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service dog laws in Montana
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Welcome to Service Dog Laws in Montana

Welcome to our service dog laws in Montana guide and FAQ page, updated for 2023.

Service dog laws in Montana require that a specially trained service dog (sometimes called an 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. For a related article, check out our guide to Emotional Support Animal Laws in Montana.

Service dogs can help people with different types of disabilities
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Service animals can help people with many different types of visible and invisible disabilities.

In this detailed guide, we’ll go through some of the most common questions about service dogs in the state of Montana. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, what businesses need to know, plus much more.

American Cocker Spaniel Service Dog Montana
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American Cocker Spaniel Service Dog “Bartek” @bartek_spaniel_wspanialy
border collie service dog Montana
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Border Collies @celestialbordercollies

The Many Service Dog Laws in Montana

Part of the reason why service dogs can be so confusing is that there are multiple laws around them. Here is a summary of the different laws relevant to Montana and their main purpose in general.

service dog laws Montana
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

In summary:

  • 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 taken to the skies with their handler. Fully trained service animals are allowed in the cabin of airplanes with their handler as long as they 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
  • Montana State Laws
  • Section 504 – is similar to the ADA, and protects the rights of students with disabilities in educational settings.

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 centers, schools, buses, taxis, hotels, Airbnb, amusement parks, doctor’s offices, hospitals, trains, and National Parks, just as a few examples.

Working K9 Service Dog Border Collie Blue and Brown Eyes
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Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmi
Service Doodle Service Dog
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piper

Additionally, there are other, similar animals that have some rights in housing, but no public access rights. These are known as emotional support dogs/animals, companion dogs/animals, comfort dogs/animals, or therapy dogs.

Let’s jump into all the service dog laws in Montana details.

Service Dog Laws in Montana – The Different Service Animal Definitions

Different service animal definitions
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Let’s begin with perhaps the most prominent and well-known definition of a service animal. This definition comes to us from the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act. This act governs the use of these amazing animals when public access rights are concerned.

ADA Service Animal Definition For Public Access Rights

The ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is a federal wide-ranging civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination based on disability.

Under the ADA, the following “covered entities” that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the business or facility where the public is normally invited or allowed to go.

  • Businesses
  • State governments
  • Local governments
  • Nonprofit organizations
Psychiatric service dog Montana
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”
ADA Service Animal Definition for Public Access Rights
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Kylie’s “Lucy On Duty” & “Where I Go, You Go” (Hugo) @lucytheservicesibe

According to the ADA, a service animal is a dog or sometimes, a miniature horse that has been individually trained to do work, or perform certain tasks, for someone who lives with a disability, and the work that the animal does need to be directly related to the disability. Service animals are not pets.

mini service horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

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
Border Collie Service Dog Montana
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Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercollies

Service Dog Laws in Montana – Montana State Service Animal Definition

Montana state service animal definition
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Photo credit: @luna_exploregon

In Montana, the service animal definition seems to be the same as the federal ADA definition. But I thought I should include it just for clarity’s sake.

A service animal in Montana is a dog or a miniature horse that is individually trained to provide assistance to someone who lives with a disability.

A service animal is not a pet. An emotional support animal does not count as a service animal under this definition.

Fair Housing Act Definition of Assistance Animal

Fair housing act definition of assistance animal
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Therapy Dog “Eddie” With “Boomer” @eddieandboomer

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which is a federal act, service animals are known as assistance animals, probably because their definition is more broad compared to the ADA one. This definition is written broadly enough and includes emotional support animals.

“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.” – FHA

Emotional Support Animals
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Emotional support animals are not task-trained like service animals are.

This means that while emotional support animals do not have public access rights, and can not be brought to restaurants and other public places, they do indeed have some rights when it comes to housing situations.

Air Carrier Access Act Definition Of Service Animals For Air Travel

Psychiatric Service Dog Montana
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

According to the ACAA, “a service animal is 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.” – ACAA.

Emotional support animals are not recognized as service animals under this definition. While it is up to individual airlines to make their own rules and policies, air carriers may treat emotional support animals the same as pets under the ACAA policy. Read more on our blog: American Airlines Service Dog Info – The Easy Guide

Service Dog Laws in Montana – Where Are Service Animals Allowed in Public?

Where are service animals allowed in public?
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Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercollies

ADA-defined service animals are allowed in all and any public facilities and accommodations, with a few exceptions. Basically, people with disabilities who have an ADA-defined service dog are generally allowed to go anywhere the public can go. Read more on our blog: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws, Easy Guide & FAQs

There are exceptions in place for:

  • Religious organizations
  • Swimming pools (although the service animals must be allowed on the pool deck, change rooms, and anywhere else the public can go)
  • Sensitive environments where a dog’s presence would be a safety concern, such as a hospital operating room or burn unit (but typically they are allowed in the ER)
  • Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?

This means that service animals with their handler are allowed to go almost anywhere you can imagine, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Gyms
  • Recreation Centres
  • Movie theatres
  • Library
  • Cafeterias
  • Hospitals
  • Taxis
  • Busses
  • Grocery Stores
  • Malls
  • Concerts
  • Government buildings
  • Anywhere else the public is normally invited or allowed
Where are service dogs allowed?
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Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard” @snow_leopard_81

What Businesses Need To Know About Service Dog Laws in Montana

Businesses and other “covered entities” as the ADA likes to call them, must be aware of service animals and the laws around them so as to not inadvertently or otherwise discriminate against people with disabilities.

Asking someone about a disability is personal information and not permitted under the ADA service animal laws. Businesses, and other covered entities, in fact, can only ask people who are using service animals these two questions:

  1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

If the person with the service animal provides the appropriate response, then they must be granted access with their service animal to programs, facilities, premises, products, services, etc., without any further questioning.

Service Dog Laws in Montana – Businesses May Not:

  • Ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability
  • Ask for any kind of documentation that the animal has been trained, licensed, registered, or certified
  • Require or request a fee or surcharge due to the service animal

Speaking of which…

Service Dog Laws in Montana – Registration, Certification, Training, Licensing

Service Animal Registration Not Necessary
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Service animals do not need to be registered or certified in the U.S. or Montana. A legitimate federal or state system does not exist.
  • Registration – A legitimate national or state-wide service dog or service animal registration system is not in existence. If you see service animal or service dog registration websites online, these are not legitimate. They are not recognized by the ADA or the U.S. Department of Justice. Buying one of these pieces of papers does not turn a dog into a service dog. Be aware of scams. Service animals do not need to be registered under the ADA, or any other laws.
  • Certification – Similarly, service animals do not need to be certified under the ADA laws or any other laws. Some service animal training schools might issue a certificate of completion, but these are completely optional. Beware of scam websites that sell service dog certification paperwork. Again, a piece of paper does not turn a dog into a service dog.
  • Training – All service dogs are trained by definition. If you recall, a service animal is an animal that has been individually trained to do work or tasks for someone with a disability. However, the ADA states that the people who use service animals have a right to train the dog themselves. There is not necessarily a need for any service dog or service animal to be professionally trained. Professional service dog training organizations are amazing, and they are out there, but they often have long waiting lists and limited resources. So, many people end up training their dogs on their own, and this is perfectly permissible under the ADA laws.
  • Licensing – The ADA does not require that service dogs or service animals be licensed as such. However, service animals are prone to state- or city/county-specific dog licensing and vaccination requirements. In other words, if a city requires that all dogs be vaccinated against rabies and licensed, then service dogs, too, must be vaccinated against rabies and licensed by that city or county.
Service dog registration
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American Cocker Spaniel Service Dog “Bartek” @bartek_spaniel_wspanialy

Service Dog Laws in Montana – Service Animals Are Not Pets

One good thing to know is that service animals are not pets. They are trained, working, medically necessary animals that help people with disabilities live their lives.

Therefore, “no pets” or “no animals” policies do not apply to service animals. Businesses do not need to completely discard a “no pets policy,” but rather, modify it to allow for the access of service animals and their handlers.

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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

Service Dog Laws in Montana – Service Animals in Housing

Service dog laws in Montana are clear about people with disabilities who use service animals in housing. Any person with a disability that has a service animal or who obtains a service animal is entitled under the law to full and equal access to all and any kind of housing accommodations.

Furthermore, landlords and other housing providers must not charge people with disabilities who use service animals an extra fee, or a pet deposit for the service animal. Service animals are not pets.

The person using the service animal is still liable for any damages that the service animal may do to the premises.

Service DOG
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Canadian Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelle


As we’ve already talked about, service animals perform various work or tasks to help someone with a disability to live safely and independently. U.S. Department of Transportation Americans with Disabilities Act regulations define a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or another animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to:

  • Guiding individuals with impaired vision
  • Alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds
  • Providing minimal protection or rescue work
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Fetching dropped items
psychiatric service dog Montana
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

When riding transit, customers with disabilities who use service animals are responsible for maintaining control over their animals (and caring for them) at all times.

Riders are also responsible for knowing the best way to board and position their service animal on the vehicle, especially if the service animal may be required to provide assistance (“tasking”) during the transit trip.

Service animals may not block aisles or exits.

Service dog laws in Montana
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Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard” @snow_leopard_81

According to ADA regulations, every transportation employee or operator who serves people with disabilities needs to be trained so that they know how to provide non-discriminatory service in an appropriate and respectful way.

When serving passengers who are blind, operators should:

  • Identify themselves
  • Speak directly to the customer instead of through a companion
  • Use specifics such as “there are five boarding steps and a 10-inch drop to the curb” when giving directions

Transit agencies should be aware of the following rules under ADA:

  • Operators must allow all service animals on board
  • Operators may not ask for proof of service animal, certification or of the customer’s disability
  • Operators may not require a person traveling with a service animal to sit in a particular seat on the vehicle or charge a cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals onto the vehicle unless the animal causes damage
Autism service dog in Montana
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piper

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.

Mini Service Horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

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.

Mini Service Horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

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
service mini horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

Therapy Dogs

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 indeed.

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.

What is a therapy dog
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Therapy dogs are not considered service dogs.

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.

Therapy Dogs Montana
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Therapy Dog “Eddie” with “Boomer” @eddieandboomer

Service Animal Fees

Fees, extra charges, or pet deposits may not be charged for service animals. This is true whether we are talking about the ADA, ACAA, FHA, or Montana State service dog laws.

A service animal is not considered a pet. Someone using a service animal must not be turned away or denied access because of a “no pets” rule or policy.

In the case where a public entity usually charges people for damage caused by an animal or pet, a person with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by their service animal.

Service Dog
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Service Dog “Kodiak” @dog.human.duo


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 on our blog: Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide

Husky Service Dog Montana
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“Kylie’s Lucy On Duty” (Lucy) Service Dog @lucytheservicesibe

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
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression

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 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

The difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs is simple: Psychiatric service dogs are trained to do at least one task for a specific person’s disability, and the task is related to the disability.

Emotional support animals are not task-trained like this and provide comfort and other benefits by their presence alone. Emotional support animals are not service dogs, but they do have some rights when it comes to housing and employment situations.

psychiatric Service Dog
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Read more on our blog: Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – 17 Examples

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:

  • Physical
  • Sensory
  • Psychiatric
  • Intellectual
  • 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 are Sensory Signal Dogs or Social Signal Dogs. These are a service dog that has been trained to assist someone with autism. The service dog typically alerts their human handler to distracting repetitive movements which are common with people living with autism. This allows the person to stop the movement.
  • Psychiatric Service Dogs are a type of service dog that has been trained to perform “work” or “tasks” that help people with psychiatric disabilities to detect the onset of certain, specific episodes and lessen their effects.
  • Seizure Response Dogs are a type of service 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.
Siberian Husky service dog in training Montana
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Siberian Husky Service Dog in Training (SDiT) @the.borealis.pack

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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.

Service Dog Laws in Montana

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