South Carolina Service Dog Laws: 2021 Comprehensive Guide

Jump to a section:

  1. What is a Service Animal?
  2. What is Not Considered a Service Animal
  3. Service Dog Documentation
  4. Organizations Online That Sell Shady Service Dog Items
  5. Public Access Rights
  6. Fake Service Animals
  7. Interfering With a Service Animal
  8. Other Dogs Interfering With a Service Animal

What Is Considered A Service Animal In South Carolina?

South Carolina service dog laws are not drastically different from federal service dog laws, but there are some state-specific laws that are good to know about. In South Carolina, a service animal, or a service animal-in-training, must be a dog. The animal has been trained (or is in-training) to do work or perform tasks for a person who is living with a disability. Read about qualified disabilities under the ADA (Americans with disabilities act).

The work or tasks done by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. The training must be specific to the person using the animal. A service animal is not a pet.

The disability could be:

  • Physical
  • Sensory
  • Psychiatric
  • Intellectual
  • Or another mental disability
service dog guide dog

The tasks or work done by the animal may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Helping to guide someone who is visually impaired or blind
  • Alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Helping someone with mobility or balance
  • Alerting others and protecting someone having a seizure
  • Retrieving objects
  • Bringing attention to the presence of allergens
  • Providing physical support and help with balance and stability to someone with a mobility disability
  • Helping someone with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors and/or patterns
  • Reminding someone living with a mental illness to take their prescribed medications
  • Calming someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack
  • Doing other specific work or performing other special tasks
PTSD service dog

South Carolina Service Dog Laws – What Is Not Considered A Service Animal?

south carolina service dog laws

While there are a lot of helpful types of dogs and animals, only a specific kind of animal counts as a service dog (see above).

The following do not qualify as service dogs in South Carolina.

  • Animals or dogs that deter crime by their presence
  • Animals who offer emotional support (emotional support animal), comfort, wellbeing, or companionship

Emotional support animal: an animal to provide companionship and reassurance

guard dogs are not service dogs
emotional support animal

South Carolina Service Dog Laws – Documentation

The following items are not required for an animal to qualify as a service dog:

  • Service dog vest
  • Service dog markings of any kind
  • Documentation
service dog vest

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 a service animal.

South Carolina Service Dog Laws – Be Careful Of Shady Service Dog Organizations That Sell Certifications & Vests

service dog certification

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.”

Some of these practices are downright unlawful. These places don’t help, aren’t legitimate, aren’t required, don’t carry any legal weight, and are downright confusing for many people. Don’t fall for it.

Service dogs do not require vests, documentation, or certificates.

People who are living with disabilities are not required to have any of this for public access rights with their service dog. These places are only trying to make a quick buck.

South Carolina Service Dog Laws – Public Access Rights

If you are a person living with a disability and using a specially trained service dog, you’re allowed to go into public places with your animal; generally speaking you’re allowed to go anywhere that the general public is commonly allowed/invited.

service dog in hotel

Places of public accommodation includes:

  • Airports
  • Train stations
  • Bus stations
  • Restaurants
  • Theaters
  • Stores
  • Hospitals
  • + more

Places of public accommodations must allow a person with a service dog access to services, just the same as a non-disabled person. This is state – and federal – law.

South Carolina Service Dog Laws – Fake Service Animals

fake service dog

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 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 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 magistrate’s court.


ADA – Americans With Disabilities Act

South Carolina Code Of Laws Opens in a new tab.

Sam Amy Nelson

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

2 thoughts on “South Carolina Service Dog Laws: 2021 Comprehensive Guide

  1. I am pretty sure I saw a man coming out of Ross in South Carolina kick the underbelly of his service dog. The dog was a beautiful white Siberian husky and had a maroon logo on its back.
    Who protects these beautiful helpful animals after someone meticulously trains them for disabled and deserving individuals. I did speak up and tell the woman with 2 children in tow . I hoped I did not see that beautiful service dog kicked. She said she didn’t think he’d do that and went rather quickly to their automobile.
    I am not saying the service animal wasn’t needed but they should be dealt with respectfully and with kindness. Liz Johnson

    1. Oh my goodness I am sorry to hear that. I am not sure, but I would guess that maybe an animal welfare society such as the SPCA may be able to help in that case, for any dog, service dog or not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts