Welcome. This article has everything to do with Service Dog Laws Missouri, including:
- The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, laws, which cover public access rights
- The FHA, or Fair Housing Act, laws which cover anything to do with housing situations
- The ACAA, or Air Carrier Access Act, which covers service animals while flying.
In addition, we will go through any Missouri-specific State laws regarding the use of these special animals. The ADA is a federal service dog law regarding public access rights. However, individual states may have their own set of service dog laws. The people who use service dogs have the right to utilize whichever of these laws offer them the benefits they need.
Jump to a section:
- What is a Service Animal?
- Mental Health Service Dog
- Examples of Service Dog Work
- Public Access Rights
- Service Animals Must Be Under Control
- Information for Businesses
- Service Dog Fees
- Treatment of People With Disabilities
- Allergies and Fear of Dogs
- Excluding Service Animals
- Establishments That Sell Food
- Miniature Horses as Service Animals
- Service Dog Certification and Documentation
- “No Pets” Policies
- Missouri State vs. Federal Service Dog Laws
- Missouri Fake Service Dog Law
- What is a Disability?
- Examples of Public Accommodation
- Filing a Discrimination Complaint
1. What is a Service Animal?
People with disabilities often use service animals to help with daily life activities, and to allow people to more fully participate in society. Service dogs can do many things, including doing things that people are simply unable to do themselves due to various reasons.
The ADA definition of a service animal is: “A service animal is a any dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform task(s) that benefit a person with a disability,” – ADA
A service animal can be any breed and any size of dog.
In a nutshell, the ADA protects the rights of people who are living with disabilities and allows them to be accompanied by their service animals when out in public.
Service animals are sometimes also called assistance animal or assistance dog, support animal or support dog, or helper dog.
Service animals are not pets, and are not subject to “no pets” policies. Policies must be adjusted to accommodate people with disabilities.
The work or tasks that a service dog has been trained to do for someone must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose main purpose is to provide comfort or emotional support don’t qualify as service animals under the ADA, but they may have rights under the Fair Housing Act for housing, or the Air Carrier Access Act for air travel.
2. Mental Health Service Dog
Under Missouri service dog laws, “mental health service dog” is included in the definition of a service dog.
A mental health service dog, otherwise known as a psychiatric service dog, is a dog that has been individually trained for someone who has a psychiatric disability, medical condition, or perhaps a developmental disability.
The dog is trained to perform tasks to mitigate or assist the owner with difficulties directly related to the particular disability.
3. Examples of Service Dog Work
There are so many different things that service dogs can do to help people. Some disabilities are obvious, but many are invisible.
- Guide dogs, sometimes known as dog guides, help people who are living with visual impairments or complete blindness
- Mobility service dogs can help people by retrieving items, opening and closing doors, pushing buttons, helping people with walking, helping people who have balance issues, and helping people transfer from place to place
- Hearing service dogs help people who are deaf or hard of hearing, by alerting them to important sounds like a knock at the door, a smoke alarm, or something else
- Seizure alert or seizure response service dogs are sometimes also known as medical alert dogs, can help people by alerting them to an oncoming seizure. These amazing animals can also stay with a person to keep them safe during the event, or they can be trained to go and get help
- Medical alert or medical response dogs can alert people to impending medical conditions, like a heart attack or stroke, anxiety, panic attack, epilepsy, diabetes, and much more
- Psychiatric service dogs can help people who are living with PTSD and other conditions, by interrupting destructive behavior, waking someone up from nightmares, or mitigating the effects of a panic attack
- Autism service dogs can help protect children and other people who are living with autism, by ensuring people do not wander off and become lost
4. Service Dog Laws Missouri – Public Access Rights
Discrimination against people with disabilities because of their disability or service dog is prohibited under ADA law.
State and local governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and other entities that serve the public must allow service animals to accompany someone who has a disability. They are to be permitted in all areas of the a facility, program, or service where the public is normally allowed or invited to go.
So this includes anywhere you might imagine: restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, shopping malls, banks, cafeterias, state and local government buildings, law courts, and many more places, including AMTRAK. There are a few exceptions, some of which include sensitive operating rooms or burn units inside hospitals, and religious establishments.
5. Service Animals Must Be Under Control
Service dog laws Missouri include the ADA stipulation that service animals must be either:
The only exception is when a harness, leash, or tether would interfere with the service animal’s work or task. Or, if a particular person’s disability somehow prevents using them.
In that case, the person using the service animal is required to maintain control of the animal at all times. This can be done through voice, signal, or perhaps other types of effective controls.
6. Service Dog Laws Missouri Info For Businesses
Service dog laws Missouri, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), indicate that private businesses that serve the public, like restaurants, hotels, stores, taxis, movie theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities. Read more about public accommodations.
The ADA requires businesses to allow people who are living with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises, wherever customers are generally allowed.
Sometimes, it’s obvious that someone with a disability is using a service dog to help them with daily life activities. One example would be a dog pulling a wheelchair. However, many disabilities are invisible. When a business or another entity would like to inquire about the use of a service dog, there are only certain things that can be asked.
When it’s not immediately apparent what work or tasks a service animal does, staff may ask only two questions:
(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Staff must not:
- Ask about the someone’s disability
- Require medical documentation
- Require a special identification card
- Require training documentation
- Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
Businesses are not required or responsible to care for service animals in any way; this is the responsibility of the person who uses the service dog (the person with a disability or the service dog trainer). This includes supervision, feeding, bodily functions, veterinary care, etc.
People with service dogs must not be segregated from other customers because of their disability or service animal.
Missouri State has created a sign for businesses to welcome service dogs into their establishment and to acknowledge the serious and unacceptable offence of fake service dogs.
7. Service Dog Fees
Businesses and other entities may not charge a fee to a person using a service dog that they don’t charge to other patrons who don’t have animals.
In the case where a fee is normally collected as a pet deposit or another kind of fee for people who have pets, this fee must be waived for service animals.
Service animals just are not pets.
If an establishment normally charges a fee to people who cause damage, then the same fees can be charged to someone with a disability if they or their service dog cause damage.
8. Treatment of People With Disabilities
People who live with disabilities and who are using service animals must not be isolated from other people, or in any way, treated less favorably than other patrons.
9. Service Dog Laws Missouri – Allergies and Fear of Dogs
The service dog laws Missouri include that service dogs may not be excluded because of allergies to dog dander, fear of dogs, or perceived fear of a certain type of dog breed or size. Service dogs may be any breed and any size.
If someone with a service dog must spend time in the same area as someone with a fear of dogs or an allergy, both people must be accommodated.
This may be done by assigning them to different locations within the same room, or perhaps to different rooms in the same facility. This may happen in a school classroom or homeless shelter, as a few examples.
10. Excluding Service Animals in Missouri
Service animals must not be excluded from somewhere the general public is normally allowed or invited to go because that would be considered discrimination.
However, service animals may be excluded under certain circumstances:
(1) If the service dog is out of control, not in control of the handler, and the handler does not take some kind of effective action in order to control it
(2) If the service animal is not housebroken. In other words, if it “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately
(3) If the dog is, for some reason, posing a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example, showing vicious behavior and barking and growling toward staff or other customers, or climbing up onto a table at a restaurant and eating the food, or climbing onto another customer’s lap.
(4) If the dog is disruptive to a business, such as constantly barking in a movie theater
In the case where there is a legitimate reason that a business or another entity needs to ask that a service animal be removed, they can not just simply kick out the animal and the person.
Staff, or people at the business or entity must still offer the person with the disability an opportunity to still obtain the goods, services, or facilities without the animal being there.
*Exclusions must not be based on assumptions. For example, assumptions about how a certain breed or size of dog might behave, or previous experiences with other animals of the same breed.
11. Establishments That Sell Food
Restaurants and other types of establishments that sell food, or prepare food, must allow service animals in public areas. This is true even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.
12. Miniature Horses as Service Animals
Even though service animals must be dogs according to the ADA definition, there is a separate provision about miniature horses that have been similarly and individually trained to do work or perform tasks for someone who is living with a disability.
A little bit about miniature horses…
- Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders
- They generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds
- They’re generally friendly, gentle, and easy to care for
- They can be prone to obesity and need a large yard or area for exercise
Businesses, establishments, and other entities covered by the ADA must modify their policies to permit miniature horses whenever it’s reasonable.
The regulations set out four assessment factors to help businesses and other establishments in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated in their facility.
The assessment factors are:
(1) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken – service animals should not be “going to the bathroom” inappropriately
(2) Whether the miniature horse is under the owner’s control – service animals must be under control at all times, whether that be by a tether, leash, harness, or voice control
(3) The facility’s ability to accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight – it’s understandable that a miniature horse may not be able to be accommodated in certain places or circumstances
(4) Whether the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility or business
13. Service Dog Certification & Documentation Missouri
Service dogs do not need to be certified. People who use service dogs, under the ADA, have a right to train the dog themselves. So, businesses and other entities may not request service dog certification as a condition of entry.
No legitimate federal or state service dog registry exists. If you find websites selling service dog certificates and other service dog paraphernalia, just realize that these are not legitimate and not recognized by the ADA nor the Department of Justice.
As a reminder, the ADA defines a service animal as being any dog, guide dog, hearing dog, or another type of dog that has been individually trained to provide assistance to someone living with a disability.
If a dog meets this definition, it’s considered a service animal under the ADA. This is true regardless of whether the service animal has been licensed or certified by a local or state government.
People who use service dogs may have documentation around their animal or their disability, but they are not likely to be carrying this personal information around with them on a daily basis. Businesses and other establishments are not permitted to require any kind of documentation as a condition of entry for goods, services, or facilities.
14. “No Pets” Policies
Although they might look the same, a service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires businesses and other entities to modify their “no pets” policy to allow the use of a service animal by someone with a disability.
This does not mean that a business must abandon their “no pets” policy altogether, but simply that it must make an exception for service animals.
15. Service Dog Laws Missouri vs. Federal ADA Service Dog Laws
If a business or another entity refuses to allow or admit a service animal based on local health department regulations, or other state or local laws, it is a violation of the ADA laws.
The ADA provides greater protection for people with disabilities and it therefore takes priority over any of the local or state laws or regulations.
16. Missouri Fake Service Dog Law
People with disabilities who use service dogs have been reporting that the use of fake service animals is a real problem. It makes it more difficult for people with disabilities to gain trust and acceptance when public access rights, and other rights, are concerned.
Senate Bill 644 went into effect August 28, 2020. This new law makes it a misdemeanor crime to knowingly represent a dog as a service dog if the dog hasn’t been trained as one.
This includes creating (or purchasing online) false documents. And it includes using a harness or vest like the types that are commonly used on a legitimate service dog. The first offense would be a Class C misdemeanor, and result in 15-day jail sentence and/or a $700 dollar fine.
Subsequent offenses would be Class B misdemeanors after that would be a 6-month jail sentence and/or a $1,000 fine.
The Governor’s Council on Disability has prepared and made available online a placard for posting in a front window or door of a business stating that service dogs are welcome, and that misrepresenting a service dog is a violation of Missouri law.
Refusing to pick up someone who has a disability because of their service dog would be a violation of the federal ADA laws.
Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide their services to people who live with disabilities. In addition, private taxicab companies are prohibited from charging higher fares for transporting people with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other people for similar, or the same services.
18. What is a Disability?
According to the ADA, a disability is defined as:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more “major life activities”
- A record of this type of impairment
- Being regarded as having such an impairment. As an example, someone who used to have cancer but who is now cancer-free, but who isn’t selected for a promotion at work because the boss is worried that if the health problem returned, the person would be unable to continue to work in that position
19. Examples of Public Accommodation
When we read about the ADA laws, we often read about “public accommodations” and “covered entities.” The following businesses are considered public accommodations under federal law.
- Other places of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;
- Other establishments serving food or drink
- Motion picture house
- Concert hall
- Stadiums and other places of exhibition
- Convention centers
- Lecture halls
- Other places of public gathering
- Grocery stores
- Clothing stores
- Hardware store
- Shopping center
- Other sales or rental establishments
- Barber shops
- Beauty shops
- Travel services
- Shoe repair services
- Funeral parlors
- Gas stations
- Office of an accountant or lawyer
- Insurance offices
- Professional offices of a health care provider, hospital or other service establishment
- A terminal, depot or other station used for a specified public transportation
- Gallery or other place of public display or collection
- Amusement parks or other places of recreation
- Elementary, secondary, undergraduate, postgraduate private school or other place of education
- Day care center
- Senior citizen center
- Homeless shelter
- Food bank
- Adoption agency or other social service center establishment
- Health spa
- Bowling alley
- Golf course or other place of exercise or recreation
20. Filing a Discrimination Complaint
If a public accommodation, such as a business, denies someone access because of the presence of a service animal, people with disabilities have the option to file a complaint with the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Section.
- Department of Justice Online Reporting (Federal)
- Missouri State Department of Labor – File a Discrimination Complaint
- State of Missouri Disability Portal
- ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act
- Fair Housing Act (FHA)
- Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
- Missouri State Service Dog Laws Pamphlet
- Missouri State Fake Service Dog Laws
- Missouri State Attorney General