Welcome to Service Dog Laws Maryland Comprehensive Guide
The world of service dogs can be confusing, and service dog laws Maryland are no exception. In this article, we will dive deep into the world of service dogs, and the rules and regulations around them, specific to Maryland. Hopefully this will make it all a little less confusing.
Service dogs are specially trained animals that do work or tasks for people that live with disabilities. Fake service dogs are pets that people are attempting to take into public non-pet-friendly places.
Part of the reason why it’s confusing is that there are multiple laws which govern the use of service animals. It depends on the context. The most common examples are laws for housing, air travel, or public access rights.
In addition, each state may or may not have their own service animal laws, in addition to federal laws. Also be sure to check out our full ADA service dog laws summary & FAQ.
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:
- What is a Service Dog in Maryland?
- What Types of Animals Can Be Service Animals?
- Emotional Support Animals
- Maryland State Specific Laws
- Federal Law
- Service Animals Out of Control
- Service Animal Etiquette
- Do Not Separate Animal and Human
- Service Animals in Training
- Housing and Air Travel
- Where Service Animals Are Allowed
- Where Service Animals Can Not Go
- When Can Service Animals Be Excluded?
- Service Dogs Must Be Under Control
- Allergies and Fear of Dogs
- Food and Food Prep Areas
- What Businesses Should Know
- Registration of Service Animals
- Miniature Horses
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
1. What is a Service Dog in Maryland?
Commonly, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is used to describe and define service dogs. This is the federal law that is used for public access rights.
The work or tasks that the dog does must be directly related to the person’s disability. It must help to mitigate the effects of a disability.
Service animals can help people living with a wide range of disabilities with an almost unlimited range of tasks.
The work or tasks done by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. The training must be specific to the person using the animal. A service animal is not a pet.
The disability could be:
- Or another mental disability
The tasks or work done by the animal may include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Helping to guide someone who is visually impaired or blind
- Alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Helping someone with mobility or balance
- Alerting others and protecting someone having a seizure
- Retrieving objects
- Bringing attention to the presence of allergens
- Providing physical support and help with balance and stability to someone with a mobility disability
- Helping someone with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors and/or patterns
- Reminding someone living with a mental illness to take their prescribed medications
- Calming someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack
- Doing other specific work or performing other special tasks
- SSigDOG 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 dogs that are trained to help somebody who has a seizure disorder. How the dog serves the person will depend on individual needs. The seizure response service dog might do a variety of tasks, such as stand guard over their human during a seizure to keep the person safe, or the dog might go and get help.
- A few dogs have learned to predict a seizure and warn the person in advance to sit down or move to a safe place, but it seems like this can’t reliably be trained in just any dog.
Read more: The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks (K9 Total Focus)
2. What Types of Animals Can Be Service Animals?
- Service Dog Laws in Maryland state specifically do not not limit the types of animals that can be considered service animals
- Federal law recognizes only dogs miniature horses as service animals for public access rights
- Other animals may be accepted for housing and employment situations as a reasonable accommodation (a service monkey is a real thing that can help people in various ways)
For some people, a miniature horse is more appropriate.
3. Service Animals & Emotional Support Animals
Service animals and emotional support animals aren’t the same thing. The difference is that service animals have been individually trained to do certain “work” or “tasks” (“task-trained”) for a certain person’s disability.
Read more: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog
Emotional support animals provide comfort, emotional support and/or companionship just by being there.
Any animal that is used for comfort, and has not been individually trained, is not a service animal under the ADA definition. This means that they do not have the same public access rights.
Maryland Emotional Support Animal Laws
In Maryland, emotional support animals are governed by various laws. Here are some facts about MD 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
4. Service Dog Laws Maryland – State Specific Laws
Maryland State Law indicates that someone with a disability, as well as a parent of a minor child who has a disability, using a service animal has all the same rights and privileges as other people.
5. Service Dog Laws Maryland – Federal Law
The federal ADA laws say that a business or another public entity may not ask about the nature or extent of someone’s disability.
If it’s not obvious why someone is using a service dog, you can ask the following two questions only:
- Is the animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
6. What If the Service Animal is Out-of-Control?
If a service animal is out-of-control, and the handler is not able to control it, the animal and handler can be asked to leave.
7. Service Animal Etiquette
- Avoid petting or touching a service animal when the animal is working
- Even if the service dog isn’t working, it’s polite to talk to the person first, before interacting with their animal
- Do not feed service dogs
- Do not distract service animals in any way
8. Do Not Separate the Person and Animal
Service dogs are not pets. Think of them more like an extension of a person. Not that different from if they had a wheelchair or cane.
Do not separate someone who has a disability with their service dog.
9. Service Animals in Training
In Maryland state specifically, state law allows service dog trainers who are with a service dog in training, to participate in County programs and events.
This is true unless admitting the service dog would create a clear danger, disturbance or physical harm.
Read more: Service Animal In Training Laws by State
Service dogs in Maryland and other states 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.
At this time, only four states do not cover service animals in training under their public accommodation laws.
The following is a quote from Maryland State Law
“(b)(1) Individuals with disabilities, the parents of a minor child with a disability, and service animal trainers who are accompanied by an animal being trained or raised as a service animal are entitled to full and equal rights and privileges with respect to common carriers and other public conveyances or modes of transportation, places of public accommodations, and other places to which the general public is invited, subject only to any conditions and limitations of general application established by law. – Maryland Code
10. Service Animal Laws for Housing and Air Travel
The ADA is not used for when service dogs will be traveling on planes. In that case, the ACAA or Air Carrier Access Act is the authority.
Read more: American Airlines Service Dog Info Guide
The Fair Housing Act is the main authority when it comes to housing situations with service animals. The FHA definition of service animal is much more broad, and includes emotional support animals.
11. Where Service Dogs Are Allowed To Go
The federal ADA law says that businesses, nonprofit organizations state and local governments, and other “covered entities” that serve the public must allow service animals.
Service animals must be allowed to accompany people with disabilities. And, they must be allowed to go anywhere in the facility that the public is allowed to go.
Read more: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
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
12. Where Service Animals Can Not Go
There are only a few locations where service animals can be excluded. To read more, check out Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?
Service dogs can be excluded from religious organizations, because these are exempt from the ADA laws.
Some other places that service dogs can be excluded are:
- Swimming Pools – The ADA does not override public health orders. But, it’s important to note that service dogs must still be allowed on the pool deck, in change rooms, and anywhere else that the public can go, in a community centre or somewhere else that has a swimming pool
- Hospital Operating Rooms or Burn Units – Service animals must be allowed into hospitals and may go to hospital cafeterias, patient rooms, the emergency room, and most other places where the public can go. They can be excluded where there may be a sensitive sterile environment.
13. When Service Dogs Can Be Excluded
There are only a few circumstances when service animals can be excluded. In other words, asked to leave. Otherwise, if you ask a service dog to leave for no good reason, it can be considered discrimination.
Service dogs can be excluded:
- In the case where a business, or another “covered entity” would need to “fundamentally alter” the nature of their goods, services, programs, or activities
- Anytime when there are legitimate safety requirements or concerns
- If a service dog is out of control, and the handler does not take effective action to control it
- If the service dog is not housebroken (i.e. it “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately)
14. Service Dogs Must Be Under Control
Under the federal ADA laws, as well as service dog laws Maryland, service animals must be under control of their handler at all times. This means:
- Service dogs must be leashed, harnessed, tethered, unless this is not possible due to the nature of the disability, or the nature of the work that the dog has to do
- If it’s not possible to leash, harness, or tether a service dog, the service dog handler must still keep control over the animal at all times, and this can be done with voice control, signals, or another method (telepathy maybe?)
15. Allergies & Fear of Dogs
Allergies and fear of dogs are common. But, they are not valid reasons for excluding a service dog or service animal.
Sometimes, a business may encounter someone with a service dog, and someone with an allergy or fear of dogs. In this case, both people need to be accommodated.
This can be done by getting creative. Perhaps the two people could be assigned to different areas of the same space, or, to different spaces within the same facility.
16. Food & Food Preparation Areas
It’s common for businesses that sell or prepare food to wonder about service animals. Specifically, are service animals allowed near the food? The answer is yes. Service dogs must be allowed in public areas. This is true even if state or local health codes indicate that animals must not be on the premises.
Check out the ADA FAQ
17. What Businesses Should Know
Businesses need to treat those with disabilities the same as other patrons. In other words, people with disabilities should not be isolated from others. In addition, they should not be charged a fee because of their service animal.
One more thing, if a business normally requires a pet deposit or fee for those with pets, the same fee must be waived for people with service animals. Service dogs are not pets.
Businesses and other covered entities are not required to care for, or supervise, service animals in any way. This is the service dog handler’s 100% responsibility. This includes caring for the animal, feeding, grooming, supervising, etc.
18. Service Dogs And Hotels
- People with disabilities who use service dogs are allowed in hotels, just like other people. It’s important to note that people with disabilities should not be treated differently. In other words, they should be offered the exact same selection of rooms as people without service dogs.
- They must not be limited to pet-friendly rooms. Service dogs are not pets. In addition, an extra fee must not be charged due to the presence of the service animal.
- The only time a fee may be charged is if a service dog causes damages to a hotel room. This fee can only be charged if other people are charged the same fees for pets doing damage.
- It’s not okay to leave a service dog alone in a hotel room. Under the ADA laws, service dogs must be under control of their handler at all times, and of course this can only be done when dog and human are together.
Read more: Are Service Dogs Allowed in Hotels?
19. How to Register a Service Dog in Maryland
The ridiculous easy and possibly surprising answer to this question is that you really don’t need to register a service dog in Maryland or any other U.S. state. Legitimate service animal registration and certification doesn’t exist at the state or federal level.
If you find websites online, selling service dog registrations and certifications, just know that these do not carry any legal weight, and are not endorsed or approved by the ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – nor the Department of Justice.
Service dogs need to be trained, but they do not need to be registered or certified for public access rights. To learn more, read our full ADA service dog laws summary & FAQ page.
Businesses and other “covered entities” are not allowed to ask people with disabilities for proof of certification, registration, training, disability, or any other paperwork as a condition of entry. Businesses may only ask the two questions and that’s it.
1. Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
2. What work or task(s) has the dog been trained to do?Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
20. 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
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
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 other 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
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.
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
23. 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 do have some rights when it comes to housing and employment situations.
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 Maryland 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.
How Do I Make My Dog a Service Dog in Maryland?
Stop making that sound so easy! To make your dog a service dog in Maryland, you must have a disability, and a disability-related need for the animal. Start your service dog training journey, and work on having your dog learn how to act properly in public, with basic socialization and obedience training, and performing specific tasks that mitigate the effect(s) of your disability. There are different avenues for getting a service animal.
- You could train the dog yourself
- Dog trainers could potentially help
- Service animal organizations can provide or help you to provide a fully trained service animal; these tend to have limited resources and long waiting lists
- You could use any combination of these options
Even though service animals do not need to be professionally trained by an organization or school, they do need to be trained for your disability. This is not usually an easy task, and many people need at least some help.
It’s also important to note that not just any dog can become a service dog. Dogs are like people and have individual personalities. Some personalities do great with working; others just don’t. Some dogs truly just can’t focus, don’t listen, or want to only play (or relax) all day.
Read more: Service Dog Training Basics & FAQ
Does Maryland Recognize Emotional Support Animals?
No, Maryland does not recognize emotional support animals (ESAs) for public access rights as it does service animals. Emotional support animals can be denied access to public places. However, it’s good to note that ESAs may have rights when it comes to a reasonable request in a housing or employment situation, under the federal FHA (Fair Housing Act) and/or ADA laws.
The ADA Is Similar
The following is a quote from the Americans with Disabilities Act:
“While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.
“Even though some states have laws defining therapy animals, these animals are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals. Therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact, usually in a clinical setting, to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning.” – Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network
Read more: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog
More to come..
- Federal ADA Service Dog Laws Summary & FAQ
- Service Animal in Training Laws by State
- Service Animal Workplace Accommodation Laws (ADA)
- Maryland Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Laws