Service Dog Laws Ohio: The Amazing Guide You Need (2021)


It’s true, the world of service dogs can be totally confusing, and service dog laws Ohio are no exception, but within this guide, feel free to jump to a section you’re interested in, and then jump back to the menu by clicking the “back to top” button. Hopefully this helps to make some sense for you 🙂

Jump to a section:

  1. Introduction to Service Dogs in Ohio
  2. Service Dog Laws Covering Ohio
  3. What is a Disability?
  4. What is a Service Dog?
  5. What Does a Service Dog Actually Do?
  6. Public Accommodation
  7. When Can a Service Dog Be Excluded?
  8. What Can/Can’t a Business Ask?
  9. Charging a Fee for a Service Dog
  10. Responsibilities of Service Dog Handlers
  11. Ohio State-Specific Service Dog Laws
  12. Rights of Service Dog Trainers
  13. Service Dogs & Housing
  14. Fair Housing Act & Other Animals
  15. Service Dogs in the Workplace
  16. Notifying Employers About Needed Service Dogs
  17. Limits on Service Dogs in the Workplace
  18. Service Dogs in Schools
  19. Transportation
  20. Air Travel
  21. Documentation Required for Air Travel
  22. Service Dog Registration & Certification

1. Introduction to Service Dog Laws Ohio

service dog laws ohio

There are many people with disabilities who need to use a service dog in their day-to-day lives. People with disabilities and their use of service dogs are protected by both federal and state laws. These include protections and rights relating to:

  • Places of public accommodation
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Air Travel

Keep reading to learn all about the service dog laws Ohio.

2. Service Dog Laws Ohio – Multiple Laws

service dog laws ohio

Depending on the situation, there are several different laws that protect a person’s rights and responsibilities for the use of service dogs. These include:

service dog laws in ohio state

These all provide different standards around the use of service animals. Don’t worry if this seems totally confusing, because we are going to unpack some of the most common questions about service dog laws Ohio right now.

3. Service Dogs Are For People With Disabilities – What Is a Disability?

Before someone can have any legal protections around service dogs, first things first. Service dogs are for people who have a disability. The term “disability” is sometimes defined differently.

Under the ADA lawsOpens in a new tab., which is concerned mostly with service dogs’ public access rights, the term “disability” means that someone has a mental or a physical impairment that significantly limits one or more of their major life activities.

Major life activities are such things like taking care of yourself, doing manual tasks, walking, lifting, bending, speaking, hearing, seeing, breathing, learning, reading, thinking and concentrating, communicating with others, and working. In addition, bodily functions such as the immune system and cell growth are included.

The Fair Housing ActOpens in a new tab., Air Carrier Access ActOpens in a new tab., as well as state laws, also provide similar definitions of “disability.”

service dog for people with disabilities in ohio

4. Service Dog Laws Ohio – What is a Service Dog?

Although different entities (The ADAOpens in a new tab., the Fair Housing ActOpens in a new tab., and the Air Carrier Access ActOpens in a new tab.) may have differing definitions of what a service animal is, they all agree on the concept that a service animal is a working dog, not a pet.

The official definition of a service animal is that it is any dog that has been individually trained to do work or tasks in order to help someone with a specific disability.

These disabilities may be physical disabilities, mental disabilities, or they could be sensory, psychiatric, or intellectual in nature.

Technically speaking, a service animal must be a dog under the ADA service dog laws Ohio and other states. However, some people use a miniature horse because it just works better for them. If a miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or tasks for someone with a disability, it must be allowed whenever possible.

what is a service dog in ohio

5. What Does a Service Dog Actually Do?

Service dogs are amazing and versatile creatures. There are so many work and tasks they can do for people who are living with a disability. Remember that the task the dog completes must be directly related to a person’s specific disability.

Here are just a few examples (not a complete list) of work or tasks that a service dog can do:

  • Helping someone who is blind or has low vision with navigation and many other tasks
  • Alerting someone who is hard of hearing or deaf to the presence of people or other important sounds
  • Providing a non-violent method of protection
  • Helping someone if they are having a seizure
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Letting someone know about the presence of allergens
  • Retrieving items for someone, like medication or a phone
  • Helping with balance issues and physical support and stability
  • Helping someone with psychiatric disabilities
  • Helping someone with neurological disabilities
  • Interrupting impulsive or destructive tendencies and behaviors

*Please note that animals that provide emotional support, comfort & companionship, or whose presence is used only for crime-deterrence purposes, don’t count as work or tasks under the ADA service dog laws Ohio to qualify these animals as a service animal.

Since these types of animals aren’t specially trained to help a specific person with their particular disability, they do not meet the criteria for service animals, and therefore they have different laws and rules.

what does a service dog do

6. Public Accommodation For Service Dog Laws Ohio

In accordance with ADA lawsOpens in a new tab., all private businesses and entities that serve the public must modify their policies (practices, procedures, etc.) to ensure that people with disabilities and their service dogs are accommodated.

This includes prohibitions on the presences of pets or animals. A service dog is not a pet; it is a medical assistance device that happens to have four legs and a tail.

People with disabilities must be accepted and accommodated, and permitted to be accompanied by their service animal in all public places where everyday members of the public are normally permitted (or invited, whatever you’d like to call it) to go.

public accommodation service dogs ohio

This basically covers all public places, businesses that are open to the public, and entities (with a few exceptions of course, such as certain religious places and certain hospital rooms like sterile operating rooms). Some examples include:

  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters
  • Bars
  • Sports stadiums
  • Retail stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Hospitals
  • Doctor’s offices and other healthcare providers
  • Gas stations
  • Banks
  • Laundromats
  • Public transportation stations
  • Museums
  • Libraries
  • Privates schools
  • Public schools
  • Other places of education
  • Places of relaxation
  • Places of exercise
  • State & local government buildings (services, programs, and activities)
  • Departments, agencies, courthouses

7. Service Dog Laws Ohio – When Can a Service Dog Be Excluded?

when can a service dog be excluded

There are only a few circumstances that a service dog may be excluded from a place of public accommodation, and one is if the animal is out-of-control and the handler does not take effective action to control their animal.

The other instance is if the animal is not housebroken. In other words, if the animal “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately.

If a service dog does get excluded for one of these reasons, it’s important to know that the business or entity must still give the person with a disability a chance to use the goods, services, and/or accommodations without their animal.

Please note that businesses are not required to take care of service animals or supervise them in any way.

8. What Can & Can’t a Business Ask?

questions businesses can ask

Under the ADA service dog laws Ohio, a business or entity may only ask two questions of a person with a service dog:

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

Businesses are not permitted under ADA laws to:

  • Require documentation, such as medical papers or proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal (service animals do not need to be certified or officially trained)
  • Ask about someone’s disability

9. Charging a Fee For a Service Dog

charging a fee for a service dog

Charging a fee to a person with a disability just because of their service dog is not allowed under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Opens in a new tab.

This is still true for a public place that ordinarily charges a fee for other people who are accompanied by pets. Service dogs are not pets.

If a business normally charges for damages that are caused by a pet or animal, then a person with a disability may also be charged the same fees if their service dog causes any damage.

10. Responsibilities of Service Dog Handlers

responsibilities of service dog handlers

Service dog handlers – the people who use service dogs – have to follow a few rules as well. Service dog laws Ohio indicate the following:

  • The handler must maintain control of the animal
  • The animal must have a harness, leash, or another tether
  • If a harness, leash, or other tether isn’t possible, then voice control or signals must be used to effectively control the animal

11. Ohio State Service Dog Laws

ohio state service dog laws

You may already be aware that more than one set of laws exist for service dogs. The State of Ohio has a few things written in its laws that are new or different from the federal laws.

It’s interesting also that, where more than one law is available for a certain place, someone with a disability may use whichever law benefits them.

Summary of Ohio State Specific Service Dog Laws

Places of public accommodation are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities, including denying access or charging a fee because of the service dog or “animal assistant” as Ohio calls it.

Ohio Administrative Code 4112-5-02 defines an “animal assistant” as any animal that aids a person with a disability. This might be a dog. But it might also be a monkey, which can help a person with a mobility impairment by retrieving or collecting items.

Individual needs vary, and people are protected under Ohio state law in places of public accommodation. If a person with a disability needs a slightly unconventional type of animal for their needs, that is okay, and businesses need to respect it.

12. Service Dog Laws Ohio – Rights of Service Dog Trainers

rights of service dog trainers

Service dog trainers in Ohio are entitled to the same rights as service dogs while they are training. Charges are not allowed. Service dogs-in-training must be covered by a liability insurance policy. This should be provided by the nonprofit special agency that is training the dog.

13. Service Dog Laws Ohio – Service Dogs & Housing

service dogs and housing

The Fair Housing ActOpens in a new tab. protects people with disabilities from discrimination in housing situations. People with disabilities must not be discriminated against in the terms, conditions, or privileges of a housing situation.

An example of discrimination would be a landlord refusing to make reasonable accommodations in their rules or policies, practices, or services in order to provide an equal opportunity to a person with a disability.

If a tenant with a disability needs a service animal, then a landlord is generally obligated under the law to grant permission. This is true even when pets are restricted or prohibited in the dwelling. Service animals are not pets.

The Fair Housing Act protects people and it applies to virtually all and any forms of housing.

If You Need a Service Dog as a Tenant

needing a service dog as a tenant

If you are a tenant with a disability and need the use of a service dog in a rented dwelling, the Fair Housing Act protects you.

What you need to do:

You should notify your landlord or potential landlord in writing. This should mention that you do have a disability. You don’t need to share any details about your disability.

State that you need a service animal to afford you an equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling.

Request a modification in the landlord’s policies that may prohibit pets or animals. This is a “reasonable accommodation” request.

See your doctor, mental health professional, or another medical professional to obtain a letter. This letter can simply state your official need for the animal. Including medical history or information is not necessary.

The landlord only needs to be able to determine that the modifications are necessary because of a disability.

Requiring a tenant to pay a fee or a deposit for a service animal is illegal. However, it’s important to note that a tenant can be charged for the cost of repairing damages if they are caused by the service dog.

When a Landlord Can Refuse a Service Dog

There are only a few circumstances where a landlord or property manager can refuse to allow a service dog to occupy a dwelling with a person who has a disability.

These are:

  • If the request for rental accommodation would cause undue burden, either financially or administratively
  • If fundamental alterations to the nature of the housing would be required
  • If a service animal is being disruptive to other tenants
  • If the service animal is a direct threat to the health, safety, and/or property of other people

14. Fair Housing Act & Other Animals

fair housing and other animals

The Fair Housing ActOpens in a new tab. includes definitions and protections that are much broader than the ones found in the ADA, which handles public accommodations.

For housing situations, a service animal doesn’t necessarily need to be a dog. And, a service animal does not need to be trained or certified.

For example, a “service monkey” is a legitimate thing, and can help someone who has mobility issues to retrieve items and other tasks.

Emotional support animals can be considered in a housing situation as reasonable accommodation. Emotional support dogs are particularly helpful for people living with depression, anxiety, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

15. Service Dog Laws Ohio – Service Dogs in the Workplace

service dogs in the workplace

The service dog laws Ohio, under the ADA, allows people with disabilities to have their service dogs go to work with them. Employers are not to refuse to allow reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities.

Reasonable accommodations are changes to a work environment, policies, or practices of an employer. These have the ability to enable a qualified employee who lives with a disability to perform essential functions or tasks or to apply for employment.

Service animals in the workplace setting are not limited only to dogs. It’s possible that a reasonable accommodation may even include emotional support animals in certain circumstances.

An employee – not employer – is responsible for the care and monitoring of their service animal. Having said that, the employer may need to provide the employee with some flexibility. For example, being able to take the animal outside for bodily functions.

16. Notifying Employers About Service Dogs Needed in the Workplace

notifying employers about service dogs ohio

Service dog laws Ohio indicate that employers must be notified if you have a disability and need a service animal as a reasonable accommodation to enable or aide employment.

You could notify an employer verbally, or in writing. Writing is preferable for several reasons, one of which being in case you need a “paper trail” later.

Some disabilities are obvious and some are completely invisible. When disabilities are invisible, an employer may request more information about a disability. In addition, the employer may need to understand the relationship between the disability and the service dog. In other words, how will the dog help an employee to do their job.

Having the support of your doctor or another health professional can help, and can help demonstrate that the need for the dog or animal is real.

This can be accomplished orally or in writing, although in writing is preferable.

Unless the disability is obvious, the employer could require additional information about the employee’s disability as well as the relationship between the employee’s disability and his or her need for a service animal to be able to perform the job duties.

It is important to have the support of the person’s doctor or other medical professional to demonstrate the necessity of a service animal.

17. Limits on Service Animals in the Workplace

service animals in the workplace

There are a few limitations to having service dogs in the workplace. An employer can refuse a request for accommodation if it is not reasonable. Or, if it would cause undo hardship on business operations.

In addition, an employer may chose to provide an equally-effective, but alternative, reasonable accommodation, other than the one requested by the employee.

Employees may need to demonstrate that the service animal is the only effective accommodation available to them and their unique circumstances.

18. Service Dog Laws Ohio – Service Dogs in Schools

service dogs in schools

Students with disabilities who need service dogs in schools and other educational settings are protected by federal law. This includes:

  • Nursery school
  • Elementary school
  • Secondary school
  • Undergraduate school
  • Postgraduate school
  • Private school
  • Other place of education

Some examples of what a service dog might do to help a student in an educational environment include:

  • Service dogs can help with social phobias and separation anxiety disorder; a service dog can act as a transitional support so people living with these circumstances may be able to leave home and go to school
  • A service dog may alert a person who is living with diabetes that their blood sugar levels are becoming too high or low
  • A service dog may help someone living with cerebral palsy by assisting to open and close doors, pick up objects, and can help in many other ways in the education environment

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973Opens in a new tab. service dog laws Ohio prohibits disability discrimination in schools.

19. Service Dog Laws Ohio – Transportation

service dog transportation

People with service dogs have a right to bring their animal into transportation settings. This includes taxi’s and buses, and many other modes of transportation.

Businesses and entities must allow people with disabilities who are using a service dog equal access to transportation in vehicles and facilities.

Ohio law states that a “public conveyance by air, land, or water” cannot deny a person with a disability because of their service dog. Nor can they charge an extra fee because of the service animal.

An animal assistant is any animal that aids a person with a disability.

Service dogs-in-training have the same rights as per Ohio state law.

Some guidelines for service dogs in transportation:

  • The dog may not occupy a seat
  • The dog must be leashed while using the facilities
  • Any dog-in-training to become an assistance dog must be covered by a liability insurance policy. It must be provided by the nonprofit special agency that is training the dog

20. Service Dog Laws Ohio – Air Travel

air travel and service dogs

As per the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act)Opens in a new tab., commercial airlines need to allow a service animal to accompany a passenger with a disability. This is true even if the dog may offend or annoy other people on the airplane.

The service dog must be allowed to accompany a passenger in any seat where the passenger sits, unless the animal is blocking an aisle or another area that needs to remain clear in case of emergencies.

21. Documentation Required For Air Travel

service dog documentation for air travel

Service animal documentation for air travel is often needed, even though it is not permitted in a general public-access setting. There are a variety of ways to present evidence or supporting documentation about a service animal to an airline.

One method is to show an identification card, or another written document, possibly from your doctor or medical professional. Another method is the credible verbal assurances of a qualified person who is using the service dog.

When flights are 8 hours or more, a commercial airline may request documentation that indicates the animal can relieve itself in a sanitary way that will not cause an issue on the flight.

If a passenger is seeking to travel with another type of working dog, such as an emotional support dog or psychiatric service dog, an airline may request documentation from a doctor or mental health professional, written on official letterhead. This could be from a licensed mental health professional, social worker, medical doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, or another doctor.

This documentation should state:

  • The passenger has an emotional or mental type of disability that has been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition;
  • The passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric animal as an accommodation for air travel or for activity at the passenger’s destination
  • The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care
  • The date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued

22. Register & Certify Your Service Dog in Ohio

register and certify service dog

The truth is that you are not legally required to register or certify a service dog in Ohio or any other state in the US. (*exception: if a city or county requires all dogs get one).

Service dogs are protected under the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. Registration and certification are possible through illegitimate websites online. These do not convey any legal rights under the ADA or the Department of Justice. Read more here:

Service Dog Registration & Certification in the US – The Truth 

Disability Rights OhioOpens in a new tab.

50 W. Broad St., Suite 1400

Columbus, Ohio 43215-5923

614-466-7264

800-282-9181

FAX 614-644-1888

TTY 614-728-2553 or 800-858-3542

Sam Amy Nelson

Sam Amy Nelson (she/her) is an advocate for people with disabilities and mental health.

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