Hello and Welcome to Service Dog Laws Illinois
Welcome to our service dog laws Illinois guide and FAQ page, updated for 2023. Service dog laws in Illinois require that a specially trained service dog (sometimes called 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.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go through some of the most common questions about service dogs in the state of Illinois. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, what businesses need to know, plus much more.
Part of the reason why service dogs can be so confusing is that there are multiple laws around them. Something that doesn’t help are fake service dogs. Here is a summary of the different laws relevant to Illinois and their main purpose in general.
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.
- 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
- Illinois 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 on our blog: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – Summary & FAQ
Table of Contents
What is a Service Dog?
A service dog can be defined in several different ways, depending on context. Public access rights, air travel, and housing situations each use a different definition.
Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) a service dog is: A dog or miniature horse that has been individually trained to provide assistance to someone living with a disability.
The work or tasks that the animal does must be directly related to a person’s disability. An animal that fits this description is considered a service animal, even if the animal has not been certified or registered, or wearing identification.
Under the ADA, service animals do not need to be professionally trained. In addition, no legitimate federal certification or registration agency exists. Read more on our blog: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog
Examples of Service Dog 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)
Service Dog Laws Illinois Quick Facts
- Some service dogs may wear special collars, harnesses, capes, or vests, but they might not
- Some service dogs are licensed or certified by professional service animal training organizations and they may have identification papers
- Special identification, certification, and registration are not required by the ADA
- Asking someone for any documents related to their service dog is a violation of the ADA laws
Service Dog Laws Illinois & Businesses
Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) people who live with disabilities must not be discriminated against. Businesses are required to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals anywhere the public is generally allowed or invited.
This includes any “places of public accommodation,” like:
- Retail stores
- Concert halls
- Sports venues
Businesses may not:
- Require or demand service animal identification cards
- Make unnecessary inquiries about an individual’s disability under any circumstances
Questions You Can Ask
If it’s not obvious why somebody is using a service animal, staff at businesses and other covered entities may only ask two questions. You can ask whether the animal is a service animal, and inquire as to what tasks or work the service dog has been trained to perform.
Who is Entitled to Use a Service Dog?
The types of eligible disabilities under the ADA are not limited. In other words, there must be a link between the task or work that the service dog animal does, and the person with a disability. The animal must be individually trained to work on tasks for the benefit of the person with a disability.
Service Dog Conditions or Limitations
- Deposits and/or surcharges must not be required as a condition of allowing a service animal to accompany a person
- Service dogs must not be separated or excluded from areas of the facility that are open to the public
- You may not ask a person to remove their service animal from the premises, unless: (1) the presence of the animal fundamentally alters the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of your business or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others
Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
Service Dog Laws Illinois – No Pets Policies
- Under the ADA laws, businesses are required to modify policies to allow the use of a service animal by a person who has a disability
- Service dogs are not pets; they are working animals
Taking Care of Service Animals
- The owner of the service animal is solely responsible for its care and supervision
- Businesses are not required to provide care, food, or a special location for the service dog or service animal
Service Dog Laws Illinois State Specific
In Illinois, there are:
- The Service Animal Access Act
- White Cane Law
In addition to the federal ADA laws, these are state criminal laws that guarantee the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animal in public places.
- Violation of the Service Animal Access Act is a Class C misdemeanor
- Violation of the White Cane Law is a Class A misdemeanor
Illinois Service Dog Laws for Dogs In Training
In Illinois, service animals in training have rights under the law. According to the Illinois Service Animal Access Act:
(a) When a person with a physical, mental, or intellectual disability requiring the use of a service animal is accompanied by a service animal or when a trainer of a service animal is accompanied by a service animal, neither the person nor the service animal shall be denied the right of entry and use of facilities of any public place of accommodation as defined in Section 5-101 of the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Illinois Service Dog Registration
Under the federal ADA laws, service animals in Illinois and all other states do not need to be registered, certified, or professionally trained. No legitimate federal service dog registration agency exists.
Even though you may have seen websites online that seem to sell these types of documents, these papers are not legitimate and don’t convey any legal rights. Buying one of these papers does not turn a dog into a service dog. Service dogs do not need to be registered.
Service Dog Laws Illinois – Service Animal Access Act
Under the Illinois Service Animal Access Act, a service animal is defined as a dog or miniature horse that has been trained, or is being trained as:
- A hearing animal
- A guide animal
- An assistance animal
- A seizure alert animal
- A mobility animal
- A psychiatric service animal
- An autism service animal
- Or any other animal trained for any other physical, mental, or intellectual disability
Service animals include miniature horses, and places of public accommodation need to make a reasonable attempt to accommodate them considering:
- The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse, and whether or not the facility can safely accommodate its features
- Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse
- Whether the miniature horse’s presence in the premises or facility would compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for the operation
Psychiatric Service Dog Illinois
Psychiatric service dogs are legitimate service dogs in Illinois as well as the federal ADA laws. These specially trained animals can help people who are living with psychiatric disabilities. One example of a psychiatric service dog would be a PTSD dog, that has been trained to wake someone up from a nightmare.
Or, a psychiatric service dog can perform DPT or Deep Pressure Therapy for someone to help reduce the effects of certain disabilities. A dog can be considered a psychiatric service dog as long as it has been individually trained to do certain work or tasks for a particular person’s disability. People often wonder if a service dog can be helpful for anxiety. And the answer is yes.
If a dog has been trained to perform a certain task, for example, during a panic attack, like bringing water and medication to a person, then it’s considered a psychiatric service dog. But if a dog merely helps somebody calm down just by being there, then that is considered an emotional support animal.
Emotional support animals don’t have the same public access rights as service dogs, but they do have rights when it comes to housing situations.
Emotional Support Animal Laws Illinois Housing
Just like all other states, Illinois is subject to the FHA – Fair Housing Act. Under the Fair Housing Act, people with disabilities have a right to keep a service animal or emotional support animal with them in a housing situation. The Fair Housing Act uses the term “assistance animal” and defines it differently – more broadly – compared to the ADA laws.
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.”
Individuals with a disability may request to keep an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation to a housing provider’s pet restrictions.
Housing providers cannot refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers must allow a “reasonable accommodation” involving an assistance animal in situations that meet all the following conditions:
- Someone with a disability (or their representative) who would like to live with their assistance animal, must make a request to the housing provider
- The request needs to be supported by reliable disability-related information, as long as the disability and the disability-related need for the animal were not apparent. Housing providers must request this information
- The housing provider has not demonstrated that:
- Granting the request would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the provider of the housing situation
- The request would fundamentally alter the essential nature of the housing provider’s operations
- The specific service dog, emotional support dog, or assistance animal in question, would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others… Despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the threat
- The request would not result in significant physical damage to the property of others despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the physical damage
Examples of Reasonable Accommodation in Housing
- A request to live with a service dog, emotional support dog, or assistance animal, at a property where the landlord or housing provider has a no-pets policy
- A request to waive a pet deposit, fee, or another rule
Filing a Housing Complaint
If you have been unlawfully denied a reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal, service animal, or assistance animal in a housing situation, or have otherwise experienced discrimination in housing, you can file a complaint with FHEO.
Complaints & Violations
Complaints can be filed with:
- The Illinois Department of Human Rights
- The U.S. Department of Justice
- By contacting the Disability Rights Bureau at the Office of the Attorney General
- A complaint for a violation of the White Cane Law or the Service Animal Access Act should be filed with your county state’s attorney
For more information, call the U.S Department of Justice’s toll free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (TTY: 800-514-0383)
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 true. 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.
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
How Do I Make My Dog a Service Dog in Illinois?
Stop making that sound so easy! To make your dog a service dog in Illinois, 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 your dog by yourself
- …Or get some help from a dog trainer
- You could find a professional service animal organization or training school to either provide you with a fully trained animal, or help you train yours
- Any combination of these options can 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, or chase cats) all day. Read more on our blog: Service Dog Training Basics & FAQ
Does Illinois Recognize Emotional Support Animals?
No, Illinois 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
Read more on our blog: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog (Sounds like some kind of boxing match, but it isn’t).
Illinois Emotional Support Animal Laws
In Illinois, emotional support animals are governed by various laws. Here are some facts about IL 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 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 pieces of paper 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
Read more on our blog:
- Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – General Guide & FAQ
- Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide
- Service Animal In Training Laws By U.S. State