or interrupt repetitive behaviour
- Service dogs can remind people that it is time to take their medication
- Service dogs can summon help in the case of fainting or a seizure
- The ways in which people with disabilities use service animals are growing and evolving
- SSigDOG are Sensory Signal Dogs or Social Signal Dogs. These are a 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)
4. What Questions Can Be Asked About a Service Dog?
Under the ADA laws, public establishments may only ask two things to a person with a disability using a service dog, and those are:
- “Is the animal required because of a disability?”
- “What type of work is the dog trained to perform?“
Establishments May Not:
- Ask about the person’s disability
- Require medical documentation
- Require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog
- Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
5. Registration and Certification of Service Animals in Georgia
The truth is that you are not legally required to register or certify a service dog in Georgia or any other state in the U.S. Service dogs are protected under the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. There are websites online that seem to be selling service dog registrations, paperwork, and other paraphernalia.
These are not recognized by the ADA or the Department of Justice and do not convey any legal rights. Buying a piece of paper from the internet does not turn a dog into a service dog. Even emotional support animals do not need these papers for any reason. More on them later.
6. Is it Illegal to Ask for Service Dog Papers in Georgia?
Requiring any documentation from a person with a disability for their service dog as a condition of entry is prohibited under the federal ADA for public access rights. Paperwork can be required for housing and employment situations. A doctor’s note may be required to indicate the animal is needed, not to disclose disability details. This is true in Georgia and other states.
Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.Americans with Disabilities Act
7. Can You Train Your Own Service Dog in Georgia?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the use of service dogs federally in the United States.
Under this Act, people with disabilities have the right to train their dog themselves. This is true in Georgia as well as all other states.
Professional service dog training is optional. Proof of service dog training, or documentation of any kind, is not required for public access.
(Some documentation stating that the service animal is necessary may be required for housing and/or employment situations. But personal details about a disability are not required.)
Service Dogs In Training (SDiT) In Georgia
Many people train their dog 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. (Service dogs must be fully trained to get public access rights under the ADA).
But, most states have some kind of state laws that allow service animals in training some kind of public access rights.
At this time, only four states do not cover service animals in training under their public accommodation laws.
Service Dog Laws in Georgia State Cover Service Animals-In-Training
The following is a quote from Georgia State laws.
- Georgia State Law includes coverage for service animals in training. Service dogs and service animals in training have the same rights as fully trained animals in Georgia.
- The service animal trainer must be identified as being an agent or employee of a school for service dogs: seeing eye dogs, hearing dogs, service dogs, or guide dogs
(2) Every person engaged in the training of a guide dog or service dog for the purpose of accompanying a person as provided in paragraph (1) of this subsection shall have the same right to be accompanied by such dog being trained as the totally or partially blind person, deaf person, or physically disabled person has under paragraph (1) of this subsection, so long as such trainer is identified as an agent or employee of a school for seeing eye, hearing, service, or guide dogs.Georgia Code
8. Do Service Dogs Have to Wear a Vest in Georgia?
Under the federal ADA laws, service dogs aren’t required to wear a vest, patch, ID, cape or special harness for public access rights. Many people do use a vest to help the public identify their dog as a working animal. A vest might not be appropriate for various reasons, one of them being heat during warm weather.
9. Are Service Dogs Allowed Everywhere?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs with their handlers are permitted to go anywhere the public can go.
A few exceptions include religious organizations, sterile hospital rooms, certain zoo areas where animals may behave aggressively, and the ADA does not override public health orders, such as a swimming pool.
Service dogs must be allowed in malls, restaurants, taxis, anywhere the public can go, unless there is a valid safety concern.
Read more: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
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
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
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: Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide
11. 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 behaviours
- Alerting the handler to rage or other types of strong emotions
- Interrupting self-harming behaviours
- 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 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.
Read more: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog (sounds like a boxing match or something, but it isn’t!)
12. Miniature Horses
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 for miniature horses whenever possible. Reasonable modifications need to be made in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by 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
As we’ve already mentioned, 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 other 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
14. How To Make Your Dog a Service Dog in Georgia?
Stop making that sound so easy! To make your dog a service dog in Georgia, 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.
- Train the dog yourself
- Get some help from a dog trainer
- Use a professional service dog training program or organization
- Any combination of the above
Even though service animals do not need to be professionally trained by an organization or school, they do need to be trained for your 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
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 Georgia 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.
16. 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.
17. Does Georgia Recognize Emotional Support Animals?
No, Georgia does not recognize emotional support animals (ESAs) for public access rights as it does service animals. Emotional support animals can be denied access to public places. However, it’s good to note that ESAs may have rights when it comes to a reasonable request in a housing or employment situation, under the federal FHA (Fair Housing Act) and/or ADA laws.
The ADA Is Similar
The following is a quote from the Americans with Disabilities Act:
“While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.
“Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals. Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.” – Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network
Georgia Emotional Support Animal Laws
In Georgia, emotional support animals are governed by various laws. Here are some facts about GA emotional support animal laws in different contexts.
- Emotional support animals (ESAs) are not automatically exempt from a housing provider’s no-pet policies
- Someone with a disability can request a “reasonable accommodation” for an ESA in a housing situation, and housing providers need to be accommodating unless they can show that allowing an ESA would be an undue burden on its operations
- ESA’s do not need to be specially trained in order to qualify for a reasonable accommodation for a housing situation
- Animals other than dogs may also function as emotional support, therapy or assistance animals in housing situations under the Fair Housing Act (I think that is why ESAs are called “ assistance animals,” not “service dogs” under this Act)
- Payment may be required for any specific damage done to the premises by an ESA
- It is illegal to charge someone with a disability an extra fee to keep a guide or service dog or an emotional support, therapy or assistance animal (ESA)
- Emotional support animals are no longer included in the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) definition of service animal, therefore…
- ESA’s may not travel in the cabin of a plane with their human under the ACAA; although, individual airlines may vary. ESAs may still travel through the air as a pet
- Emotional support animals are not covered by the ADA for public access rights, so they can be denied access to public places, although individual businesses may vary
- ESAs can still visit “pet-friendly” public accommodations with their handler
- ESAs can be requested as a reasonable accommodation in an employment situation under the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Emotional support animals do not need to be registered for any reason. No legitimate ESA registration system exists. Websites selling ESA papers online are not recognized by the Department of Justice nor the ADA, and purchasing one of those piece of papers from the internet does not give someone any special rights. What is needed for housing and/or employment is a letter from a doctor or other medical professional merely stating the animal is required
- Service Animal ADA Workplace Accommodation Laws
- Federal ADA General Summary & FAQ
- Service Dog in Training Laws by State