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You are the owner of a restaurant when suddenly a man walks in with a dog.
The rules clearly stipulate that no dogs are allowed into such establishments. That is unless, of course, the dog is a service animal.
Your first instinct is to stop the individual and let them know they cannot come in with their dog.
But what if the dog is actually there to help the person? How will you know for sure?
Service animals are amazing creatures because they assist the disabled. The problem is that malicious people can lie that their pets are service dogs just so they can get a pass.
There’s a reason dogs aren’t allowed in certain public areas. So, is there a legal way you can politely ask an individual if their dog is a service animal?
First Things First…What Is A Service Animal?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is a dog trained to work or perform tasks for disabled persons or people with specific needs.
Such a dog is thoroughly and individually trained to assist the person with something related to his or her disability.
Service animals are given entrance to businesses including food service establishments, food stores, and non-profit organizations for the public and state/local government facilities.
The dogs are controlled at all times using a leash or harness unless these get in the way of their duties.
Some of the activities performed by service dogs include alerting a deaf person, reminding a mentally sick person to take his medication, pulling a wheelchair, guiding the blind, protecting a person having a seizure, and calming a person going through post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Therapy dogs, police dogs, or emotional support dogs do not qualify as service animals.
What Can You Ask A Person With A Service Animal?
You’d imagine that a service animal is required by law to have some kind of documentation that sets him apart from standard pets.
Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Granted, some service dogs have certifications that grant them IDs and vests for easy identification. However, a larger majority are simply not registered.
Legally, a dog is considered a service animal if it has the necessary training for the task. Certification is up to the owner and the law doesn’t care for it.
This means that you cannot walk up to a dog owner and ask them to render the documents proving that their pet is indeed a service animal.
With that said, you should be able to know what to ask. According to the ADA, you can identify a service dog from a pet by its identification documents. These include registrations, vests, and ID tags.
However, if these accessories are missing, you can ask a person with a service animal the following two questions.
- Is the service dog indeed required because of a specific ability?
- What task is the dog trained to carry out in service to the handler?
The answers to these questions will determine if you will allow the service dog and his handler entry into your premises.
If the answers are satisfactory, you have no right to bar them from coming in.
If you do, you violate the code of the ADA and you can be sued for the same.
What You Cannot Ask the Service Animal Handler
It is easy to feel entitled when you own or work in a certain establishment that clearly stipulates that dogs aren’t allowed in. This is especially true if you don’t see any identification on the dog whatsoever.
Before you ride on your high horse, keep in mind that you cannot ask the following:
- A demonstration of the skills and abilities of the service animal: No matter the temptation, don’t ever ask the handler to give you a demonstration showing what the service dog can and cannot do. This only puts the handler on the spot and may cause further issues.
- The extent of the handler’s disability: Unless you have no conscience whatsoever, doing this is just wrong.
- Identification documents: We have covered this already. If the dog doesn’t have any kind of identification on them, don’t ask for them. This may put you in trouble.
- Medical information: You cannot request the dog owner for their medical history to ascertain whether they are indeed disabled or not. Again, this breaks the moral code in more ways than one.
- Segregate the person with the service animal: In other instances, service dogs are allowed into establishments but are separated from the other folk. Some premises place the dogs as far away just in case they disrupt others or trigger allergic reactions. Well, this is not allowed as per the ADA rules. If you have a client that is allergic t dog dander, the best thing would be to separate both individuals without picking on the disabled person and their dog.
Can You Ask A Service Animal To Leave?
Let’s briefly talk about whether business owners and employees of no-dog establishments can ask service dog handlers to leave with their dogs or not.
It is clear by now that the law is stretched at great lengths to protect service dogs along with their owners.
Is there an instance where you can legally remove a dog from your premise?
The US Code of Federal Regulations stipulates that you can ask a dog to leave in case he is
- Out of control and the owner is not able to command him, and
- Not properly housebroken meaning he defecates and urinates in inappropriate areas.
Thankfully, most service dogs are exceptionally-trained and well-behaved.
Nevertheless, there are select instances when the service dogs are out of control.
If the dog damages the property, the establishment may charge the service dog owner to clean up the mess and carry out the needed repairs.
Note that the dog owner is allowed to remain in the facility if they wish to after the dog has been asked to leave.
Before allowing a service dog into your no-dog premise, the law allows you to ask the handler two things.
First, you may find out if the dog is needed because of a certain disability.
Secondly, you can ask them which tasks the dog can perform for you.
Beyond that, the law doesn’t permit to say more.
Sable McNeil is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.