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Welcome To Service Dog Laws West Virginia

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

Service dog laws in West Virginia require that a specially trained service dog (sometimes called an assistance dog) 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.

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 West Virginia. This includes where they are allowed in public, housing information, what businesses need to know, plus much more.

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

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.

service dog laws West Virginia
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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
    • 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.
Working K9 Service Dog Border Collie Blue and Brown Eyes
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Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmi
Service Dog Laws West Virginia
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

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:

  • Employment
  • State and local government
  • Public accommodations
  • Commercial facilities
  • Transportation
  • Telecommunications
  • 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.

Siberian Husky Service Dog
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Syncope Alert Service Dog “Kylie’s Lucy On Duty” @lucytheservicesibe

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.”

service animals are not pets
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Service animals are not pets – they are working animals – even though they might look like pets, kind of like this flaming sun and juicy orange.
Service dog laws in Massachusetts
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Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard” @snow_leopard_81

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, companion animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.“

Psychiatric Service Dog Air Plane
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Read more on our blog: American Airlines Service Dog Info – The Easy Guide

Service Dog in Training West Virginia
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“Kylie’s Where I Go, You Go” (Hugo) Service Dog in Training (SDiT) @lucytheservicesibe

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:

  • 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 West Virginia
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Siberian Husky Service Dog in Training (SDiT) @the.borealis.pack
Service Dog Work or Tasks West Virginia
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piper
What Service Dogs Can Do
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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 performed 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
Service dog ADA facts
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Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard” @snow_leopard_81

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 of housing, is written more widely compared to the ADA definition and includes emotional support animals. Check out our guide: Emotional Support Animal Laws in West Virginia to learn more.

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Kylie’s “Where I Go, You Go” (Hugo) @lucytheservicesibe
Emotional Support Animals
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Read more on our blog: Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Dog

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.

Therapy Dog West Virginia
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Therapy Dog @eddieandboomer

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.

What is a therapy dog?
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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).

This includes:

  • Malls
  • Grocery stores
  • Movie theatres
  • Government buildings
  • Community centers
  • Buses and taxis
  • Hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, Airbnb
  • Anywhere the public can go
  • National Parks
Service dog laws west Virginia, where are service dogs allowed?
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Border Collie @celestialbordercollies

Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere? Top 5 Examples of Exclusion

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.

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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

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?

What businesses can ask about service dogs
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Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmi

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
West Virginia service dog laws what businesses may not ask
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Photo credit: @luna_exploregon

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.

Service Animal Fees
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Canadian Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelle

Excluding Service Animals

Businesses and other covered entities may deny access to a service animal under certain conditions.

  • If the animal’s behavior is unacceptable
  • If the animal is out of control
service dog border collie
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Border Collie @celestialbordercollies

Examples of unacceptable behavior:

  • 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 behavior poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

Acceptable service dog behaviour
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piper

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
excluding service animals West Virginia
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American Cocker Spaniel Service Dog “Bartek” @bartek_spaniel_wspanialy

Service Dog Handler’s Responsibilities

Service animals under the ADA laws must be under the 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:

  • Harness
  • Leash
  • Tether
  • Voice control
  • Signals
  • 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 odors 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
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

Miniature Horses

Miniature Service Horse Service Animal West Virginia
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

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 miniature horses should be accommodated. Businesses and other entities may assess a miniature horse based on its type, size, and weight.

service mini horse
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

This assessment may be used in determining if it would be safe and reasonable to accept the mini service horse.

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 don’t exist. 

You may have found service dog registration and certification websites online. These are not endorsed or even recognized by the ADA or 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. Check out our blog Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate? to learn more about registrations, certifications, and why they are not required.

Service Animal Registration Not Necessary Service Dog Certification
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Service animals do not need to be registered or certified in the U.S. In fact, a legitimate federal ADA system does not exist.

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
service dog in training West Virginia
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Service dog in training “Bishop”

Read more on our blog: Service Dog Training Basics, FAQ + more

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 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.


West Virginia Service Dog In Training Laws

West Virginia is one state, like many others, who have decided to create its 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
West Virginia service dog in training laws
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Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercollies


  • 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).
Medical Alert Service Dog West Virginia
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Medical Alert Service Dog @cricket_n_saraphena

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
  • Documentation

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 service animals.


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.

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

Read more on our blog: Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide

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.

  • Businesses
  • State governments
  • Local governments
  • Nonprofit organizations
Psychiatric service dog West Virginia
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

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 West Virginia
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Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercollies

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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 West Virginia

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