Wondering What Animals Can Be Service Animals?
Service animals can be confusing, partly because there are various laws and governing bodies, and different parts of the world have different rules, too. Let’s talk about which animals can be service animals in the United States for now.
Individual states may have individual state laws that may be different. But let’s take a look at the federal laws for now.
What animals can be service animals for public access?
The only kind of animals that can be service animals for public accommodations and public services are dogs and miniature horses.
This is under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Titles II and III which protects people who live with disabilities and who use service animals in the U.S. federally.
Other types of animals, including emotional support animals, can be excluded from businesses and other public places in the U.S. This includes businesses of any size.
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 FAQ
I heard that miniature horses are considered to be service animals by the ADA. Is this true?
The miniature horse is not included in the definition of service animal, which is limited to dogs. However, the new ADA regulations contain a specific provision which covers miniature horses. Businesses must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.Americans with Disabilities Act National Network
What animals can be service animals for air travel?
For air travel purposes, the only type of animals that can be service animals are dogs. This is under the ACAA or Air Carrier Access Act. This means that fully trained service animals (service dogs) may travel in the cabin of the air craft with their disabled handler. Paperwork prior to the flight is usually necessary.
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
Other types of animals, including emotional support animals, are not able to fly in the cabin with their handler. However, these other types of animals may still be able to fly as a pet.
In reality, animals other than dogs, like miniature horses, pigs, and monkeys may be considered service animals.
An air carrier may decide on a case-by-case basis according to factors like:
- The animal’s size and weight
- State and foreign country restrictions
- Whether or not the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others
- Or cause a fundamental alteration in the cabin service
Individuals can contact individual airlines prior to travel to find out what is permitted.
What animals can be service animals for housing?
People with disabilities who use a service animal are protected in the U.S. by the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The Fair Housing Act uses the term “Assistance animal” for their definition. This already implies that animals other than dogs are included. In fact, the type of animals that qualify are not specifically defined for this purpose.
What is an assistance animal under the Fair Housing Act?
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 and Urban Development
Reasonable requests for assistance animals in housing
Someone with a disability may speak with their doctor about being able to use an emotional support animal, or a type of service animal other than dog for a housing situation.
Can a landlord require documentation for a service dog?
If the doctor agrees it would be a good fit or idea, then the doctor may write a simple doctor’s note or prescription for the assistance animal.
This letter/prescription needs to only indicate that the animal is required. Personal details about a disability are not required.
Landlords and other housing providers must be accommodating, unless they can prove that granting the accommodation would put an undue burden or hardship on their operations. This is all under the Fair Housing Act.
Landlords and other housing providers can ask a person to certify, in writing:
As per the Americans with Disabilities Act,
(1) That the tenant or a member of his or her family is a person with a disability
(2) The animal is needed to assist the person with that specific disability; and
(3) That the animal actually assists the person with a disability
What animals can be service animals for employment?
Employment situations are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act Title 1. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees. This includes State and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. Check out our full guide to ADA Workplace Accommodations in the U.S.
Title 1 of the ADA does not define which types of animals are permitted. There is technically no limit to what types of animals can be considered as a reasonable accommodation for employment.
1. Employment (Title I)Title I requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all aspects of employment. Reasonable accommodation includes, for example, restructuring jobs, making work-sites and workstations accessible, modifying schedules, providing services such as interpreters, and modifying equipment and policies. Title I also regulates medical examinations and inquires.JAN – Job Accommodation Network
ADA Title 1 Service Animal Definition
Under Title II and III of the ADA, only dogs are considered service animals. (There is a separate provision allowing for miniature horses subject to certain limitations.) Other animals, either wild or domestic, are not service animals. However, under Title I, in the workplace, there is no such definition and technically no limit to what type of animal can be a reasonable accommodation. This means that accommodating an emotional support animal may be an appropriate reasonable accommodation.ADA National Network
What animals can be service animals for schools?
Service animals in public schools (K-12)
The ADA allows students with disabilities who use service animals to have the animal at school. In addition, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also allow a student to use an animal that does not meet the ADA definition of a service animal…
…as long as that student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) (or Section 504 team) decides the animal is necessary for the student to receive a free and appropriate education.
However, where the ADA applies, schools need to be aware that the use of a service animal is a right, and that right is not dependent upon the decision of an IEP or Section 504 team.
Emotional support animals, therapy animals, and companion animals are almost never allowed to accompany students in public schools.
The ADA does not contemplate the use of animals other than those meeting the definition of “service animal.” (Dogs).
The ultimate determination whether a student may utilize an animal other than a service animal needs to be made on a case-by-case basis by the student’s IEP or Section 504 team.
Service animals in post-secondary education settings
Under the ADA, colleges and universities must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the post-secondary facility that are open to the public and/or students.
Colleges and universities may have a policy asking students who use service animals to contact the school’s Disability Services Coordinator to register as a student with a disability.
Higher education institutions may not require any documentation about the training or certification of a service animal.
They may, however, require proof that a service animal has any vaccinations required by state or local laws that apply to all animals.
Not-So-Common Types of Service Animals
Service Monkeys Are Real
Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled, Inc. was founded to raise and train capuchin monkeys in order to provide daily in-home assistance to people who are living with spinal cord injury and/or other mobility impairments.
Service animals can be confusing. In summary, only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals for public access rights in the U.S. (ADA Title II and III).
Any type of animal can be requested as a reasonable accommodation for housing (Fair Housing Act) or employment situations (ADA, Title 1). Other than that, some other types of animals that have indeed been trained to help those with disabilities include pigs, parrots, ferrets, and even ducks.
This means that while different types of animals may be accepted into housing or employment situations, the only types of animals allowed into public places like restaurants, movie theatres, and grocery stores are good ole dogs and, if the conditions are appropriate, miniature horses.
- Fair Housing Act (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development)
- Overview of the ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act
- Taking a Service Animal to Work – ADA National Network
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act – Fact Sheet
- Service Animals – U.S. Department of Transportation