Welcome To Service Dog Laws West Virginia
Welcome to our service dog laws in West Virginia guide and FAQ page, updated for 2022.
Service dog laws in West Virginia require that a specially trained service dog (sometimes called 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.
In this detailed guide, we’ll go through some of the most common questions about service dogs in the state of West Virginia. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, what businesses need to know, plus much more.
Jump to a section:
- Service Animal Laws
- What is a Service Animal?
- Emotional Support & Comfort Animals
- Therapy Dogs
- Public Facilities & Access
- No Pets Policies
- What Businesses Can Ask
- What Businesses Can Not Ask
- Service Animal Fees
- Excluding Service Animals
- Service Dog Handler’s Responsibilities
- Miniature Horses
- Registration & Certification
- Service Dog Training
- Service Animals In Training
- What Is the ADA?
- Where Does The ADA Apply?
1. Service Animal Laws
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 West Virginia and their main purpose in general.
- The ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act – is a federal law. It governs the use of service animals when public access rights are concerned. This law is also referred to for housing situations and employment situations with service animals.
- The FHA – Fair Housing Act – is another federal law that governs the use of service animals – or what is known in this context as “assistance animal” when housing situations are concerned.
- The ACAA – Air Carrier Access Act – is what is used when service animals will be taking to the skies with their handler. Fully trained service animals are allowed in the cabin of air planes with their handler as long as the meet the ACAA requirements, and fill out any required paperwork or documents prior to their flight.
- State-specific service animal laws. Even though we have the federal ADA laws, each individual state may or may not have additional or “state-specific” service dog laws for their own area. Check with individual states for anything that may be different from the ADA laws.
- A common example is that under the ADA, service dogs in training are not allowed public access rights. However, certain states extend the same rights to service dogs in training, as fully trained animals have
- Some states have fake service dog laws – punishments for misrepresentation
- West Virginia State Laws
- Section 504 – is similar to the ADA, and protects the rights of students with disabilities in educational settings.
- IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – is yet another law that in place for students with disabilities in the United States.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the employment division of the ADA.
Read more: Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – Summary & FAQ
2. What is a Service Animal?
Since there are different service animal definitions depending on context (public access rights, air travel, housing) we’ll go through the different ones right now. As you’ll see, they are similar, but the differences are important to understand.
The ADA Service Animal Definition for Public Access Rights
The federal ADA law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in:
- State and local government
- Public accommodations
- Commercial facilities
- United States Congress
Under the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act federal laws, “Service animal means any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for purposes of this definition.”
Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.Americans with Disabilities Act
The work or tasks that the dog does must be directly related to a specific person’s disability. In addition, the work or tasks must help to mitigate at least some of the effects of that disability.
It’s important to note that while dogs are the only animal defined here, there is a separate ADA provision for the use of a miniature horse as a service animal.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) Definition of Assistance Animal
Under the FHA, “An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.”
The Air Carrier Access Act Definition of Service Animal
Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), “A service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.“
Examples of Service Dog 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:
- 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)
Other service dog ADA facts:
- Animals other than dogs (or miniature horses) whether trained or untrained, are not service animals under the ADA definition (for public access rights)
- The work or tasks perform by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability
- A doctor’s letter does not turn an animal into a service animal
3. Emotional Support & Comfort Animals
Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy animals are not considered service animals under the ADA definition. This means they do not have the same public access rights.
However, it’s good to note that emotional support animals do have potential rights when it comes to housing and employment. The definition of “assistance animal” in the case for housing, is written more widely compared to the ADA definition, and includes emotional support animals.
The main difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal is that emotional support animals are not specially trained for one person’s specific disability.
Emotional support animals often are not task-trained at all, and simply provide emotional support and comfort just by their mere presence.
Read more: Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Dog
West Virginia Emotional Support Animal Laws
In West Virginia, emotional support animals are governed by various laws. Here are some facts about WV 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. Therapy Dogs
A therapy dog is not a service dog. It’s usually someone’s pet that enjoys meeting a lot of different people from different settings.
This friendly dog and their owner often visit different places such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals, or other areas to basically ease anxiety and bring joy to someone’s day.
5. Public Facilities & Access
Service animals are allowed in public places, public facilities, accommodations, and other areas of the public. Service animals must be allowed to accompany their handler to any place in a facility or building where members of the public are allowed (generally speaking).
- Grocery stores
- Movie theatres
- Government buildings
- Community centres
- Buses and taxis
- Hotels, motels, bed and breakfast, Airbnb
- Anywhere the public can go
- National Parks
6. No Pets Policies
If a business or another public entity has a “no pets” policy, it still may not deny entry to someone with a service animal.
Service animals are not pets. “No pets” policies may remain in place, but must be modified to allow service dogs.
7. What Businesses Can Ask
When it is not obvious why someone is using a service dog, businesses may only ask two questions under the ADA service dog laws.
1. Is the animal required because of a disability?
2. What type of work is the dog trained to perform?
8. What Businesses Can Not Ask
Businesses must not:
- Ask about the person’s disability
- Require medical documentation
- Require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog
- Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
9. Service Animal Fees
Businesses, places of public accommodation, and/or public entities may not ask or require someone with a disability to pay a surcharge because of their service animal. This is true even if people with pets are required to pay fees. Service dogs are not pets.
Paying for damages
If a business or another public accommodation normally charges people for the damages caused by their pets, then someone with a disability may also be charged for damages caused by their service animal.
10. Excluding Service Animals
Businesses and other covered entities may deny access to a service animal under certain conditions.
- If the animal’s behaviour is unacceptable
- If the animal is out of control
Examples of unacceptable behaviour:
- A service dog with uncontrolled barking
- A service dog that runs away from its handler
- A service dog jumping on people
- A service dog that disrupts a business (a service dog barking in a movie theatre during a movie)
- A service dog growling at people in a grocery store
Service dogs may also be excluded when their behaviour poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
The decision to exclude a service animal may not be based on:
- Bad experiences with other animals
- The breed of the animal (service dogs may be any breed, even when a city/county has a breed specific ban)
- Bad experiences with a certain breed of animal
- Someone thinking that the animal might threaten the safety of others without any evidence
- Someone who has allergies to dogs or dog dander
11. Service Dog Handler’s Responsibilities
Service animals under the ADA laws must be under control of their handler at all times. And yes, this means that service dogs must not be left alone in a hotel room.
Service animals must be under control by:
- Voice control
- Other effective means
Service dog handlers are responsible for the following:
- Service animals must be housebroken (i.e. know how to “go to the bathroom” appropriately)
- Handlers are responsible for cleaning up after service dogs
- Service dogs must be clean and with odours kept to a minimum
- Service animals must be in good health
- Proof of vaccinations such as for rabies may be required
- Proof of local or state law dog licenses that are required for all dogs or animals may be required
12. Miniature Horses
Businesses and other entities may assess a service animal that is a miniature horse. Miniature horses are the only other accepted type of animal under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws other than dogs.
Whenever reasonable, people with disabilities who use a miniature horse should be accommodated. Businesses and other entities may assess a miniature horse based on the type, size and weight.
This assessment may be used in determining if it would be safe and reasonable to accept the mini service horse.
13. Do You Have to Register a Service Dog in West Virginia?
No, you do not have to register or certify a service dog in West Virginia, or any other U.S. state. In fact, legitimate registration and certification doesn’t exist.
You may have found service dog registration and certification websites online. These are not endorsed or even recognized by the ADA nor the Department of Justice.
The items bought from these websites convey no legal rights. Buying a piece of paper from the internet does not turn a dog into a service dog.
14. Service Dog Training
Service dogs must be trained as per their definition of animals trained to do certain work or tasks for someone living with a disability. However, a common misconception is that they need to be professionally trained.
According to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws, people who have a service dog or service dog in training, have the right to train the dog themselves.
Training a service dog is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. It is not exactly easy. Depending on circumstances and individual situations, service dogs may be trained:
- By their owner
- By a trainer
- By a professional service dog training organization
- Any combination of these
Read more: Service Dog Training Basics, FAQ + more
15. Service Animals in Training
Under the federal ADA laws for public access rights, service dogs that are still in training do not have the same rights as fully trained service dogs.
In other words, service dogs in training may not go to public places according to the federal ADA laws.
However, it’s good to know that certain states have different laws and rules, that might include service dogs in training. So, check with individual states to see their particular rules.
Service animals-in-training are not considered service animals under the ADA. Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places. However, some State or local laws cover animals that are still in training.ADA – FAQ
West Virginia Service Dog In Training Laws
West Virginia is one state, like many others, who have decided to create their own service dog laws and include public access rights for service dogs in training.
(d) The rights, privileges and responsibilities provided by this section also apply to any person who is certified as a trainer of a service animal while he or she is engaged in the training.West Virginia Code
- There is no formal service animal certification process or paperwork that is recognized by West Virginia State or the federal government
- Having said that, air carriers (airlines), employers, and housing providers such as landlords may require certain and specific documentation
- Documentation may not be required for public access as a condition of entry (prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act).
The following items are not required for an animal to qualify as a service dog no matter which service dog laws in West Virginia we are talking about:
- Service dog vest
- Service dog markings of any kind
Vests, service dog markings, and service dog documentation can not be used as a reliable indication of whether an animal is legally a service dog.
A therapy dog/animal, emotional support animal, or another animal wearing a vest or having a special marking, does not make these types of dogs a service animal.
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
18. What Is The ADA?
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.
- State governments
- Local governments
- Nonprofit organizations
19. 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
- Federal ADA Service Dog Laws – General Guide & FAQ
- Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide
- Service Animal In Training Laws By U.S. State
- West Virginia Emotional Support Animal Laws