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service dog laws in California
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Welcome to service dog laws in California

Imagine a bustling California where over four million residents are living with unique abilities, each with their own story to tell. Among them, some are accompanied by remarkable companions – service dogs. These extraordinary creatures are not your typical household pets; they are the result of meticulous training, designed to perform specific tasks in direct response to their owner’s disabilities.

Picture a world where these service dogs act as a bridge, connecting people with disabilities to a life of possibilities. They’re not just loyal companions; they are dedicated helpers, enhancing the quality of life and unlocking opportunities that might otherwise remain out of reach, or even perilous.

In this intricate tapestry of service dog laws , California stands as a key player, but it’s not without its share of complexities. Multiple laws govern the usage of these exceptional animals, and the very definition of a “service dog” can vary. Furthermore, there are other canine roles, like emotional support animals, therapy dogs, and companions, which, though valuable, don’t always fall under the same legal umbrella.

Prepare to embark on an enlightening journey through the labyrinth of service dog laws in California. Our comprehensive guide is here to demystify the intricacies, including:

Multiple Service Dog Laws

Service dog laws California
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“Kylie’s Lucy On Duty”  @lucytheservicesibe

Where can service dogs go?

Generally speaking, service animals may go with their (legally disabled) handler wherever the public can go. It may be helpful to think of a service dog as something similar to a wheelchair; rather than a pet, if that makes any sense. An extension of a person with a disability per se.

A few exceptions

There are a few exceptions, such as sterile hospital environments (burn unit, operating room) and religious organizations (churches, mosques).

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
  • National Parks
  • much more…

Multiple service dog definitions

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) all have different definitions of what a service dog is. So it’s important to consider the context when you are examining service dog definitions .

Service dog laws in California service animal definition
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“Kylie’s Where I Go, You Go” (Hugo)  @lucytheservicesibe

ADA Definition of Service Dog

The federal ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, governs the use of service animals as they pertain to public access rights, plus much more.

The ADA is divided into five titles:

  • Employment (Title I)
  • Public Services (Title II)
  • Public Accommodations (Title III)
  • Telecommunications (Title IV)
  • Miscellaneous (Title V)

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 FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

ADA laws state that service dogs can be any breed. Yes, this includes pit bulls even if they’ve been banned by a specific city or county (Related article: Can a Pitbull be a Service Dog?) If someone claims to have a “service dog” that does not perform work or tasks for their specific disability, then it may be a fake , which unfortunately is a thing.

service dog training in California
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The Fair Housing Act defines “Assistance Animal”

Under the Fair Housing Act, service dogs as well as emotional support animals (including animals other than dogs) are both referred to as “assistance animals.” In other words, while emotional support animals (ESAs) do not have public access rights, they do have potential rights in housing situations. The Fair Housing Act is a Federal Act that prohibits discrimination by direct providers of housing, like:

  • Landlords
  • Real estate companies
  • Other entities
  • Municipalities
  • Banks or other lending institutions
  • Homeowners insurance companies

On the basis of…

  • Race or color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Familial status, or
  • Disability

Under the Fair Housing Act…

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 & Urban Development 
Psychiatric Service Dog California
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Air Carrier Access Act defines a service animal

The Air Carrier Access Act is relevant when service animals will be (literally) flying with their handler. Note that the federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws are still in effect in airport terminals.

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 – Service Animals
California service dog laws
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Service Dogs in Training (SDiT) California

Service dogs in training aren’t covered under the federal ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act. However, under the California Disabled Persons Act, service dogs in training are allowed with their trainer or disabled handler into any public place.

  • The service dog in training (SDiT) must be on a leash
  • The SDiT must wear a county-issued tag that identifies the animal as a service dog in training
  • The dog’s handler will be liable for any damage that the dog does to the premises or facilities
  • The service dog in training must be in training to provide services related to a disability

ADA service dog in training laws

Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training.

Americans with Disabilities Act – Frequently Asked Questions

California Disabled Persons Act laws

Service animals in training are not covered under the ADA. However, the California Disabled Persons Act allows people with disabilities, and individuals who train service animals, to bring a dog into any public place for the purpose of training the dog to provide a disability-related service. This includes businesses, public and private transportation, housing accommodations, and other places to which the general public is invited. The dog must be on a leash and must wear a county-issued tag that identifies the dog as a service or assistance animal in training. The dog’s handler will be liable for any damage that the dog does to the premises or facilities.

Disability Rights California
California service dog in training Laws
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Do service dogs have to wear a vest in California?

No, the federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness in California or any other state.

Although some service animals wear identifying harnesses or special collars, there is no requirement that service animals be identified.

State of California – Service Animals

The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

Americans with Disabilities Act – Frequently Asked Questions

Miniature horses

Technically speaking, with the updated ADA laws, dogs are the only permitted type of animal defined as a service animal for disabled people where the ADA public access rights are concerned.

However, the ADA has a separate and specific provision that covers miniature horses. The rules that apply to service dogs also apply to miniature horses.

ADA Mini Service Horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

Businesses must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.

 Americans with Disabilities Act
service mini horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

Businesses and other covered entities can use the following factors to help in determining whether a miniature horse could potentially be accommodated safely at their location.

  • The miniature horse must be housebroken (“goes to the bathroom” appropriately)
  • The miniature horse must be under the control of its owner at all times, the same as service dogs
  • Can the facility safely accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight?
  • The miniature horse’s presence must not compromise legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for the safe operation of the facility or business. This must be based upon actual fact, not speculation, assumptions, or fears

Just like service dogs, a miniature horse meets the criteria of a service animal when it has been individually trained to do work or perform a certain, specific task for someone with a disability.

However, businesses and other public places may limit access based on the mini horse’s height and weight

Mini service horse California
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Flirty” the Mini Service Horse

This is different from the rules for service dogs. Service dogs can be any size, any type, any breed of dog, even pit bulls.

A bit more about miniature horses…

  • They can live longer than both dogs and regular horses, about 25-30 years
  • They have great eyesight, peripheral vision, as well as night vision
  • They can push or pull heavy objects more easily than most dogs
  • Among many other things, of course, they can help stabilize a person with balance difficulties or help to stop someone from falling

Read more in the news: Woman boards flight with her service animal – a miniature horse

Service dog size, weight, breed restrictions

There are no size, weight, or breed restrictions for service animals. A service dog can be any size, any weight, and any breed, including breeds that have been banned at the local level (city, county). Related Article: Can a Pitbull Be a Service Dog?

Dog Licenses & Vaccinations

California State law licenses and vaccinations for dogs and service dogs
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Therapy Dog @eddieandboomer

All dogs must be vaccinated & licensed

In California, all dogs over four months old need to be vaccinated against rabies. In addition, all dogs over four months need to be licensed through their local animal care and control agency.

While there is no federal licensing nor registration office for service animals under the ADA, service animals are not exempt from local animal bylaws, vaccination, and/or licensing requirements.

In other words, you must have your service animal vaccinated and licensed in the state of California, just like all the other dogs.

California law requires each dog older than three months to be vaccinated against rabies and licensed before it is five months old. If your dog is more than five months old, you have 30 days to get it icensed after you obtain it or bring it into California.

San Diego Animal Services
  • The rabies vaccine is highly effective, which is important in our area where there is a threat of rabies from wildlife.
  • Your dog’s first rabies vaccination is good for one year and subsequent vaccinations last three years.

Service dogs in housing (known as “Assistance Dogs”)

California State Law (California Food & Agriculture Code) protects people who use the following “assistance dogs” –> guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dogs, from additional fees for residential situations and provides standardized identification of these animals.

In addition, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal act that protects those with disabilities and allows service animals into housing situations. To learn more, check out our article on the Fair Housing Act: ESAs & Service Dog Guide or Disability Rights California – Assistance Animals in Housing.

Service dog license California

Applying for an assistance dog ID tag

People applying for an assistance dog identification tag must sign an affidavit declaring their understanding of the Penal Code, which prohibits any person from knowingly and fraudulently representing themselves as an owner or trainer of a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog.

Misrepresentation punishments

In addition, people must acknowledge that any misrepresentation of one of these animals is a Penal Code misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months imprisonment in county jail, and up to a $1,000 fine, or both. When an assistance animal dies or is retired, the assistance dog identification tags must be immediately returned to the animal control department that initially issued the tag.

  • Sacramento County Animal Care & Regulation – Owners of service animals in Sacramento County must complete some paperwork and also sign an affidavit so say that the animal is a trained service animal. There is no fee. All animals including service animals must follow all regulations. All service dogs must be licensed and vaccinated for rabies.
  • San Francisco Animal Care & Control – Dog licensing is now available online by computer or smartphone. Use your credit card, and upload your rabies vaccination certificate.

What businesses in California need to know

What businesses need to know about service dogs in California
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Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard @snow_leopard_81
  • There are no size, weight, or breed restrictions on service animals, even if a city/county has a breed restriction
  • The only two questions staff may ask someone with a service animal: 1) Is the animal required because of a disability? 2) What tasks has the animal been trained to perform?
  • Businesses may not require or request any documentation, proof of registration, proof of licensing, or proof of training
  • People who use service animals have the right to train the animal themselves
  • Asking additional questions, other than the ones listed above, is a violation, and so is refusing access to someone with a service animal
  • If violations occur, people who use service animals are entitled to a private civil suit or Attorney General lawsuit
  • Fines are up to $55,000 for a first violation and up to $100,000 for any subsequent violations
  • Service animals are working animals, not pets. “No pets” policies must be modified to allow service animals.
  • Service animals are not required to wear a vest, identification tag, patch, or harness to identify them as service animals.
service animals are not pets California
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Service animals are not pets, even though they might look like pets.
German shepherd service dog California
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

Excluding service dogs

Excluding Service Animals in California
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Service dog laws in California indicate that service animals may only be excluded (asked to leave) under certain circumstances:

  • If the animal isn’t housebroken (i.e. it “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately)
  • If the service animal is not under control and its handler does not take effective action to control it
  • If the animal is a direct threat to the health and safety of others (a dog eating off of a table at a restaurant, a dog constantly barking, or a dog trying to bite people, are all unacceptable behaviors)
  • If a service animal is excluded for one of the above reasons, the person using the animal must still be offered the program/products/services without the animal being there. In other words, excluding the animal does not automatically mean that the service animal handler is also excluded
Multipurpose Service Dog
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?

Service dog control & supervision

Service dog laws California service animal control and supervision
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” Photo @bri.and.piper

Do service dogs have to be on a leash in California?

Service dogs don’t necessarily have to be on a leash, but they do need to be under the control of their handler. In most cases, service dogs must be on a leash, but sometimes the nature of a task or disability prevents it.

Service dog laws in California indicate that service animals must be under the control of their handler at all times. This control typically looks like this:

  • Being on a leash
  • Being on a tether
  • Having a harness

Sometimes, these methods of control are not possible due to the nature of a disability, or the nature of the work that the dog needs to do. In these cases, the service animal handler must still keep control over their animal at all times. This can be done with voice, signals, or another method.

Service animals that are not under control are unacceptable

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability.

In the school (K-12) context and in similar settings, the school or similar entity may need to provide some assistance to enable a particular student to handle his or her service animal.

The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices.

In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal.

For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items.

She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her.

Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter.

The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place.

However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

Americans with Disabilities Act Frequently Asked Questions

Supervising Service Animals

Businesses are not responsible for supervising service animals in any way. It is up to the service dog handler (the person with a disability or perhaps the dog trainer) to take care of the animal. This includes feeding, bathroom breaks, cleaning up after the animal, veterinary care, grooming, and anything else the animal may need.

Blood Sugar Alert Service Dog 
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Medical Alert Service Dog @cricket_n_saraphena

Fake service animal laws California

California state fake service animal laws
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Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercollies

Service dog laws in California include a section on punishments for “fake service animals,” or in other words, when people knowingly misrepresent their pet to be a service animal in order to receive the privileges that legitimate service animals deserve.

Anyone who falsely claims their pet or another animal as a service animal will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Punishment will be imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

Also a misdemeanor

Interfering with the rights of a disabled person is also a misdemeanor. For example, denying somebody with a disability who is using a service dog access from entering a business, program, facility, or anywhere else the public is regularly invited or allowed. This is punishable by a fine of up to $2500.

Canadian Service Dog
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Canadian Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelle

Service dog work or tasks

Service animal work or tasks California
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

Wondering what service dogs or service animals actually do?

What are these work or tasks? There are so many things that service dogs and service animals can do for us humans. We are lucky to have such amazing creatures to help us through life. Service animals are just one type of working dog, too. There are many others.

Here are just a few examples of the types of service dogs there are and the types of work or tasks they do to help people:

  • Seizure alert dogs can position themselves to keep someone safe during a seizure, or can be trained to retrieve help after the event
  • A diabetic medical service dog can retrieve a glucose kit from the fridge and bring it to its handler
  • Service dogs can carry grocery bags, open and close doors, pull a wheelchair, retrieve laundry from a laundry machine, carry items in a backpack
  • Brace and mobility support service dogs can help people with changing position (sitting to standing, for example), brace someone during walking or balance loss, brace people when going up or down stairs
  • Visual assistance and guide dogs help people who are living with vision loss or totally blind, by leading people to a familiar route, finding things like an elevator or an empty seat, following somebody like a waitress or clerk, and pick up common items such as a newspaper from a driveway
  • Hearing assistance or hearing service dogs can help people who can’t hear at all or have suffered a loss of hearing ability, by alerting someone when their name is called, alerting someone to a fire or smoke alarm, responding to overhead announcements
  • Psychiatric service dogs can help people who are living with different mental health conditions, such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) depression, or anxiety, by providing medication reminders, lying across somebody for Deep Pressure Therapy during a panic attack, providing tactile grounding, retrieving an item such as medication or a self-care kit, interrupt flashbacks or nightmares, search the house, stabilize a routine, provide a reality check
  • Autism service dogs can help people who live with autism in certain ways, such as making sure a child with autism does not become lost
Service dog
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Kodiak – Service dog @dog.human.duo

Psychiatric Service Dogs California

Psychiatric service dogs are a type of service dog that perform work or tasks related to psychiatric disabilities or conditions. A few examples of these types of disabilities may include:

  • Eating disorders
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • TBI

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 (Read about Deep Pressure Therapy on our blog) 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 or What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?
Psychiatric service dogs California
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Therapy Dog “Eddie” with “Boomer” eddieandboomer

Psychiatric Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Animals

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 (the Ultimate Guide) 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. Related Article: Service Animal Workplace Accommodations – ADA Laws 2023.

psychiatric Service Dog
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Where to get a psychiatric service dog in California?

You could train your dog yourself, with the help of a trainer, or with the help of a service dog organization. Or, you could use a combination of those options. Folks who use service animals are allowed to train the dog themselves. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy or quick. Here are just a few organizations located in California (or that service California) that may be able to help with psychiatric service dogs:

Service Dog Certificate California

Under the ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – service dogs do not need to be certified or have a certificate. As the ADA is a federal law, this law applies to all U.S. states, including beautiful California. Service dogs don’t need certification for rights to housing or air travel, either.

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.

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Americans with Disabilities Act Frequently Asked Questions
service dog laws in California registration and certification
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American Cocker Spaniel Service Dog “Bartek” @bartek_spaniel_wspanialy

Service Dog Registration California

Service animals are prone to local dog licensing and vaccination laws only. No legitimate federal registration or certification agency for service animals exists. In other words, legitimate service dog registration for California or any other state isn’t a thing.

Service Animal Registration Not Necessary
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Beware of service animal “Registries” online

You may have seen these types of “registries” online; however, these are not legitimate and are not recognized by the Department of Justice, the ADA, or any state laws. Purchasing one of these documents does not turn an animal into a service animal. These documents purchased online do not convey any legal rights. Check out our blog “Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate?” to learn more about registrations and why they are not required. 

Related Article : Legitimate Registration for Service Dogs – Fact Check

How to register a service dog in California?

Short answer: You don’t. Legitimate registration for service dogs doesn’t exist. Beware of online websites attempting to take advantage of folks who don’t know better.

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Service Dog in Training – “Bishop”

Professional training is not required

Professional training is not required, either. While there are many wonderful training organizations that train and provide service dogs for people who need them, often at no charge, this is optional. People who use service dogs have the right to train the dog themselves. Many training organizations have long wait lists and limited resources.


Service animals in hotels in California
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Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmi

People with disabilities who use service animals or service dogs must be treated the same as other members of the public. They must not be charged a fee or surcharge because of their service animal.

No-pets policies

Service animals are not pets, and are not subject to pet fees or deposits. Additionally, people with disabilities must be given the opportunity to reserve any room in a hotel or other place of lodging; and not be restricted to “pet-friendly” rooms.

Charging fees

If a business normally charges a fee to people whose pets cause damage to hotel property, then someone with a disability who uses a service dog may be charged the same fee.

Animals alone

Service animals must not be left in hotel rooms alone. Under the ADA service dog laws, service animals must be under the control of their handler at all times.

Border Collie Service Dog
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Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercollies

Read more on our blog: Are Service Dogs Allowed in Hotels?

More Than One Service Animal

More than one service dog, service animal laws California
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Therapy Dog “Eddie” with “Boomer” @eddieandboomer
Tandem Medical Alert and Response service dogs
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Tandem Medical Alert and Response Service Dogs @cricket_n_saraphena

ADA Laws

Under the federal ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – service dog laws, people with disabilities are permitted to accompany more than one service animal while out and about in public places.

Accommodating when possible

Whenever possible, businesses need to be accommodating. If, however, the presence of a second dog would compromise the business or safety of people, then it can be asked to wait outside or at a suitable location.


For example, if a restaurant is small and the only place where the second dog could fit was in the aisle blocking folks from walking through, then the second dog can reasonably be asked to wait somewhere else.

Some people may need to use two dogs for mobility assistance, or, someone may have two dogs; one for different disabilities. For example, someone may use one dog for mobility assistance, and another as a seizure-alert animal. It is not uncommon for people to have more than one disability.

Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Hospitals & Ambulances

service dog laws California hospitals and ambulances
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Photo credit: @luna_exploregon

Generally speaking, service animals are to be permitted in patient rooms and other places inside hospitals where the public is allowed to go, including the emergency room. Service animals can not be excluded on the grounds that the nurses, doctors, and/or medical staff there can provide the same service for the person.

If the person admitted to the hospital is unable to care for the service animal, there are a few options:

  • The patient could arrange for a family member or friend to come to the hospital and help take care of the animal. This is the best option because it’s always best never to separate people from their service animal
  • If that’s not an option, a friend or family member could keep the dog or miniature horse during the duration of the hospitalization
  • If the patient is unable to make arrangements, then the hospital staff can arrange for the dog to stay in a boarding facility until the patient is released. However, staff must give the patient a chance to make arrangements before they take this step
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Photo credit: @luna_exploregon

Service Dog Laws in California – Service Animals in Ambulances

service dog in ambulance
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Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piper

Service animals must be permitted to ride in an ambulance with their handler unless there is insufficient space, and by including the animal, the medical staff’s job would be compromised.

If there isn’t space

In instances where there is no room to include the service animal in an ambulance, arrangements need to be made to have the service animal transported to the hospital to meet the patient there. People should not be separated from their service animals whenever possible. Read more on our blog: Are Service Dogs Allowed in Hospitals?

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Swimming Pools

Service dog laws in California swimming pools
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Photo credit: @luna_exploregon

Places like gyms, hotels, fitness centers, and municipalities often have swimming pools. The ADA laws do not override public health orders that restrict or prohibit dogs in swimming pools. So, service dogs can be excluded from swimming pools. However, they must be allowed on the pool deck, in the changing rooms, and anywhere else the public can go.

Medical Alert Service Dog
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Medical Alert Service Dog @cricket_n_saraphena

Religious Organizations

Service dog laws California religious organization
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

ADA laws

Religious organizations such as churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, and other religious places are not required under the ADA service animal laws to allow service animals into their facilities.

They are one of the few places that are specifically exempt from allowing service animals. However, there may be certain states that have laws to allow service animals into religious areas Read more on our blog: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws, Easy Guide & FAQs

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“Kylie’s Where I Go, You Go” (Hugo) @lucytheservicesibe

San Francisco specific service dog laws

San Francisco specific service dog laws California
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Canadian Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelle

San Francisco

San Francisco is one city in particular that has taken a different approach to service animals and support animals. The Mayor’s Office on Disability has specific rules for service and support animals. We will summarize it right here. In San Francisco, people with disabilities that use service animals and/or support animals are entitled to equal access to all City-sponsored programs, facilities, services, and activities.

The ADA definition of a service animal it is a dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to work or do tasks specifically for someone with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, or another type of disability.

San Francisco support animals are animals of any species that are not necessarily trained to do work or tasks. Their presence helps people who have psychological conditions. These animals help people by reducing some of the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, and difficulties with social interactions.

California assistance tags from San Francisco Animal Care & Control are optional and may make it easier for people with service or support animals to gain access to public places with their animals.

Staff at businesses may ask the usual two questions to people with service animals or support animals:

  • Is this animal required because of a disability?
  • How does it assist you?

Service animals and support animals need to be focused on helping their human and not be disruptive of others, or to the health and safety of the public.

  • Service and support dogs must be current on their vaccinations and maintain a current rabies tag
  • Service and support animals must be under the handler’s control at all times
  • All service and support animals must maintain socially acceptable behavior at all times
  • Service and support animals are allowed in housing situations that have “no pets” policies. This is under the Fair Housing Act as a “reasonable accommodation.”
  • Landlords must be informed about the request, and tenants may need a letter from a medical professional stating that a disability exists
  • Landlords may ask for proof of current vaccinations and tenants may need to sign an agreement assuming full responsibility for the animal when inside the building
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“Kylie’s Lucy On Duty” @lucytheservicesibe

Where are they allowed?

Service animals (as defined under the federal ADA law) are allowed generally in any private and public establishment. Support animals (defined by San Francisco) and ADA-defined service animals are welcomed at any City or County of San Francisco building, program, or agency, including contractors.

Medical Alert Service Dog
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Medical Alert Service Dog “Koda” @thatlilbearkoda
Shepsky Service Dog
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Willow The Shepsky Service Dog @the_working_willow

If you experience discrimination…

If you are denied access to a San Francisco City building, facility or program because of your service animal or support animal, you can call (415) 554-6789 or email at

If you experience discrimination at a private business or restaurant with your service animal, you can contact the Human Rights Commission at (415) 252-2500 or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing at (800) 884-1684.

service mini horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse


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Sam is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

California Service Dog Laws

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