Service dog laws in Arizona and in other states and places can be confusing, and there’s good reason for that.
There are multiple types of dogs, multiple types of disabilities, many of which are invisible, and multiple laws to govern various pieces of it all. This guide will break it all down into manageable sections, and hopefully ease the confusion.
The main thing to remember is that service dogs are used by people who live with disabilities to generally improve their quality of life.
Jump to a section:
- What is a Service Dog?
- Service Dog Work or Tasks
- Comfort, Companion, & Emotional Support Animals
- Professional Training of Service Animals
- Service Dogs in Training
- Questions Staff May Ask
- Service Dog Identification
- Supervision of Service Dogs
- Service Dog Certification
- Local Vaccinations and Licenses
- Refusing / Excluding a Service Dog
- If Discrimination has Occurred
1. What is a Service Dog? Service Dog Laws in Arizona
There are multiple definitions of service dog.
- The federal ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, governs the use of service animals as they pertain to public access rights
- The FHA or Fair Housing Act governs the the use of service animals federally in housing situations
- And the ACAA or Air Carrier Access Act governs the use of these special animals for air travel
- Additionally, each individual state may have additional laws around service dogs. The state of Arizona has the Arizonans with Disabilities Act
Let’s begin with the definition of service animal under the ADA. This is the law that has everything to do with public access rights; bringing a service dog into public places.
Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is a dog, and it can be any breed, any type, and any size of dog, that has been individually trained to work (to “do work” or “perform tasks”) with a specific person’s disability.
The end result is improving the lives of people who are living with disabilities so that they can more fully participate in society, and live the life they want to live.
It’s important to note that the work or tasks that the dog does for someone who lives with a disability, must be directly related to the disability.
If a dog doesn’t perform a specific task or work for a specific person’s disability, then it’s not considered a service dog under the ADA laws, nor service dog laws in Arizona.
Sometimes, miniature horses are used as service animals in the case where they may be more appropriate for some people. This is often the case for people who live with mobility, stability, and/or balance issues.
Miniature horses should be included whenever it is possible.
2. Service Dog Laws in Arizona – Service Dog Work or Tasks
So, you may be wondering, what are these “work” or “tasks” that service dogs can do for people who are living with disabilities? What do the service dog laws in Arizona say about this?
Well, it’s not that easy to answer this question completely, because there are just so many things that these wonderful animals can do to help humans. The list is very long and varied.
Here is a partial list of some of the things service dogs can do for people that count as “work” or “tasks.”
- Helping someone who is blind or living with low vision to navigate through the world
- Alerting people who are deaf or hard of hearing to certain sounds, such as a phone ringing, a doorbell, a smoke alarm, or another important sound
- Pulling someone who is in a wheelchair
- Warning someone of a seizure about to happen, and/or keeping someone safe during the event, and/or going to get help after the event
- Warning someone that their blood sugar level is becoming dangerously too low or too high (diabetic alert dog)
- Warning someone about the presence of an allergen
- Retrieving items for someone who is unable to retrieve it for themselves, this can be anything from a telephone, keys, a bottle of water, or many different items
- Holding doors open for someone
- Finding an elevator, and pressing the button
- Carrying grocery bags from the store
- Providing stability and support for people with balance or stability issues
- Helping people who are living with certain psychiatric or neurological disabilities to disrupt dangerous behaviour, for example, waking somebody from a nightmare who has PTSD
- Keeping someone with autism from wandering off and getting lost
- Reminding someone with depression or anxiety to take medication
- So much more…
3. Comfort, Companion, Emotional Support Animals
Although comfort animals, companion animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals are similar to service dogs, they are not considered service dogs under the ADA rules nor service dog laws in Arizona.
This is because they do not perform a specific work or tasks for a particular disability.
This means that they don’t have the same rights as service dogs in terms of public access rights. However, some may have rights where housing arrangements are concerned.
It can be confusing to determine if a dog is a service dog sometimes. Just remember that if it is trained to do a task for a particular person’s disability, it’s a service dog.
So, a dog that comforts someone by its mere presence would be considered an emotional support or comfort animal, but a dog that has been trained to bring water and medication when someone is having a panic attack, would be considered a psychiatric service dog under the ADA rules and service dog laws in Arizona.
4. Service Dog Laws in Arizona – Professional Training
Service dog laws in Arizona, under the ADA, as well as the AzDA laws, indicate that service dogs do not need to be professionally trained.
People who use service animals have the right to train the dog themselves.
There are many organizations in the states, as well as around the beautiful world that train service dogs for people, but these often have long wait lists.
Some people train the dog themselves, or they may get someone like a dog trainer to help them.
Businesses and other entities in Arizona may not request proof of service dog training, especially not as a condition of entry for goods, services, or otherwise.
5. Service Dogs In Training in Arizona
One of the confusing things about service dogs is that there are different laws for them, depending on whether public access rights, air travel, or housing situations are concerned.
Additionally, each individual state may have different, or additional laws, than what the federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) indicate. What do the service dog laws in Arizona say about this?
Arizona is one state where the laws for service animals in training differ from the federal ADA service dog laws.
Under the federal ADA laws, service dogs in training do not have the same rights as fully trained service dogs. In other words, a service dog must be fully trained before it is allowed full public access rights.
However, according to service dog laws in Arizona state specifically, it is not legal to deny a service dog in training from a public place.
So, anywhere the general public is allowed or invited to go must permit a service dog in training, just the same as a fully trained service dog.
If the service animal in training causes any damages, the animal trainer is responsible.
6. Questions Staff May Ask – Service Dog Laws in Arizona
Sometimes it’s obvious that someone is using a service dog because of a disability, like when you see a guide dog helping someone with a vision disability to cross a busy street in rush hour.
Or perhaps when you see a person using a service dog for balance and stability.
But sometimes it isn’t obvious.
While staff at businesses and other “covered entities” may not ask personal questions, especially about a disability, there are two specific questions that you can ask to someone who is using a service dog when it’s not obvious what the dog does.
(1) Is the animal a service animal required because of a
(2) What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
Staff may not do any of the following:
- Request any paperwork, evidence, or documentation for the animal
- Require that the animal demonstrate its task or work
- Ask questions about the nature of someones disability
7. Service Dog Identification – Service Dog Laws in Arizona
Let’s talk about service dog identification. As in, do service dogs need to wear a vest, a special identification tag, collar, or a special harness or patch as part of service dog laws in Arizona?
The answer to this is simply, no.
Service dog laws in Arizona under Arizona state law, as well as under the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act laws, do not require these special animals to wear any of the above.
And yes, this might make it hard to tell a “regular” dog from a service dog, at times, especially considering many disabilities are invisible, but this is just the way it is.
And if you think about it, someone else’s disability is really a private matter, anyway.
Requiring any of these items as a condition of entry or condition to participate in services and/or any public accommodation is discrimination.
8. Supervision of Service Animals
You may be wondering who is responsible for supervising service animals. The answer is the service dog handler is responsible for things like that, including feeding the dog, veterinary care, bathroom breaks, grooming, etc.
Businesses like restaurants, stores, movie theatres, and other “covered entities” as they’re known as in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) are not responsible for caring for, or supervising these animals.
9. Service Dog Certification
Service dogs do not need to be certified under the ADA nor service dog laws in Arizona.
Requiring proof that a service animal has been certified, licensed, or trained as a condition of entry is prohibited. A piece of paper does not turn a dog into a service dog.
A dog is simply a service dog when it does a certain task or work for someone who is living with a disability, and the task or work directly relates to the disability to help the person live a better life.
You may have noticed that there are websites online that sell certifications. These are not legitimate. These do not convey any rights under the service dog laws in Arizona, or under the ADA, and they are not recognized by the Department of Justice, either.
The same is exactly true for service dog registrations. A legitimate service dog registration service does not exist. It simply isn’t a thing.
10. Local Vaccinations & Licenses
While the ADA does not specifically require service dogs to be licensed or vaccinated, some cities or counties have rules and laws around these types of things that apply to all dogs.
These need to be respected by people who use service dogs as part of the service dog laws in Arizona.
If your city or county requires that all dogs be vaccinated, then service animals are not exempt from these types of public health requirements, local animal control regulations, and local animal licensing and registration requirements.
Having said that, there are many local animal control agencies in the state of Arizona that waive the licensing and registration fees for service animals, as well as for service animals in training.
Singling out service dogs, and requiring only service dogs to be licensed or registered is prohibited.
11. Refusing / Excluding a Service Dog
Businesses and other “covered entities” in Arizona and other states need to be careful of refusing or excluding a service dog, because excluding one for the wrong reasons can be considered discrimination, and could potentially lead to lawsuits, among bad reputations, and other negative consequences.
Let’s talk about the instances where service dogs may be excluded:
- If a service dog is posing a threat to other people, to other people’s health, safety, and/or wellbeing
- If a particular service dog has a history of being a threat to the health and safety and/or wellbeing of others
- If a service dog is not under control of the handler. Service dogs must be under control of their handler at all times. Usually, this is done with a leash, harness, tether, or, when a disability prevents the use of those items, voice control. Sometimes, the dog’s work or task requires it to be off-leash, but it should still be under control of its handler at all times
- A legitimate safety reason is present
- If admitting a service animal would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program
- If the animal is not housebroken, in other words, goes to the bathroom inappropriately
- Barking uncontrollably, especially in a quiet environment such as a library, lecture hall, movie theatre, or another quiet place
*If a service animal is displaying any of this behaviour, staff may ask the dog to leave the premises.
However, the person with the disability must still be offered a chance to enjoy the business or service or any other public environment without the dog being there.
As part of the service dog laws in Arizona, excluding the dog doesn’t automatically exclude the person.
Service dogs may not be refused or excluded for the following reasons:
- Because of the dog’s breed, or because of an assumption or stereotype about a breed (for example, a lot of people don’t like Pit bulls, and I get that they can appear frightening, and people have a hard time trusting them… and that is likely for good reason)
- Because someone has a fear or dogs, or fear of a certain size, type, or breed of dog
- Because someone has allergies to dogs, or allergies to dog dander
If a business or another “covered entity” finds themselves in a situation where they find someone with a service dog in the same area as someone with allergies, or fear of dogs, then both need to be accommodated as part of the service dog laws in Arizona.
Staff may need to get creative with this. But neither party is more important than the other.
Perhaps each person could be assigned to different areas of the same room, or maybe to different rooms in the same facility, if that might be an available option.
12. If Discrimination Has Occurred in Arizona
If you think you have been denied access illegally because of the use of your service animal, you have a few options.
You could file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office
Or, file a complaint with the US Department of Justice.
A third option would be to file a private lawsuit, charging the business or another “covered entity” with discrimination. This can be done under the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, or the AzDA, Arizonans with Disabilities Act.