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Welcome to Service Dogs Kentucky – A Deep Dive

Did you know that about 1,175,034 adults in Kentucky live with some type of disability? (According to the CDC). This is obviously a significant number, and is equal to one in three adults in Kentucky. Some examples of common disabilities include:

  • Cognitive, which includes difficulty with concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Independent living, which includes difficulties with basic errands
  • Hearing, deafness, and/or vision
  • Psychiatric disabilities including PTSD, depression, and other conditions
  • Physical disabilities, such as mobility problems like difficulty with balance or walking
  • Sensory disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Many others

Some people who live with a disability may use a service dog to help them with daily life. Service dogs are specially trained to assist people who live with disabilities.

Why does this matter? This special human-dog partnership can keep people safe when out in public, or allow them to get out and into the public in the first place. In addition, it can expand opportunities for people to fully participate in the life they want to live, without restrictions due to their disabilities.

Without service dogs, many people would be lost, or their quality of life would decline. In this article, we’ll get into service dog laws Kentucky . If you’re feeling confused about service dogs , not to worry as you are definitely not the only one.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are another popular type of animal, but they aren’t specially trained for one person’s disability as service dogs are. Check out our guide to Emotional Support Animals in Kentucky to learn more about that. Otherwise, let’s dive into this!

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

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Service Dogs Kentucky Laws
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Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmi

Service Dogs Kentucky Snapshot

  • Service animals may go with their (legally disabled) handler wherever the public can go
  • There are a few exceptions, such as sterile hospital environments (operating rooms) and religious organizations
  • Service dogs can be any breed, including banned breeds (Pit-bulls, for example)
  • Some people use a miniature horse instead of a dog; these are especially helpful for mobility issues
  • There are multiple service dog laws, depending on the context, which (of course) can get confusing
  • Even though service dogs live with their handler, they are not legally considered pets, so pet fees may not be applied in any context
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Service dogs are not pets.
Service dog laws Kentucky
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What Service Dogs Do

  • Service dogs do certain “work” or “tasks” to help mitigate at least some of the effects of a specific disability
  • The work or tasks that a service dog does must be directly related to a certain person’s disability
  • There is an almost unlimited amount of work or tasks that a service dog can be trained to do to help a person; service dogs are truly spectacular creatures
service dog in training Kentucky
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Service Dog in Training “Bishop”

Just a few examples of service dog tasks include:

  • 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, paying for groceries and other items with a bank card/credit card
  • 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
  • Interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • Read more: The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks (K9 Total Focus website)
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Multiple Service Dog Definitions

The definition of “service dog” can vary, depending on the context. When you think about it, this makes sense. There simply needs to be different rules for housing compared to public access, for example.

Snapshot of various laws and definitions

  • Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA)
  • Federal Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
  • Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • Kentucky State Service Dog Laws

Americans with Disabilities Act – U.S. Federal Law

The U.S. federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the use of service animals when it comes to public access rights, rights in schools, rights in employment situations, and more.

The ADA is divided into five titles:

  • Employment (Title I)
  • Public Services (Title II)
  • Public Accommodations (Title III)
  • Telecommunications (Title IV)
  • Miscellaneous (Title V)

ADA Service Dog Definition

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Americans with Disabilities Act Frequently Asked Questions (ADA – FAQ)
Kentucky Service Dog Laws U.S.
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Federal Fair Housing Act

The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) governs the use of service dogs for virtually all and any housing situation, including rental units. Under the Fair Housing Act, both service dogs and emotional support animals are referred to as “assistance animals.”

Fair Housing Act Definition of Assistance Animal

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.

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development
ADA Service Animal Definition
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piper

The Federal Air Carrier Access Act

Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) governs the use of service dogs when flying. Fully trained service dogs may travel in the cabin of airplanes with their handler as long as they meet the criteria and complete the necessary paperwork before their flight. Individual airlines may vary with their laws and rules. JetBlue is one airline that allows small cats and dogs (pets) in the cabin.

Air Carrier Access Act Definition of Service Dog

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.

U.S. Department of Transportation
ACAA Service Dog Laws Flying in Aircraft
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”
Service dogs can be any breed
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Canadian Service Dog “Everest” @katelynburelle

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The federal EEOC or U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established via the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its purpose is to administer and enforce civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, including the Americans with Disabilities Act Title 1 – Employment.

service dogs on Airplanes Kentucky
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“Kylie’s Lucy On Duty” Service Dog @lucytheservicesibe

Honorable Mention – Therapy Dogs

People may often confuse service dogs for therapy dogs, or emotional support dogs, as they admittedly do sound similar. But therapy dogs are something completely different from both service dogs and emotional support animals. Think of Therapy Dog as a proper noun, if that makes any sense.

What is a therapy dog Kentucky
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Therapy dogs are not service dogs.
  • Therapy dogs are well-behaved, trained pets that enjoy visiting various locations, such as schools, nursing homes, libraries, hospitals, airports, and many other locations
  • They help a large variety of folks who find themselves in stressful situations by spending time with people, reducing anxiety, and spreading joy
  • The therapy dog handler is the owner and might also be the trainer
  • Most therapy dogs are graduates of the AKC Canine Good Citizen test/classes
  • Legitimate therapy dogs are tested and certified by a strict organization (such as the Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners)
  • Therapy dogs are completely different from service dogs, and do not have public access rights under the ADA simply because they do not meet the criteria of being individually trained for one person’s unique needs
Therapy Dogs Kentucky
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Therapy Dog “Eddie” and Boomer @eddieandboomer
Therapy Dogs
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Therapy Dog “Eddie” @eddieandboomer

Service Dog Certification & Registration Kentucky

service dog laws Kentucky
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Websites with registrations for sale

Service dog registration and certification are not required under the ADA. You may have found websites online, trying to sell service dog 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
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Public Establishments May Only Ask Two Things of Service Dog Handlers

Staff at businesses and other entities may only ask 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:

1. Is the animal required because of a disability?

2. What type of work is the dog trained to perform?

Autism service dog
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog @bri.and.piper

Public 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
Medical alert service dog Kentucky
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Medical Alert Service Dog @cricket_n_saraphena

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
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Service Dog in Training – “Bishop”

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

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
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Service Dog in Training (SDiT) “Bishop”

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.

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.


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

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

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

The following is a quote from Kentucky Code:

(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
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Border Collie @celestialbordercollies

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
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog

Penalties for Violating Service Dog Laws in KY

  • 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
penalties for violating service dog laws in Kentucky
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Border Collie @celestialbordercollies

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. A disability is:

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

Miniature Horses

Technically speaking, only dogs are service animals under the federal ADA definition of 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
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

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
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

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
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“Flirty” The Mini Service Horse

Excluding Service Animals in Kentucky

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
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Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog @bri.and.piper

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

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 human.

Blue Heeler Service Dog Kentucky
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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
  • Service dogs must never be left in a hotel room alone
Care and Control of Service Animals Kentucky
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Working K9 “Remmi” @working.collie.remmi

Public businesses not required to care for SDs

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

No pet fees

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.

Fees for damages are acceptable

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

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 – including pets – in the area would.

vaccinations and licenses for service dogs in Kentucky
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Border Collie @celestialbordercollies

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, 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.

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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

Paws With Purpose

Paws With Purpose 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


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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 Dogs Kentucky

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