Service Dogs Kentucky – Huge Guide, Laws & FAQs [2023]

kentucky service dog laws

Welcome to Service Dogs Kentucky – A Deep Dive

The world of service dogs Kentucky can be confusing, and service dog laws in Kentucky are no different. There are several reasons why this is so confusing. One of them is that there are multiple laws that govern the use of service animals. Service animals are specially trained animals that do work or tasks for people living with disabilities.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the federal service animal laws, as well as any Kentucky State-specific laws. We’ll also touch on emotional support animals, assistance animals in housing, and much more.

Service Dogs Kentucky Laws
Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmiOpens in a new tab.

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 centers, schools, buses, taxis, hotels, Airbnb, amusement parks, doctor’s offices, hospitals, trains, and National Parks, just as a few examples.

kentucky service dog laws

What is a Service Dog in Kentucky?

Generally speaking, a service dog is a specially trained dog that works with people who have disabilities. The dog does certain “work” or “tasks” to help mitigate at least some of the effects of a disability.

There are at least three different, legitimate, specific definitions of service animals, sometimes called “assistance animals” depending on the context. The work or tasks that a service dog does must be directly related to a certain person’s disability.

service dog in training
Service Dog in Training “Bishop”

Service dogs help people with the following types of disabilities:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Sensory disabilities
  • Psychiatric disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Other kinds of mental disabilities
what do service dogs do
Service animals can help people with a large variety of disabilities and conditions.

Just a few examples of service dog tasks include:

Fake service dogs won’t know how to do any of the following.

  • Helping someone who is blind or living with low vision to navigate through the world
  • Alerting someone who is hard of hearing, or deaf, to important sounds, like a knock at the door, a phone call, a fire alarm, someone saying the person’s name, etc.,
  • Service Dogs can provide non-violent protection or rescue-type work
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Opening and closing doors
  • Finding an elevator, and pushing the button
  • Picking up dropped items, like keys, a phone, or another item
  • Carry grocery bags
  • Assisting someone during a seizure and keeping them safe
  • Keeping someone with autism from wandering off and getting lost
  • Interrupting nightmares and panic attacks in people with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Reminding someone with depression to take their medication
  • Alerting someone to the presence of allergens
  • Providing physical support for balance and stability in people with mobility disabilities
  • Interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
Examples of Service Dog Tasks
Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmiOpens in a new tab.

Three Service Dog Definitions

There are (at least) three very different, but important, definitions of ‘service dog’ or ‘assistance animal.’  “Assistance animal” is the term used by the FHA (Fair Housing Act) and for service animals in the European area.

Kentucky Service Dog Laws U.S.

1. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Opens in a new tab. – governs the use of service animals when it comes to public access rights, rights in schools, and rights in employment situations.

2. Fair Housing Act (FHA)Opens in a new tab. – Along with the ADA, the Fair Housing Act governs the use of what they call “assistance animals” for housing situations. This definition is written more broadly to include emotional support animals, unlike the ADA definition.

3. Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA)Opens in a new tab. – is referred to whenever people will be taking to the air with their service animal. Service animals can ride in the cabin of airplanes with their handler as long as they meet the criteria and complete the necessary paperwork before their flight.

Three service dog definitions
Why Do Service Dogs Wear Goggles? @luna_exploregonOpens in a new tab.

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

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Service Animal Definition

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Opens in a new tab. governs the rules around Service Dogs and their handlers when public access rights are concerned. Generally speaking, people with service dogs are allowed to go almost all the places that the general public is normally allowed or invited to go.

ADA Service Animal Definition
Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piperOpens in a new tab.

ADA Definition

Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) a service animal is any kind, size, type, or breed of dog that has been individually trained to do some kind of work or perform some kind of task(s) for people who are living with disabilities.

It’s important to note that the task or work that the dog does must be directly related to a specific person’s disability, and what the dog does helps to mitigate some of the effects of the disability.

ADA Service Dog Definition
Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge” in a new tab.

There are no height, weight, size, or breed restrictions on the type of dog that can be a service dog. Even banned breeds are exempt from local breed restrictions. In other words, a trained service dog Pit bull is still allowed public access rights in a city that has banned Pit bulls.

In addition, it’s important to know that service animals are not pets. Therefore, “no pets” policies don’t apply. The ADA also states that businesses and other entities must accommodate a miniature horse – used as a service animal – whenever possible, too.

service animals are not pets
Service dogs are not pets – they are working animals – even though they may look like pets, sort of like this flaming sun and this juicy orange.
Service dogs can be any breed
Canadian Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelleOpens in a new tab.

Emotional Support Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Comfort Dogs, or Companion Animals in Kentucky

Emotional Support Animals
“Trained” refers to task-training a dog for a particular person’s disability, which goes well above and beyond basic socialization and obedience training.

The ADA defines Service Dog as something totally different from emotional support animals, therapy animals, comfort animals, and companion animals.  Emotional support animals, therapy animals, comfort animals, and companion animals are not considered Service Dogs.

Therapy Dogs
Therapy Dog “Eddie” and Boomer @eddieandboomerOpens in a new tab.

They do not have the same rights as service dogs under the ADA. And this is simply because they are not specifically trained for one person’s disability. Some dogs help people just with their mere presence.

service dog vs emotional support dog
“Trained” here means task-trained for a specific disability, which goes well above and beyond the basic socialization and obedience training.

Kentucky Emotional Support Animal Laws

In Kentucky, emotional support animals are governed by various laws. Here are some facts about KY’s 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 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 emotional support, therapy, or assistance animal (ESA)
  • ESAs 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 pieces of paper 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
Therapy Dogs
Therapy Dog @eddieandboomerOpens in a new tab.

A therapy dog is a pet that enjoys meeting lots of new people in different settings and can help reduce stress and anxiety and add a bit of joy to people’s day.

What is a therapy dog?
Therapy dogs are not service dogs.

Fair Housing Act Definition of Assistance Animal

Service Dogs Kentucky
Service Dog “Balu” from Portugal

The Fair Housing Act governs the use of Service Dogs in housing situations. For housing situations, both the ADA rules and FHA rules apply. There is good news for people who use emotional support animals. The definition of a service animal is not as strict. Check out the definition here:

Under the Fair Housing Act, an assistance animal, as it’s called, is not a pet, but an animal that works provides assistance, or performs tasks in order to benefit someone who is living with a disability. This also includes dogs that provide emotional support that alleviates at least one, or more, of the symptoms or effects of someone’s disability.

service dog laws Kentucky
Fair Housing Act Service Dogs
Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedogOpens in a new tab.

For reasonable accommodation requests in housing situations, the Fair Housing Act, nor Section 504 requires that these types of assistance animals are individually trained or certified. In addition, while it’s usually dogs that fill this role, other animals can also be assistance animals. This differs from the ADA definition in which the animal must be either a dog or a miniature horse.

Service Dog Poodle
Medical Alert Service Dog “Koda” @thatlilbearkodaOpens in a new tab.

Basically, you’ll need some kind of doctor’s note (or another professional) to verify your need for the dog to the landlord or other housing provider. But, you’ll likely be able to keep your dog/animal if you’re a person with a disability, period.

This is true whether it is a custom-trained service dog, a non-trained emotional support dog, or another type of therapy or assistance dog.

Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

ACAA For Service Dogs
Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge” in a new tab.

The Air Carrier Access Act has yet another definition for Service Dogs. You can use this definition whenever you’ll be flying on a plane with your animal. Under this Act, a service animal is any animal that has been individually trained or able to help and provide assistance to someone who has a disability.

service dogs on Airplanes
“Kylie’s Lucy On Duty” Service Dog @lucytheservicesibeOpens in a new tab.

This includes assisting people with disabilities by providing emotional support. If you’re going to be traveling with your emotional support or psychiatric service animal, documentation may be required.

Service Dog Certification Kentucky

service dog certification kentucky
Service Dog “Kodiak” @dog.human.duoOpens in a new tab.

There seems to be a lot of confusion around this subject. Especially when many service dogs do have identification or proof of certification. Additionally, there are many places where one can simply buy service dog vests and other gear to let the public know their dog is at work. Many of these are available online (and these are simply not legitimate).

Service Animal Registration Not Necessary

However, the ADA does not require people with disabilities to show proof of certification or registration for their service dog

Service dogs do not need to be certified
Photo credit: @allaboardthegusbusOpens in a new tab.

This is without having to prove their dog has been certified. In fact, in accordance with the ADA :

Public Establishments May Only Ask Two Things

Service Dog “Balu” from Portugal

Staff at businesses and other entities may only ask these two questions, and only when it’s not obvious why the service dog is needed. For example, for someone who is blind, it might be obvious that the dog is helping to guide them.

But for someone with an invisible disability, such as PTSD, it may not be obvious at all. The only two questions businesses and other entities are allowed to ask people using service dogs under the service dog ADA laws are:

Autism service dog
Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog @bri.and.piperOpens in a new tab.

Establishments May 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
Service Dog Questions
Service Dog “Balu” from Portugal

State vs. Federal Service Dog Laws

There are state-specific service dog/assistance dog laws, in addition to the ADA/Federal lawsOpens in a new tab.. People with disabilities can choose to utilize whichever law(s) provides them with what they need.

General Rights for Service Dogs and Their Handlers Kentucky

Medical alert service dog
Medical Alert Service Dog @cricket_n_saraphenaOpens in a new tab.

In Kentucky, a person with a disability who is accompanied by a service dog has rights under the law. Public facilities, as well as common transportation carriers, are to admit and assist people with disabilities and their service dogs. Service dogs must be generally allowed to go wherever the general public is allowed or invited to go, such as public facilities and private businesses.

can service dogs go anywhere
Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard” @snow_leopard_81Opens in a new tab.

Read more on our blog: Can Service Dogs Go Anywhere?

Do Service Dogs in Training Have Public Access in Kentucky?

Yes. Service dogs in training in Kentucky who are accompanied by a trainer for training purposes have public access rights. Trainers must have trainer identification.

service dog in training
Service Dog in Training – “Bishop”

Read more on our blog: Service Animal In Training Laws by State

Kentucky Service Dog Laws in a Disaster

Kentucky law requires that in the case of a disaster, service animals are provided with transportation, temporary shelter, and evacuation if necessary.

  • The law requires that people with service dogs shall not be denied access to accommodations, transportation, or elevator service
  • Service dogs are exempt from all state and local licensing fees
  • The denial of emergency medical treatment for service dogs is prohibited
  • Service dog trainers must be able to provide a certificate (or at least some kind of identification) issued by a service dog training agency or school which can establish that the dogs have been, or are in, training
  • People with disabilities who are with their assistance dog are allowed into any hotel, motel, restaurant, or other eating establishment, accommodations, facilities, theatre or resort and other places of public amusement
  • People with their service dogs are not to be denied access to transportation, as long as their dog does not occupy a seat or endanger public safety
  • This includes air, railroad, motor vehicle, or any other method. It includes aircraft, watercraft, railroad cars, buses, and air, boat, railroad, and bus terminals and stations
  • Extra charges/fares can not be made to the person due to the presence of the service dog for their transportation together
  • Emergency medical treatment can not be denied to a service dog that is with a person, regardless of the person’s ability to pay prior to the treatment
service dog laws Kentucky
Therapy Dog “Eddie” with “Boomer” @eddieandboomerOpens in a new tab.

Penalties for Violating Service Dog Laws in KY

penalties for violating service dog laws in Kentucky
Border Collie @celestialbordercolliesOpens in a new tab.
  • A fine of $250-$1,000
  • Imprisonment in county jail for 10-30 days (or both punishments together)
  • Anyone who intentionally (and/or without legal justification) causes physical injury or harm to a service animal will be guilty of assault in the first degree – Class D Felony

Definition of a Person With a Disability (ADA)

It’s important to note that the ADA definition of “disability” is more of a legal definition; not a medical one. You can read more about how disability is defined in terms of the ADA on our blog.

ADA Definition of Person with a Disability
Service Dog “Balu”
  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • A record of such an impairment
  • You are regarded as having such an impairment
  • You must have a physical or mental impairment
  • The impairment must substantially limit your major life activities

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.

Mini Service Horse
“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse in a new tab.

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 to miniature horses whenever possible. Reasonable modifications need to be made in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by a person with a disability.

Mini Service Horse
“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse in a new tab.

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
service mini horse
“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse in a new tab.

Excluding Service Animals in Kentucky

Excluding Service Animals When can they be excluded?
Service Dog “Balu” from Portugal

Service animals can only be excluded (asked to leave) under the following circumstances:

  • If it interferes with legitimate safety requirements of a facility, such as an operating room, or a burn unit inside a hospital
  • If the animal is not housebroken (it “goes to the bathroom” inappropriately)
  • If the animal is out of control, and the handler is unable to take steps to effectively control it
  • If the animal is causing a threat to the health and safety of others
care and control of service animals in Kentucky
Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog @bri.and.piperOpens in a new tab.

A few examples of unacceptable service dog behavior include:

  • A service dog running away from its handler
  • A service dog who is constantly barking out of control
  • A service dog that jumps on people
  • A service dog who eats food off a table at a restaurant
  • A service dog who is growling at people in a grocery store

When a service animal is asked to leave because of one of these reasons, the staff or people at the business or facility must still offer their services to the person, but without the dog being there. In other words, excluding the dog doesn’t automatically exclude the person.

acceptable service dog behaviour
@luna_exploregonOpens in a new tab.

Care & Control of Service Dogs in KY

Service animals must be under the control of their handler at all times. This means they must be:

  • Using a harness, leash, or tether
  • When those aren’t available due to the nature of the disability, or the nature of the work, then other means of control must be used. This may be voice control, signals, or another method
Care and Control of Service Animals Kentucky
Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmiOpens in a new tab.

Businesses and other public entities are not required to care for or supervise, service animals in any way. This includes feeding, veterinary care, bathroom breaks, grooming, and general supervision. It also includes cleaning up after the animal.

Fees for Service Animals in Kentucky

Fees for service animals in Kentucky
American Cocker Spaniel Service Dog “Bartek” @bartek_spaniel_wspanialyOpens in a new tab.

Public entities and public and private businesses are not permitted to require someone with a disability to pay a fee or deposit because of their service animal. This is true even in cases where people who have pets are required to pay for these types of fees. Service dogs are not pets. However, if a business normally charges people for any damages that may be caused, then a person with a disability can also be charged for any damage that is done by their service animal.

Vaccinations and Licenses for Service Animals KY

vaccinations and licenses for service dogs in Kentucky
Border Collie @celestialbordercolliesOpens in a new tab.

There is nothing written in the federal ADA law that indicates service animals must be vaccinated. However, service animals must comply with local and state requirements to get vaccinations and/or licenses, just as other dogs in the area would.

How to Register a Service Dog in Kentucky

Easy answer: You don’t. Legitimate “service dog registration” does not exist. Service dog registration and certification are not required under the ADA service dog laws. You may have found websites online, trying to sell service dogs registrations and certifications. These are not recognized by the Department of Justice or the ADA.

Buying one of these papers does not turn a dog into a service dog. A dog turns into a service dog once it has been trained by its owner or someone else, to perform work or tasks related to its owner’s disability.

Service Animal Registration Not Necessary

Service Dogs for Veterans in Kentucky

Where can veterans find a service dog in Kentucky? There are several organizations that are either in Kentucky or that serve Kentucky that may be an option.

The following is a list of some potential organizations that may be able to help. They are all accredited by Assistance Dogs International,Opens in a new tab. which is known as “The Global Authority in the Assistance Dogs Industry.” This is not an exhaustive list of resources, by any means, but just somewhere to get started.

Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge” in a new tab.

Paws With Purpose

Paws With PurposeOpens in a new tab. is based in Louisville, Kentucky. It is proud to provide highly trained companions to people living within a 35-mile radius.

  • Veterans with combat PTS are qualified to apply

Contact Paws With Purpose

Phone: 502-689-0804

Website: pawswithpurpose.comOpens in a new tab.

Service Dogs In Training (SDiT) in Kentucky

Service dogs in Kentucky 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.

service dog in training Kentucky
Service Dog in Training (SDiT) “Bishop”Opens in a new tab.

Many people train their dogs 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. Read more on our blog: Service Animal In Training – U.S. State Guide

Service Dog in Training Kentucky
“Kylie’s Where I Go, You Go” (Hugo) Service Dog In Training (SDiT) @lucytheservicesibeOpens in a new tab.

At this time, only four states do not cover service animals in training under their public accommodation laws.

Service Dogs in Training Kentucky

Service Dog Laws in Kentucky Cover Service Animals-In-Training

The following is a quote from Kentucky Code: Opens in a new tab.

(1) As used in subsections (1) to (11) of this section, “person” means a “person with a disability” as defined by KRS 210.770. “Person” also includes a trainer of an assistance dog.

(2) If a person is accompanied by an assistance dog, neither the person nor the dog shall be denied admittance to any hotel, motel, restaurant, or eating establishment, nor shall the person be denied full and equal accommodations, facilities, and privileges of all public places of amusement, theater, or resort when accompanied by an assistance dog.

Service dog laws in Kentucky for service animals in training
Border Collie @celestialbordercolliesOpens in a new tab.

Read more on our blog:


Sam Nelson

Sam is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

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