Service Dog Laws in Mississippi – A Deep Dive
Welcome to Service Dog Laws in Mississippi. Service dogs are a special type of working dog. They help people who live with disabilities. Service dogs perform disability-related “work” or “tasks.”
This helps to mitigate some of the effects of a person’s disability. Service dogs are protected by various laws, and it can get confusing. In this guide we will go through everything and make some sense of it all.
Think of a service dog as an aid that helps someone with a disability to better access services (or to be able to better access and enjoy life in general), much like a wheelchair or cane.
Service animals are not pets, even though they may appear like pets. Fake service dogs are pets that people are attempting to take into public places.
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:
- Summary of Service Dog Laws
- Service Animal Definitions
- Registration & Certification
- Companion Animals
- Work or Tasks
- Control of Service Animals
- Vests & ID
- Where Does the ADA Apply?
- Miniature Horses
- Info For Businesses
- Where Are Service Animals Allowed?
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
- Service Dogs in Training (SDiT)
- Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)
1. Summary of Service Dog Laws in Mississippi
Part of the reason why service dogs can be so confusing is that there are multiple laws around them. Some of the laws overlap. Here is a summary of the different laws relevant to Mississippi and their main purpose. And don’t worry if it seems like a lot because we are going to break it all down.
- 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, most states extend the same rights to service dogs in training, as fully trained animals have
- Mississippi State Laws – Service dog laws in Mississippi State are passed by state legislature and signed into law by the Mississippi governor
- 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 (General U.S. guide for public access rights & information.)
2. Service Animal Definitions
There are different service animal definitions depending on context. Let’s go through the different ones right now. As you’ll see, they are similar, but the differences are important to understand.
The ADA Service Animal Definition for Public Access Rights
The federal ADA law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in:
- State and local government
- Public accommodations
- Commercial facilities
- United States Congress
Under the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act federal laws, “Service animal means any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for purposes of this definition.”
The work or tasks that the dog does must be directly related to a specific person’s disability. In addition, the work or tasks must help to mitigate at least some of the effects of that disability.
It’s important to note that while dogs are the only animal defined here, there is a separate ADA provision for the use of a miniature horse as a service animal.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) Definition of Assistance Animal
Under the FHA, “An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.”
The Air Carrier Access Act Definition of Service Animal
Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), “A service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.“
Mississippi State Law Service Dog Definition
The following is a quote from Mississippi State Legislature service animal laws.
(e) “Support animal” means an animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. The work done or task performed must be directly related to the individual’s disability and may include, but not be limited to:
(i) Guiding individuals who are visually impaired or blind;
(ii) Alerting individuals who are hearing impaired or deaf to an intruder or sounds;
(iii) Providing minimal protection or rescue work;
(iv) Pulling a wheelchair;
(v) Fetching dropped items;
(vi) Detecting the onset of a seizure, and alerting and protecting individuals having a seizure;
(vii) Retrieving objects;
(viii) Alerting an individual to the presence of allergens;
(ix) Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to an individual with a mobility disability;
Helping an individual with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors;
(xi) Reminding an individual with mental illness to take prescribed medication;
(xii) Calming an individual with post traumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack; or
xiii) Doing other specific work or performing other special tasks.
The term “support animal” includes:
- Service animals
- Guide animals
- Seeing-eye animals
- Hearing-ear animals
- Therapeutic animals
- Comfort animals
- Facility animals
However, the term “support animal” does not mean an animal considered a pet, and is limited to a dog or miniature horse.
“Support animal trainer” means a person who trains or raises support animals for individuals with disabilities, whether the person is a professional trainer, or serving as a volunteer with a professional trainer.
3. Register & Certify Your Service Dog in Mississippi
The truth is that you are not legally required to register or certify a service dog in Mississippi or any other state in the U.S. Registration and certification done online from non-government websites does not convey any legal rights under the ADA or the Department of Justice.
Buying a piece of paper and other paraphernalia from the internet does not turn a dog into a service dog.
The ADA nor service dog laws in Mississippi State have a federal or state service dog registration and/or certification system.
4. Companion Animals
Companion animals usually help people just by their mere presence. They are not usually task-trained like service animals are.
Companion animals do not qualify as service animals under Titles II (public services) or Title III (public accommodations) of the ADA, but they may be approved as a reasonable accommodation under Title I (employment). Check out our full federal ADA workplace accommodations guide for more info.
But as we learned, Mississippi State’s definition of “Support Animal” which is the term used for service dogs and some others, includes comfort animals.
We will have to investigate what this actually means in terms of public access, housing, and employment.
5. Fees for Service Animals
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, and Mississippi State 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.
“(3) No person shall deprive a blind person, mobility impaired person, hearing impaired person, veteran diagnosed with PTSD or a support animal trainer of any of the advantages, facilities or privileges provided in this section, nor charge such blind person, mobility impaired * * * person, hearing impaired person, veteran diagnosed with PTSD or support animal trainer a fee or charge for the use of the animal.” – Mississippi State Law
6. Service Animal Work or Tasks
No matter what definition you look at, almost all of them include a stipulation that a service animal do “work” or “tasks” for a particular person’s disability. (Except the Fair Housing Act definition includes emotional support animals, who usually don’t do “tasks” above “free hugs”).
So let’s talk a bit more about what these tasks are, exactly. It’s important to know that the tasks are varied and wide-ranging. There are a large number of different tasks that service animals can do.
Here are some common examples of service animal work or tasks. Not an exhaustive list by any means.
- Guiding a person who is blind or can’t see well
- Alerting someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to sounds (like their name, a knock at the door, a smoke alarm, or even intruders)
- Providing reasonable protection
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Grabbing dropped items
- Carrying grocery bags
- Paying for items with a bank/credit card
- Opening and closing doors
- Assisting someone during a seizure
- Providing physical support and/or balance and stability
- Reminding someone with an intellectual disability to take a medication
- Keeping a child with a disability safe and from wandering off and getting lost
- Autism assistance
- Helping someone with a psychiatric or neurological condition by interrupting problem behaviour (As one example, read about how DPT Service Dogs help people with PTSD and other conditions)
Read more: The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks
Think of a service dog as an aid that helps someone with a disability to better access services (or to be able to better access and enjoy life in general), much like a wheelchair or cane.
Service animals are not pets, even though they may appear like pets.
7. 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.
- There is no formal service animal certification process or paperwork that is recognized by Mississippi State or the federal government
- Having said that, air carriers (airlines), employers, and housing providers such as landlords may require certain and specific documentation
- Documentation may not be required for public access as a condition of entry
9. Vests & Identification
Service animal vests, dog tags, identification tags and other “working animal” accessories are not legally required or recognized. Many people still use these types of things to make it easier for other people in public to identify a service animal.
A dog license and/or rabies tag are necessary if those are required by Mississippi State or local laws.
10. 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
11. 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
12. Info For Businesses
It’s obviously important for businesses and other “covered entities” to be aware of service dog laws Mississippi as well as the federal laws. If not, they could be accused of discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits the following:
- Asking about a disability
- Requiring medical documentation
- Requiring a special identification card or training documentation for the dog (or mini horse)
- Ask that the animal demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
- Charge an extra fee because of the animal
- Segregate the customer with a disability from other customers
Permitted Questions to Ask
If the reason for the service dog is obvious, then businesses and other covered entities may not inquire about the use of the animal.
When it’s not obvious – and many disabilities are invisible – businesses may only ask two questions to someone using a service dog. That’s it.
The questions are:
(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
13. Where Are Service Animals Allowed?
Public businesses and other “covered entities” need to modify their policies and practices in order to allow the use of service animals by people with disabilities.
This will be true unless a place of business or another entity can demonstrate that it would result in a fundamental alteration to their program and/or services.
A “fundamental alteration” is a change that is significant; so significant that it alters the essential nature of the business. In other words, the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and/or accommodations offered.
Service animals can go generally wherever the public may go. A few exceptions include sterile environments in hospitals (operating room, for example) and religious organizations.
- Recreational facilities
- Doctors’ or lawyers’ offices
- Most other places the public can access
Read more: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
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
15. 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 may have some rights when it comes to housing and employment situations.
16. Service Dogs in Training (SDiT)
Service dogs do not need to be trained by a professional service dog training program, or professional trainer (under the ADA laws). But, they do need to be trained by somebody.
Many people train their 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.
But, most states have some kind of state laws that allow service animals in training some kind of public access rights.
Mississippi State Service Dog in Training (SDiT) Laws
Mississippi State law extends service animal (known as support animals in this state) trainers the same public access rights as fully trained service dogs. If a service dog in training causes damages, the handler will be responsible for the charges.
(2) Support animal trainers shall have the same rights of accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges with support animals-in-training as those provided to blind persons, mobility impaired persons, hearing impaired persons or veterans diagnosed with PTSD with support animals under this section.
(3) No person shall deprive a blind person, mobility impaired person, hearing impaired person, veteran diagnosed with PTSD or a support animal trainer of any of the advantages, facilities or privileges provided in this section, nor charge such blind person, mobility impaired person, hearing impaired person, veteran diagnosed with PTSD or support animal trainer a fee or charge for the use of the animal.Mississippi Code
“Support animal trainer” means a person who trains or raises support animals for individuals with disabilities, whether the person is a professional trainer, or serving as a volunteer with a professional trainer.Mississippi Code
Mississippi Emotional Support Animal Laws
In Mississippi, emotional support animals are governed by various laws. Here are some facts about MS 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