Welcome to South Carolina Service Dog Laws
In South Carolina, about 1,304,480 people live with some type of disability. This is equal to one in three adults, or 31% of the population, according to the CDC. Some folks who live with various conditions and disabilities use a service dog.
Service dogs live with people who have disabilities, and can help people with everyday tasks, expand access to opportunities, and generally allow people to safely live the life they’d like to live.
Service dog laws can be confusing because there are multiple laws for various contexts, and to say things can get complicated is an understatement. In this guide, we’ll inspect both U.S. federal and South Carolina specific service dog laws to hopefully untangle at least some of the confusion. Let’s just dive into this! For a related article, check out Emotional Support Animal Laws South Carolina.
Table of Contents
Service Dogs Help People with Various Disabilities
- Mobility: Serious difficulty with walking or climbing stairs, or getting around in general
- Cognition: Serious difficulty with things like concentrating, remembering things, or making appropriate decisions
- Psychiatric – Depression, anxiety, PTSD
- Independent living: Serious difficulty with doing errands alone, for example visiting a doctor’s office
- Hearing: Deafness or difficulty hearing
- Vision: Blind or serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses
- Self-care: Difficulty dressing or bathing
- Physical disabilities
- Sensory disabilities
- Intellectual disabilities
- Or another mental disability
Service Animal Definitions
Since there are different service animal definitions depending on the context, we’ll go through the different ones right now.
The ADA Service Animal Definition
The U.S. federal ADA law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in:
- State and local government
- Public accommodations
- Commercial facilities
- United States Congress
The ADA is divided into five titles:
- Employment (Title I)
- Public Services (Title II)
- Public Accommodations (Title III)
- Telecommunications (Title IV)
- Miscellaneous (Title V)
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
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 federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) both service dogs and emotional support animals are known as Assistance Animals. Surely this is part of the confusion around the laws.
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
The Air Carrier Access Act Definition of Service Animal
The Air Carrier Access Act comes into play whenever folks will be flying on aircraft with their service dog. The ADA is still relevant in airport terminals. Under the federal 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.U.S. Department of Transportation
South Carolina Definition of Service Animal
(4)(a) “Service animal” or “service animal-in-training” means an animal that is trained or that is being trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. A service animal is not a pet and is limited to a dog or a miniature horse. The work done or tasks performed must be directly related to the individual’s disability…
Where Can Service Dogs Go?
Anywhere the public may go
Service dogs may basically go with their legally disabled handler wherever the public can go. There are a few exceptions, a few being sterile hospital environments (Burn Unit, Intensive Care Unit) and religious organizations.
Service dogs can be any breed – even banned breeds – and may go to malls, restaurants, grocery stores, movie theatres, community centers, schools, buses, taxis, hotels, Airbnbs, amusement parks, doctor’s offices, hospitals, trains, and National Parks, just as a few examples.
Service dogs are not pets
Think of a service dog more like something such as a wheelchair or cane that helps someone with a disability, rather than a pet. Of course, service dogs may look like pets, and may or may not be identified or wear a vest.
Putting a vest on a service dog is – in a way – advertising to the public that someone has a disability; and some people would prefer to keep this information private.
Multiple service animal laws
Part of the reason why service dogs can be so confusing is that there are multiple federal as well as state laws around them. Here is a summary of some of the various laws relevant to South Carolina.
Summary of the various service dog laws for SC:
- 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
- South Carolina Code
- 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 is in place for students with disabilities in the United States.
Examples of Service Dog Work or Tasks
- 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
- Possibly helping a person who has a problem with anemia
- SSigDOG are Sensory Signal Dogs or Social Signal Dogs. These are service dogs that have 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 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 website)
What is Not a Service Dog?
While there are a lot of helpful types of dogs and animals, only a specific kind of animal counts as a service dog.
The following do not qualify as service dogs in South Carolina for public access rights.
- Animals or dogs that deter crime by their presence
- Animals who offer emotional support (emotional support animal), comfort, well-being, or companionship
Emotional support animal: an animal to provide companionship and reassurance.
Emotional support animals are not considered service animals in terms of the ADA (public access section) or the ACAA (air travel). However, emotional support animals (ESAs) are included in the FHA (Fair Housing Act’s) definition of assistance animals.
In other words, emotional support animals can be excluded from restaurants, grocery stores, and other public places; but not necessarily in housing and employment.
For housing and employment, someone with a disability who has an ESA can make a reasonable accommodation request to keep the animal.
Therapy Dogs – Honorable Mention
A therapy dog is not a service dog, and that’s because therapy dogs aren’t trained to do “work or tasks” for an individual’s disability. A therapy dog is usually a well-behaved, well-trained pet that enjoys meeting a large number of different people in different settings.
The people who are fortunate enough to spend time with a therapy dog receive great benefits, such as reduced anxiety and added joy. They often visit places with their owner such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and other settings where the stress in people may likely be high.
Documentation for Service Dogs
- There is no formal service animal certification process or paperwork that is recognized by South Carolina 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).
Things that are not required
The following items are not required for an animal to qualify as a service dog:
- Service dog vest
- Service dog markings of any kind
More about vests, documents, etc.
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. Read more on our blog: Where to Buy Service Dog Vests & Gear
Be Careful Of Places That Sell Certifications & Vests
There are some “service dog organizations,” a lot of them online, who are selling what they call service animal vests, certificates, and other items. These companies often make misleading claims.
It seems like they are misleading some people into thinking that after buying these items, that they’ll be entitled to special rights and privileges that people with disabilities have with their service animals. Buying these things does not “turn your dog into a service dog.” Check out our blog “Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate?” to learn more about registrations and why they are not required.
Service dogs do not require vests, documentation, or certificates.
People who are living with disabilities are not required to have any of these for public access rights with their service dogs. Many people appreciate having a vest/harness/cape for their service animal for various reasons, one of which is to hopefully help the general public understand that it’s a working animal and should not be distracted.
Fake Service Animals
In the case where someone intentionally misrepresents their animal as a service animal, establishments face a dilemma. This is because federal law limits the information that can be asked by the business, and answered by the person with the dog.
People with these ‘fake service dogs’ are making it harder for people who are actually living with disabilities and real service dogs to have access to public places without being hassled. It’s not fair at all, but it is a real problem all around the country. South Carolina Law on Fake Service Animals & Punishments
South Carolina Fines for Misrepresentation of an Animal
- For a first offense –> the fine will be $350 – $1,000
- Second offense –> the fine will be $600 – $1,000
- For third or subsequent offenses –> the fine will be $1,000 – $5,000 plus up to 10 hours of community service
- (South Carolina General Assembly)
South Carolina Service Dog Laws – Interfering With A Service Animal
People Interfering With Service Animals
If someone receives notification that their behavior is interfering with the use of a service dog or guide dog, or its user, that person must not continue the behavior.
If they do, it is unlawful. Examples of interference include obstruction, intimidation, or jeopardizing the safety of the service dog, guide dog, or the person using the animal.
South Carolina Service Dog Laws – Other Dogs Interfering With Service Animals
It’s unlawful for someone to have a reckless disregard for a service animal, guide dog, or the person using the animal, by letting their own dog interfere.
Examples of interference include a dog not contained by a fence, leash, or other containment obstruction. It includes intimidating, or otherwise putting the guard dog, service dog, or person using the dog’s safety at risk.
Anyone who violates these laws is guilty of a misdemeanor triable in magistrate’s court. Upon conviction, that person is subject to the maximum fines and terms of imprisonment in a magistrate’s court.
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.
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 person with a disability.
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 Animal Fees in South Carolina
Fees are not permitted
Fees, extra charges, or pet deposits may not be charged for service animals. This is true whether we are talking about the ADA, ACAA, FHA, and South Carolina State laws.
No pets policies
A service animal is not considered a pet. Someone using a service animal must not be turned away or denied access because of a “no pets” rule or policy.
Charges for damages are allowed
In the case where a public entity usually charges people for damage caused by an animal or pet, a person with a disability may also be charged for damage caused by their service animal.
Control of Service Animals in SC
- Service animals must be under control at all times & should not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others
- Service animals must comply with state and local animal control laws
Service animals should be kept at a person’s side quietly unless they are performing a specific task.
Service animals must be leashed, harnessed, or tethered unless this may interfere with the service animals’ work. Or, if a disability prevents using them. In those cases, service animals still need to be controlled through voice, hand signals, or another effective way.
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
Information For Businesses in South Carolina
It’s obviously important for businesses and other “covered entities” to be aware of service dog laws in South Carolina as well as the federal laws. If not, they could be accused of discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits the following:
- Asking about a disability
- Requiring medical documentation
- Requiring a special identification card or training documentation for the dog (or mini horse)
- Ask that the animal demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task
- Charge an extra fee because the animal
- Segregate the customer with a disability from other customers
Permitted Questions to Ask in SC
When the reason for the animal is obvious
If the reason for the service dog is obvious, then businesses and other covered entities may not inquire about the use of the animal.
If the reason for the animal is not obvious
When it’s not obvious – and many disabilities are invisible – businesses may only ask two questions to someone using a service dog. That’s it.
What can you legally ask someone with a service animal in South Carolina?
The questions are:
(1) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Employment with Service Animals in South Carolina
Discrimination is prohibited
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.
Reasonable accommodation requests
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.
Read more: Federal ADA Workplace Accommodation Guide
Psychiatric Service Dogs in SC
Psychiatric service dogs are a type of service dog that perform work or tasks related to psychiatric disabilities. A psychiatric service dog is not an emotional support animal; these are different.
A few examples of these types of disabilities include:
- Eating disorders
- Anxiety disorders
Here are a few examples of some psychiatric service dog tasks:
- Providing reminders to take medication at a certain time
- Service dogs can lay across their handler and apply pressure (Deep Pressure Therapy) during a panic attack, for example
- Provide tactile stimulation or grounding
- Interrupting dissociative episodes or other repetitive or problematic behaviors
- Alerting the handler to rage or other types of strong emotions
- Interrupting self-harming behaviors
- Retrieve an item, such as a water bottle and medication for a panic attack
- Wake someone up from a nightmare
- Interrupting flashbacks
- Searching the house or home to ensure it’s clear and safe before the handler enters
- Providing a “reality check” to help with hallucinations
- Stabilizing a routine for someone
Read more on our blog: Psychiatric Service Dog Tasks – 17 Examples
Psychiatric service dog vs emotional support dog (ESA)
The difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs is simple: Psychiatric service dogs are trained to do at least one task for a specific person’s disability, and the task is related to the disability.
Emotional support animals are not task-trained like this and provide comfort and other benefits by their presence alone. Emotional support animals are not service dogs, but they do have some rights when it comes to housing and employment situations.
Training & Service Dogs In Training SC
Service Dog Training South Carolina
Professional training is not required
Service dogs 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.
Owner-training service animals
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
South Carolina Service Dogs in Training (SDiT) Laws
d) Every person who is a trainer of an assistance or guide dog, while engaged in the training of an assistance or guide dog, has the same rights and privileges with respect to access to public facilities and accommodations as blind and disabled persons, including the right to be accompanied by an assistance or guide dog or assistance or guide dog in training, in any of the places listed in item (b) of this section without being required to pay an extra charge for the assistance dog.
A person who uses premises or facilities accommodations accompanied by a dog under the authority of this item is liable for any damage done to the premises or facilities by the dog.South Carolina Code
South Carolina definitions
The following is a quote from the South Carolina Code:
§ 47-3-920. Definitions.
For purposes of this article:
(1) “Guide dog” means a dog that is trained for the purpose of guiding blind persons or a dog trained for the purpose of assisting hearing impaired persons.
(2) “Humane euthanasia” means the termination of a terminally ill or critically injured guide dog or service animal’s life by a means that produces a rapid and minimally painful death as provided in Section 47-3-420.
(3) “Notice” means an actual verbal or written warning prescribing the behavior of another person and a request that the person stop the behavior.
(4)(a) “Service animal” or “service animal-in-training” means an animal that is trained or that is being trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. A service animal is not a pet and is limited to a dog or a miniature horse. The work done or tasks performed must be directly related to the individual’s disability and may include, but are not limited to:
(i) guiding an individual who is visually impaired or blind;
(ii) alerting an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing;
(iii) pulling a wheelchair;
(iv) assisting with mobility or balance;
(v) alerting others and protecting an individual if the individual is having a seizure;
(vi) retrieving objects;
(vii) alerting an individual to the presence of allergens;
(viii) providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to an individual with a mobility disability;
(ix) helping an individual with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors;
(x) reminding an individual with a mental illness to take his prescribed medications;
(xi) calming an individual with post-traumatic stress disorder during an anxiety attack; or
(xii) doing other specific work or performing other special tasks.
(b) The crime-deterrent effect of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.
(5) “Value” means the value to the guide dog or service animal user and does not refer to the cost or fair market value.
(6) “Emotional support animal” means an animal intended to provide companionship and reassurance.
(7) “Places of public accommodation” means airports, train stations, bus stations, and establishments defined in Section 45-9-10.
(6) ‘Trainer of a service animal’ means a person who individually trains a service animal. – South Carolina
How Do I Make My Dog a Service Dog in SC?
To make your dog a service dog in South Carolina, you must have a disability and a disability-related need for the animal. Start your service dog training journey, to learn the basics and how to act properly in public. Your dog must be able to perform specific tasks that mitigate the effect(s) of your disability.
Even though service animals do not need to be professionally trained by an organization or school, they do need to be trained for a disability. This is not usually an easy task, and many people need help.
Not just any dog is guaranteed to work
It’s also important to note that not just any dog can become a service dog. Dogs are like people and have individual personalities. Some personalities do great with working; others just don’t.
Read more on our blog: Service Dog Training Basics & FAQ or check out our popular article about the best service dog breeds and how to select one.
Companion and crime-deterrent animals
“(b) The crime-deterrent effect of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” – South Carolina Code
- South Carolina Code Of Laws
- South Carolina General Assembly
- U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
- U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)
- Air Carrier Access Act – Service Animals (ACAA)
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Read more on our blog: