Service Dogs Kentucky – Comprehensive Guide & FAQ

kentucky service dog laws

Welcome to the complete Kentucky Service Dog Guide for 2021. Many people are confused about what service dogs are, who can use them, what certifications might be necessary (none, by the way), what businesses need to know, what landlords and people seeking residential tenancy need to know, and much more.

This article will discuss the federal service dog laws as well as service dogs laws specific to the state of Kentucky, as, just to confuse everyone, states can also have additional and/or supplementary service dog laws.

Jump to a section:

  1. What is a Service Dog?
  2. The ADA Definition for Public Access Rights
  3. Emotional Support, Comfort, Therapy Animals Under ADA
  4. Fair Housing Act Definition of Service Animal
  5. Service Animal Definition for ACAA – Air Travel
  6. Certification for Public Access (ADA)
  7. What Businesses May Ask
  8. What Businesses May Not Ask
  9. State vs. Federal Service Dog Laws
  10. General Rights
  11. If there’s a Disaster – Service Dog Laws
  12. Penalties
  13. Definition of ‘Person with a Disability’
  14. Miniature Horses
  15. Excluding Service Animals
  16. Care & Control
  17. Fees
  18. Vaccinations & Licenses
kentucky service dog laws

1. What is a Service Dog?

what is a service dog Kentucky

Service dogs are a special kind of working animal that have been specially trained to do work or tasks and are used by people who have disabilities. These disabilities might be clearly visible, or absolutely, positively invisible. A few examples of the types of disabilities are:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Sensory disabilities
  • Psychiatric disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Other kinds of mental disabilities

The type of work that a service dog does, must be directly related to mitigating at least some of the effects of someone’s disability.

Just a few examples of service dog tasks include:

service dog tasks or work
  • 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.,
  • 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 items
  • 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 behaviours


Three Service Dog Definitions


Firstly, there are 3 very different, but important, definitions of ‘service dog’ or ‘service animal.’ 

This can explain a lot of the confusion around service dogs.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act (FHA) as well as the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA), each have their own separate definition.
  • Each do not need to abide by the others’. This is just good to know to (try to) avoid any confusion.
  • Just keep it in mind whether you’re reading about public places, housing, or air travel. 


people with disabilities kentucky

2. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Service Animal Definition

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the rules around Service Dogs and their humans.

The ADA deals with issues around people with disabilities being permitted to bring their service dog into public places

If you have a service dog, you are allowed to go almost all the places that the general public is normally allowed.

There are some exceptions, such as religious organizations.

service dog ADA

Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) a service animal is any kind, size, or type 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 goes 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.

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, such as for Pit bulls. In addition, it’s important to know that service animals are not pets. Therefore, “no pets” policies don’t apply.


3. Emotional Support Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Comfort Dogs or Companion Animals


emotional support dog Kentucky

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’.

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.


4. Service Dogs Kentucky – Service Animal as Defined by the FHA (Fair Housing Act)

fair housing act

The Fair Housing Act governs the use of Service Dogs in housing situations. For housing situations, the ADA rules and FHA rules apply.

There is good news; the definition of 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 affects of someone’s disability.

For reasonable accommodation requests in housing situations, the Fair Housing Act, nor Section 504 require that these types of assistance animals are individually trained or certified.

service dog at home

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 miniature horse.

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.

service dog doctor note

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, non-trained emotional support dog, or another type of therapy or assistance dog.

Reasonable Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act


5. Service Dogs Kentucky – Service Animal as Defined by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)

air carrier access act

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.

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 Animals (Including Emotional Support Animals) – ACAA



6. Service Dogs Kentucky – Service Dog Certification

service dog Kentucky certifications

There seems to be a lot of confusion around this subject. Especially when many services dogs do have identification or proof of certification.

Additionally, there are many places that 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).

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
  • A legitimate Service Dog registry does not exist and is not required
  • People who use service dogs have a right to train the dog themselves
  • Service dogs are not required to wear a vest, special patch, or ID tag, though many people choose to use these items anyway


service dog kentucky ADA public access

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

7. Public Establishments May Only Ask Two Things

asking questions to people with service dogs in Kentucky

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.

1. Is the animal required because of a disability?

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


8. 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 dogs questions

9. State vs. Federal Service Dog Laws

Kentucky service dog laws

There are state-specific service dog/assistance dog laws, in addition to the ADA/Federal laws.

People with disables can choose to utilize whichever law(s) provides them with what they need.



10. General Rights for Service Dogs and Their People

state vs. federal service dog laws

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 allowed to go wherever the general public is allowed or invited to go, such as public facilities and private businesses.

This also includes dogs-in-training who are accompanied by a trainer for training purposes. 


11. Kentucky Service Dogs In A Disaster

service dogs in disaster

Further, the 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 resorts 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 persons ability to pay prior to the treatment



12. Penalties for Violating Service Dog Laws

service dog kentucky justice
  • 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


13. Definition of Person With a Disability (Under the ADA) Service Dogs Kentucky

people with disabilities Kentucky
  • 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


14. Miniature Horses

miniature horses service dogs Kentucky

Miniature horses are sometimes used by people who have disabilities instead of a dog. Any public entity or private business that is open to the public, must allow someone with a disability to bring a miniature horse onto the premises as long as:

  • It has been individually trained to do work or tasks for the benefit of someone with a disability
  • The facility can reasonably accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight

The rules that apply to service dogs also apply to miniature horses.


15. Excluding Service Animals

excluding service dogs 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
service dog out of control

A few examples of unacceptable service dog behaviour include a dog running away from its handler, a dog who is constantly barking out of control, a dog that jumps on people, a dog who eats food off a table at a restaurant, or a 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 who was originally with the dog.


16. Care & Control

Service animals must be under 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 be under control

Businesses and other public entity’s 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.


17. Fees

service dog fees Kentucky

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 the 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.


18. Vaccinations and Licenses

service dog vaccinations

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.


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By Sam Amy Nelson

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

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